Key Issues

- Improve communications with the community

- Stop waste and mismanagement

- Eliminate conflicts of interest

- Effective school budget spending

- Transparency of public information

- Holding the line on property taxes

- Evaluation and restoration of programs

- Implement a "pay as you go" technology vision

- Establish a District-wide multi year plan

Quote of the Day

Great Quotes

There's a way to do it better - find it.
Thomasi Edison

"The problem is not that America doesn't spend enough money on education -- we spend enormous amounts, far more than any other nation. But we're not getting a sufficient return on our investment. The fact is, our education system looks a lot like the U.S. auto industry in the 1970s -- stuck in a flabby, inefficient, outdated production model driven by the needs of employees rather than consumers." -- Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor NYC

"If you want to make enemies, try to change something." -- Woodrow Wilson

“Never interrupt your enemy when he's making a mistake” --
Napolean Bonaparte (1769 - 1821)

If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else. ~ Yogi Berra

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." -- Ronald Reagan

"The only thing you take with you when you're gone is what you leave behind." -John Allston



Up in Albany, they are at it again. Escalating school taxes are eating us alive, but the politicians are afraid to address the real problem. The STAR program was only a Band-Aid that gave some of us temporary relief, and now our legislators are trying to invent another one ["Income-based cap on school taxes praised," News, April 24]. This time a "circuit breaker" law is proposed. It would give some tax relief to those with lower incomes, but it would also reduce school revenue. They want the state of New York to make up the difference. All of this tinkering is strictly with the funding side of the equation. The real problem however, is with school spending. It has been going up three times faster than the rate of inflation, but this is the political third rail. Politicians are afraid to touch it. Few people want to serve on our school boards; it's a no-pay job. As a consequence, board after board is packed with teachers, the spouses of teachers and their best friends in the PTA. In their hands, school spending is out of control. The teachers union, the most powerful lobby in the state, likes things just the way they are. What legislator who wants to be re-elected would attempt to limit school spending?

James E. Stubenrauch

SchoolWatch Calls For Boycott of Law Firms Involved in Pension Scandal,0,4562080.story

DiNapoli suspends $106,700 lawyer pension


4:58 PM EDT, April 25, 2008

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has suspended the $106,700 a year pension of a Valley Stream attorney who had received 21 years of retroactive pension credits from Nassau County and Hempstead town, even though he had been paid as an independent contractor and not as an employee, officials said Friday.Albert D'Agostino, 64, would have to pay back most, if not all, of the roughly $791,359 he's collected since retiring in October 2000, if DiNapoli's office determines he was not a legitimate employee, officials said. In addition, he would have to pay back $83,015 in health benefits he has received."We suspended his pension while we look at all the entities that reported him as an employee, to see if any were eligible," said DiNapoli spokeswoman Emily DeSantis.

She added that the comptroller would recalculate D'Agostino's pension and "most likely reduce his benefit."Newsday, which wrote about D'Agostino's retroactive pension credits two weeks ago, has reported on a number of attorneys who, while working as independent contractors for school districts, also received state pension credits as if they were employees.Yesterday, DiNapoli said more pensions could be suspended. "We'll continue to dig until we're confident that state pensions are only going to those people that rightly earned them," he said.D'Agostino was also reported as an employee by three school districts – Lawrence, Valley Stream 30 and North Merrick – and the Village of Valley Stream, while being paid additional fees as a contractor. He accumulated a total of 28 years credit in the state retirement system.D'Agostino declined comment Friday.

Meanwhile, SchoolWatch, a Long Island advocacy group, posted a statement on its Web site urging a boycott of law firms "involved in the pension scandal.""We as taxpayers simply cannot sit back and continue to feed these 'fat cat' lawyers and their firms. . ." the group said. "Millions of dollars have been stuffed in the pockets of these firms and attorneys, and it must stop."

