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Letters to the editor: Children, teachers are paying for district’s failure


Children, teachers are paying for district’s failure

Only 10 months ago, I had a conversation with my closest friends about their daughter’s upcoming start of kindergarten, and a tremendous opportunity available to her: a Spanish immersion dual language program. The program began in one school within the district, and after outstanding success, would expand to all schools in the district. The timing could not have been better for her to start her educational journey in the dual language program.

Before the beginning of the year, they met with the teaching staff, who summarized the program and informed them that interested students would have to commit to seven years of study.

While the workload would be greater, we all agreed that she would be more than capable and rise to the challenge, especially with the support of her family. Beyond learning another language, which carries its own direct benefit, students exposed to these programs at an early age statistically outperform their monolingual peers on cognitive functions. This program would help provide her with the means to achieve greater academic heights, something I think all loving parents want for their children.

She began the program at the start of the current school year, and has excelled, completing school lessons and homework in both English and Spanish. It has been an impetus for me to brush up my Spanish in order to converse with her so we can teach each other new words and phrases.

Now that the first year is coming to a close, the school board has surprised the community, disclosing that they will eliminate the program at three out of four schools for next year because of budgetary constraints. Suddenly her scholastic roadmap is being upended through no fault of her own. The problem is entirely in the hands of the school district and their poor planning.

The public understands that there is a budget shortfall due to expiring COVID-related grants. We also understand that the school district was well aware of their duration, three years of boosted budget to help districts overcome COVID-related expenses. The expiration of these grants should not be a surprise to anyone making budgetary decisions. In order to propose a balanced budget for the upcoming year, the district declared cuts would need to be made. The result of the reductions lead directly to teacher layoffs and program cuts. The dismissal of educators will be based on seniority, affecting the dual language program at three of the four elementary schools, since those teachers are among the newest in the district.

Based on knowledge of the budgetary shortfall, why did they decide to expand the program this year if they already knew it was unsustainable from the beginning? This lack of foresight begs the question of what other pitfalls are waiting to crop up. It is easy to place the blame on the former superintendent; however, the other board members have oversight responsibilities. The superintendent did not make this decision in a vacuum. They can excuse anything if they can shirk responsibility, point a finger and say it’s someone else’s fault. Additionally, problem superintendents have become a recurring issue for Riverhead. All of this results in tax money being diverted from education to resolving self-inflicted wounds.

The future is uncertain for the students that are not lucky enough to win the district’s lottery to continue the program at the remaining school offering dual language immersion. These dedicated students who have already worked hard to achieve a more rigorous academic start will need to be integrated into existing standard classrooms that may not present enough of a challenge. These monolingual classrooms may become overcrowded, leading to poorer learning experiences for all students. What alternatives has the district considered? Perhaps the schools can keep the immersion students together taught by a long-term substitute teacher, as permanent teaching staff is being cut. What is the plan folks?

The school district is doing an excellent job at reinforcing one lesson: poor planning and breaking commitments is okay if you say “sorry”. To say I’m disappointed with the school district is an understatement. This lack of professionalism will weigh heavily on the school district I ultimately choose to buy a house in and raise a family.

Do better!

Jason Yeager


Thank you, Cliff’s!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Cliff Saunders, owner of Cliff’s Elbow Room, and Jackie Buttafuoco, a young lady without whom our wedding there wouldn’t have happened. 

Also, many thanks to Times Review Media, and especially Chris Francescani, for the lovely photo and story about my day joining hands with Suzanne in the place where we first met.

It was one of the nicest, most cherished memories in my 15 years since this Queens boy moved to the North Fork. 

With great appreciation and humble thanks,

Vinny Spampinato


Whither the water main extension?

One year ago this week, you and other media outlets reported on the groundbreaking for a water main extension project that would carry water from the Central Pine Barrens aquifer to a pump station near Laurel Lake.

Officials of the Suffolk County Water Authority — including its chairman — were joined by Southold’s then-town supervisor [Scott Russell] for the occasion. Cameras rolled and reporters took notes as a large section of pipe was lowered into a trench that had been pre-dug into Peconic Bay Boulevard, just east of Laurel Lane. Stories and photos appeared in The Suffolk Times and elsewhere.

Since that date, the trench has been filled in and Laurel Lane has been restored but there has been no other work done in the area. In fact, I’ve been led to believe that the area where the ceremonial groundbreaking took place is not even along the planned path for this project. Interesting. 

Of course, it could be that work is being done in other areas along the pipe’s planned eight-mile route although news coverage of the groundbreaking reported that the project was moving from east to west. Those of us who use Peconic Bay Boulevard to travel between Southold Town and Riverhead would certainly have noticed crews working on a project of this magnitude. Coverage of groundbreaking day also suggested that the SCWA was not entirely clear on how it was going to fund the $35 million project but was hoping to use federal and state grant money. Sounds tenuous.

What is the status of this important project? Perhaps The Suffolk Times could do some follow up. In addition to learning whether this project is going ahead and when, I’d be particularly interested in knowing who paid for the crews and materials used to dig up Peconic Bay Boulevard, “fake” the installation of a pipe as the purported kick-off of the project and then make road repairs that were only necessitated because somebody wanted a photo-op.

David Levy 


The roots of student loan debt

In response to recent letters from Mr. Kramer and Mr. Bittner regarding student loan forgiveness, we feel compelled to address their oversight of crucial aspects of the issue.

First, it’s essential to acknowledge the historical context of student loan debt in the United States. Policies enacted over 30 years ago perpetuated inequities in higher education, particularly affecting marginalized communities. This deliberate tactic limited upward mobility for economically disadvantaged Americans, ensnaring them in a cycle of debt with crippling interest rates. While President Biden’s efforts to address this injustice are commendable, they represent the bare minimum required to begin rectifying our classist and racist system of higher education access.

What troubles us most about [their] letters is their narrow perspective, which fails to recognize the broader impact of student loan forgiveness. By fixating solely on the perceived burden on taxpayers, they overlook the systemic inequalities contributing to financial instability in our communities. Redirecting US tax dollars towards initiatives like student loan forgiveness can address the root causes of financial instability and foster economic growth at local levels.

The suggestion to file for bankruptcy is, at best, tone-deaf. Bankruptcy can severely impact credit ratings, hindering access to credit and future financial opportunities. For those already struggling to repay loans, bankruptcy only exacerbates their socioeconomic challenges.

Moreover, student loan debt extends beyond financial concerns; it’s a matter of equity, justice, and ethical responsibility. Disproportionately burdening marginalized communities, it perpetuates cycles of poverty and limits upward mobility. Addressing this issue is crucial for creating a more equitable society where everyone has access to opportunities for success.

Understanding the broader implications of student loan forgiveness is essential for fostering equity and justice for all. At the very least, we should consider how it can provide parents with student debt the chance to spare their children from similar financial burdens, thereby working towards ending generational poverty and stagnation.

Gillian Schroeder and Jackie MacLeod


Kudos, Michael Levy

I was planning to write something very similar, as a history teacher, retired, grandmother and concerned citizen, but he has succinctly and intelligently conveyed my heartfelt fears and warnings for all of us as political season is in full bloom. I hope everyone will examine their consciences, study the important issues and vote for democracy.

Elizabeth Weiss