Dear Parents and Members of the Community,
As the Board of Education puts down its pencils on the 2012-2013 School Budget, we are marking the end of the first year under the constraints of tax cap legislation. This year also marked other firsts like the introduction of budget focus groups and a more open dialogue with the community. At this time, I feel the need to express to our members and our community the role of the PTA during this process.
The Garden City PTA is an important advocacy group in our community and represents over 3,000 members. The beliefs of the PTA are that every child deserves to have his/her basic needs met, and an education designed to meet those needs; public education should be the appropriate forum to prepare children for participation in a our society; and every child deserves our continued commitment to advocacy. We have learned through the years that our members’ definition of what this means is different for every family and every child. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a child behind the numbers and everyone has high expectations from our schools. It is our job to listen, find the common threads, and to advocate. These common threads and values are what make us Garden City. It is what attracted us to live here and why we get involved.
Throughout the year, our members volunteer countless hours in support of our mission statement. Our purpose is to be a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for our families and community, and a strong advocate for the education and well being of every child. One initiative that we take seriously to heart is the review of the school budget.
Our responsibility as it relates the school budget is not limited to only this time of year. It is a process that occurs all year long.We build our knowledge through our volunteers who serve on committees organized to address critical issues facing our schools. We are always listening to our members, holding meetings, sending communications, attending trainings and talking with administrators, educators and our Board of Education. The time spent by our members, especially our Executive Committee, gives us a strong understanding of both the accomplishments of our district as well as the areas where improvement must take place.
Sometimes our choices and reactions are misinterpreted as complaisant or worse; that we are under the “control” of the administration. We continuously maintain a dialogue with the administration and Board of Education throughout the year. While this dialogue may sometimes be challenging it is always collaborative. We believe working through difficult issues sometimes necessitates that we maintain a healthy tension between all parties. As a guideline we always refer back to our mission statement. Having said all this, in reality a proposed budget does not always contain all of the PTA’s priorities. A statement of PTA’s concerns can inform the Board of Education of those aspects of the budget with which it does not concur. However, by the time the budget is approved, we have worked closely with all parties involved in the hopes of achieving an acceptable proposal. We understand that a failed budget is never in the best interest of our children, our schools, or our community.
Our responsibilities regarding the budget process include:
- Encourage the administration to attend PTA meetings to present the budget to our members.
- Provide opportunities for forums for discussion by allowing members to communicate their concerns through PTA representatives.
- Disseminate information to parents and community members regarding issues and opinions discussed at Board of Education meetings so that all may be informed.
- Organize a community-wide coalition to produce a positive vote.
- To be clear, the PTA does not get involved with contracts, union negotiations or personnel matters.
We know members want a high performing district that addresses the individual needs of their child whether they are in kindergarten or high school while offering a wide-range of experiences both in and out of the classroom. They want the entire package and at the best price. That is a tall order.
So how do we achieve this? Well, we know that it takes exceptional teachers along with their willingness to work together as we saw when negotiations were reopened this year; the establishment of enriching and demanding programs; parent involvement and input; and money. Is it perfect? No. But no matter how you slice it; Garden City is a high performing district that has seen improvement and growth over the past ten years. We are included among the top performing districts on Long Island, side by side, with many of the same districts that most certainly were on your top neighborhoods in which to live.
However, historically less than 30 percent of Garden City households with school age children actually cast a vote in the school budget election. I find this low turnout concerning. It is our responsibility as parents to come out and vote. If we are not going to vote for our schools, who will?
What else can you do?
- Become informed and gather information that presents all sides of the issues.
- Attend Board of Education Meetings. If you can’t, read online presentations and the local news recaps.
- Answer the call for focus groups and information gathering sessions.
- Ask questions and seek accurate information beyond the “banter of the soccer field”.
- Contact the Board of Education with your thoughts. They need your feedback both positive and negative.
- Attend Property Association Meetings asking for support for our schools.
- Put pressure on our legislators and answer our call for advocacy when asked. We are a strong voice!
- Sign up for CAP WIZ on the NYS PTA website. It is fast and easy!
- Take time to send an email, write a letter or sign a petition.
- And if you really can’t then be certain you really know the legislator you put into office. Find out how he/she will vote on the education issues and how they will represent our school district.
PTA is a strong advocacy organization and I hope this letter conveys the importance of why each of us should be involved. Please don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, May 15. We owe it to our children.
President, Garden City PTA
For more information regarding Garden City's 2012-2013 school budget, click here.