This past Tuesday, the school budget was approved by a substantial margin, and two incumbents were returned to the Board of Education, who will be joined by a new member of the Board. I suppose it would be easy to simply say ‘thank you’ to the community for its participation at the polls and support of the district, but somehow that feels incomplete.
I am grateful that the process we use in this State to fund public education resulted in a strong affirmation of the proposed budget. I’m thankful for the hard work and support of many people, and the validation of our work on behalf of the students and taxpayers of the community that the ‘yes’ vote represents. Make no mistake: as your Superintendent, one of my most important jobs is bringing the community to a place of consensus regarding how we support our schools.
However, I care as much about the thoughts and concerns of those who voted ‘no’ as much as I do for those who voted ‘yes.’ I care a great deal about the inevitability of significant change that will be imposed on our district through the disposition of the LIPA issue, and how destabilizing we can allow this to become if we do not remember our “It takes a Village” mantra. It is only through hard work and collaboration that this impending economic crisis will be met with success.
We find ourselves in a similar situation (which could be as soon as only months from now) to a neighboring community that was forced to wean itself from its major taxpayer over a period of ten years. The resulting difficulties, borne from competing priorities and absence of unified vision, had a tremendously detrimental impact on students, the schools, and the community. We cannot let that happen to us. As a small community of friends and neighbors, we must rely upon ourselves not to pick sides, but to agree upon the vision. We must work not to bemoan our fate, but to use it as the impetus for coming together in support of the next chapter of our district.
Change surrounds us, and will always be difficult to manage. We have entered an era in which existing paradigms are falling away. We are demanding more of our teachers, our students, our parents, and our leaders, while coping with a massive adjustment in funding parameters, which will eventually change the nature of all school business transactions.
Can we do this as partners for the sake of our schools and community? I believe so. In addition to being your Superintendent of Schools, I am a proud resident and parent of Port Jefferson. To me, Port Jefferson is better prepared to cope with change than most other communities on Long Island. I am committed, as is your Board, to addressing our future in a positive, inclusive manner. So as we reflect on the events of the recent budget vote and election, let us not forget that great challenges await us, ready to be addressed by the community of the whole.
- Dr. Kenneth Bossert, Superintendent of Schools