In deciding in 2000 to give D'Agostino the retroactive credits, the state relied on letters from two prominent people connected to the Nassau County Planning Commission, an advisory board where D'Agostino served as part-time counsel. The state also considered his 1099 payments – tax forms used to pay independent contractors, not employees.Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman said D'Agostino was placed on the county payroll in 1999. When he retired in 2000 and secured the retroactive credits, he also got lifetime health benefits.Weitzman said the county has paid $83,015 so far for D'Agostino's family health coverage. If DiNapoli determines that D'Agostino is not entitled to the pension, the county would end his benefits and seek to recover the $83,015.Weitzman has asked the state to refund the $102,246 the county paid to fund D'Agostino's pension.

Last month, DiNapoli froze the pension of attorney Lawrence Reich, who Newsday found was reported as a full-time employee by five school districts simultaneously. DiNapoli determined that Reich was not an employee and said Reich would have to pay back money he wasn't entitled to. Reich, who retired in 2006 with a $61,459 pension, has about 10 years of eligible service with the state.

The FBI, the state Attorney General, the IRS and the Nassau District Attorney have launched investigations.Last week, DiNapoli revoked pension memberships of four Albany attorneys who were reported as employees by an upstate BOCES and reduced service credit for a fifth attorney. Earlier this month, he announced new regulations for local governments to determine who is an employee.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.


NEWS FLASH: E.I. Capital Fund Farce is rescinded!

At the last BOE meeting, Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - The East Islip Board of Education voted to rescind a proposed proposition that would have allowed the formation of a $4M capital fund for technology upgrades.
This about face was spearheaded and brought about by SchoolWatch officials, who, in one fell swoop, have just saved the community over $4M!

The outcry began with SchoolWatch President Frank Gerace, at the numerous Budget Advisory Committee meetings that have been held since October 2007. His doubts about the creation of the fund picked up momentum throughout the committee(the Budget Advisory Committee voted unanimously to not support the formation of the Capital Fund!) and in the community as more details were released and it became apparent that there had been an ulterior motive for setting up the fund.
They wanted a place to funnel your hard earned money into! After all, how did we go from Austerity to having a $5M surplus!

Even Glenn Reed (a member of the Technology Committee), who had been a proponent of this fund, sent a last minute e-mail to the BOE indicating, he too now agreed, that the technology upgrade could be implemented on a "pay as you go" basis with funds that the district already had available!

Congratulations SchoolWatchers!

Note: A Schoolwatch member wrote and distributed a document entitled, ‘The Truth About the Technology Vote in East Islip" which pointed out the faults with the proposition and the proper way to fund technology. It's readily apparent that the BOE read this document and adopted our suggestions! (See below - It is posted in its entirety)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Transparent means transparent

Out from under another scandal, school districts need—really need— to be open and transparent so their constituencies (hard working taxpayers that cannot raise capital by raising someone else’s taxes) can know where the money is going.

Toward this goal, SchoolWatch, a growing nationwide grassroots organization that has trained its eyes on school districts, is calling for New York State school districts to do what 163 districts in 14 states have already done: Putting district documents online for the whole world to see.

Yes, a novel idea. Open up the ivory tower and create a looking glass kind of feel, where what the school districts are doing with taxpayer money is open for complete inspection.

Faxes and e-mails have begun to be delivered to local districts and elected representatives letting them know that the ball is now in their court, but the public needs to know.

Some may say this could be a legal disaster waiting to happen, but the fourth largest school district in the nation—Miami-Dade—did it in February and placed its check register online; more than 6,500 pages of payments in alphabetical order by vendor for all the world to see.

This is what transparency is. Not that one day a district allows people to see a crack in the keyhole. But the entire inventory laid bare for taxpayers to review and question.

Too many questions. But think about it. If the system is open then the questions should be easy to answer and explain. It is all there in black and white and binary numbers.

Doing this would be an easy stroke toward transparency as it permits school districts the luxury of accountability if all their “t”s are crossed and “i”s dotted. If the punctuation is improper, then finding the rotten apple should not be that difficult either.

SchoolWatch is calling for a legislative mandate from the New York State Legislature for all public school transactions to put online. Why should the districts wait for that?

School districts should be smart and get ahead of the curve and show their constituencies that they know the meaning of transparency: clearness, lucidity, simplicity and intelligibility■

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