THE WESTBURY SCHOOL TAX
My name is Gary Spinello and I live & work as an architect in Westbury. I have volunteered to serve the Westbury students for over 15 years. I see first-hand how amazing our students & teachers are. Yet the school system consistently under-performs. NYS provides extra funding to Westbury to address performance. And the community seeks to help through the extraordinary sacrifice of disproportionate tax. But there is a point of diminished returns. The insatiable school tax is driving down property values. And depressed properties hurt everyone, including children. I see signs in Westbury that read “support the students and pass the school tax”. These signs are heartbreaking.
Here are two observations that may help shed light on the tax & performance problems we face.
The 1st observation has to do with “compulsory education”. Today compulsion is accepted without question, so the collateral damage it causes goes unnoticed. Compulsion forces children through the system regardless of their readiness to learn. Forcing children into a building against their will causes student indifference & even defiance towards school. It’s transformed the system into an un-affordable day-care. And it’s put performing students at risk. A compulsory education is not the same as a voluntary education because it mixes students who are ready to learn with those who aren’t. And a free education is not the same as a paid education because it is subject to abuse. A school is a place where students go to learn. If children are forced, then they’re not really students, and it’s not really a school. With compulsory public education, we pay ivy league tuition for less than ivy league results.
Compulsion & education are two words that don’t even belong together. When these words are combined, they transform education into more of a detention camp, and we shouldn’t expect it to function as a school. The only way that compulsory education can actually succeed, is through communism. Under communism, performance is secured through penalty of excommunication, imprisonment, or death. So, unless we want communism, it’s time to question the efficacy of compulsion. And it’s time to face the facts. Students will perform as soon as education is an honor & privilege that must be earned.
The 2nd observation involves parents. Much of Westbury is hard-working and parents don’t always have time for their children. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But there is no substitute for parents. Nothing can replace the fundamental role that parents play in motivating & inspiring their children to learn. Not teachers, mentors, resources, programs, or tax. If parents can’t perform, then neither will the school. Of course, we should hold the school system responsible to inspire & motivate our students to learn. But its primary function is to teach. And if we can’t send it students who are ready to learn, then we can’t expect it to perform as a school. Instead, we should expect the tax to continue to rise regardless of performance. The definition of insanity is to do more of the same and expect different results. When is enough tax enough? Have we passed the point of diminished returns?
But all this pales in comparison the gravest danger we face. We’re in denial. We’re just not calling it what it is. To be fair, the tax bill should say “mandatory government indoctrination, social welfare, and day-care” instead of “school tax”. If we’re not honest about the problem, then it can’t be fixed. The denial has left us largely unable to defend our students, or the hard-working taxpayers that support them.
We don’t need to get rid of compulsion, public education, or the tax. And we do need to take care of all our children. We just need to be honest. I will continue to fight for students & teachers. But I will also fight for a sign that reads “thank you taxpayers… you pay too much already”.
Many people argue that the school problems are caused primarily by an overload of illegals and outsiders that don’t belong here. But we believe that the standard should be based on student performance and not status. Performing students are a good investment regardless of status. And regardless of status, under-performance puts the foremost strain on success.
A WINNING CURRICULUM
Our success in educating our children depends on our success as a country, and that requires virtue. Without virtue we’re teaching our children to build a future in a country that has no future. So, BEFORE we teach math, science, or English, we should teach virtue.
Respect… Self-respect and respect for each other are both required, and are mutually exclusive, meaning that you can’t have one without the other.
Patriotism… America is not perfect, but without love of country there won’t be a country.
Government… The only good government is a government of the people. Graduates should have the understanding that government is like a lawn that gets ugly fast if it’s not cut. Government must be maintained just like a roof, a car, and personal appearance.
Students perform up to their potential when they want to. The district has always provided programs to aid parents and to inspire students. Even better is a mentoring program that’s built from the community, that’s built from volunteers, that’s built for free, and that’s modeled after the inspirational career day program. Under-performing students could be released from school and into the program. A community-based program demonstrates more caring than a paid program. And in order to inspire students, they need to see that we care.
Here’s a proposal or example for such a program. First a pilot program could be built for testing and refinement. Start with 20 adult volunteers who would make themselves available & ready for training. Training would be a 2 hr session in any school building any weekday evening. Training would consist of guidelines, sample presentation, and Q&A. Follow-up training sessions would be available based on need. Facility & staff are invited to lend their expertise so long as they are willing to volunteer.
The mentoring program would be 40 minute presentations broken into quarters. The presentations would be offered in any school building any weekday evening. Presentations would be tailored to specific age groups.
The objective: to show the real value of our students to our community & future. Our failure to appreciate this concept and to appreciate our students. Why mentoring is a selfish endeavor that benefits everyone.
The objective: to show the relationship between caring & opportunity. Why caring creates opportunity. Caring about self, others, community & country. The value of self-reliance and personal responsibility. The relationship between personal responsibility, limited government & prosperity. The importance of patriotism, altruism, and student government. How to surround yourself with people who are good for you & distance yourself from those who aren’t.
The objective: to demonstrate the presenter’s career, significant experiences, successes, mistakes & failures. What life choices would the presenter make differently.
Q&A for students. Feedback from students. What would improve the program? Were any lessons learned? Will students change?
We the people of the Westbury School District entrust the school board with extraordinary power to manage the District. It is our responsibility to ensure that the Board performs.
This assurance requires; The complete voting record for each acting board member to be displayed on the school website for a minimum of 10 years. This record must be able to be downloaded.
WHAT CAN YOU DO
We seek a school board that will formally & publicly adopt & promote this agenda. If you trust government, you don’t have to do anything. If you’re concerned, visit our “voting info page” to learn more.