Mark Doyle, current president of the Port Jefferson Board of Education, is running for his second term this May. The 15-year resident of Port Jefferson works as the Director of Journal Information Systems for the American Physical Society, implementing electronic publishing for the scholarly physics journal.
Doyle, who graduated from Cornell and Princeton Universities, and his wife have a daughter at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School and a son at Port Jefferson Middle School.
Port Jefferson Patch: What made you want to run for school board again?
Mark Doyle: I originally got on the school board to ensure the district would have a very strong academic program, particularly math, science and technology. That has been overshadowed by everything happening with the LIPA plant. I still think there is the opportunity to improve, but we are going to have to find ways to do so in a cost-effective way.
With my experience on the board, my detailed knowledge of the finances of the district, I think I can contribute to positively solving some of the complex problems of the district. Basically there is unfinished business to be taken care of.
My wife and I chose to live here 15 years ago because of the quality of schools and the low taxes. It's my intention to keep Port Jefferson an attractive place for families to raise their children, maintaining affordability and providing a quality education.
PJP: What are some of the district’s most complex problems?
MD: In addition to dealing with this LIPA decision we still have the problem of having to live under this tax cap, which is extremely constraining for school districts. The school board and district were successful this year in being able to come in under the cap, but going forward it’s going to be much more challenging. We also have a series of labor negotiations – almost all of which will be up for renewal in the coming year or two.
The LIPA challenge is a challenge for the entire Port Jefferson community. A phrase I’ve heard repeated often is a “shared sacrifice.” I believe everybody is going to have to contribute somehow with the revenue problems we will be facing. The main difficulty is the uncertainty – the size and timing of how the revenue loss is going to develop and what the final end point is going to be. It makes it difficult to negotiate in that environment of uncertainty.
PJP: Is there anything you would have changed during your time on the school board?
MD: This has been one of the most difficult things I’ve taken on in my life. New board members, myself included, tend to try and come on expecting that we’ll be able to roll up our sleeves and fix the problems, fill in the gaps, thinking “How hard can it be?”
Unfortunately it turns out to be very complex – and if the board does not function as a whole, then what happens is the district is left rudderless, being buffeted by the winds around us. I learned that rather quickly.
PJP: Can you give an example?
MD: Lacrosse is a good issue here. When lacrosse was initially tackled by the board, it was done in a way that some board members felt excluded until very late in the game. Now the board has been able to have those conversations and arrive at a shared understanding of where we’re at, and come to a consensus.
PJP: What has been your biggest challenge during your time on the board of education?
MD: It’s a steep learning curve for a board member to figure out how to be effective within working together as a full body of seven members. The biggest challenge for me is to take a step back, rather than directly injecting myself into the many processes in the district, and work as a whole board to address problems.