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Letter to the Editor: In Response to John McGrath

Mineola Board of Education President Christine Napolitano submitted the following letter.

John McGrath at the March 29 Mineola Board of Education meeting.

Some have suggested that as board president I should have stopped the obvious campaigning; I apologize. In the interest of decorum (I am also running for re-election) and important meeting time, I chose to drop rather than challenge the campaign talk. Certain comments made recently by Mr. McGrath, however, must be addressed directly.

Mr. McGrath’s choice to announce his run for the school board as he sat on the dais of the board of education was questionable. The content of the announcement might have included the words “children” and “education.”  Instead, we heard something that amounted to a veteran board member running to settle a score with a new candidate. How disappointing to know that seems to be the real reason behind Mr. McGrath’s candidacy, particularly in light of the many challenges we face in education today.

With regard to Mr. McGrath’s insistence that he was not against consolidation, I find his statements are, at best, an attempt to spin history. It is well documented that the district with the advisement of the Community Committee for Consolidation, made up primarily of 30 community parents and residents.  Over countless hours, many ideas were proposed, investigated, and researched.

Three emerged as solid plans, and in the spirit of compromise, based on solid logic and reason. That’s the difference. Mr. McGrath had an “idea” of . He presented that “idea” to the media with no prior discussion with our community, let alone the Herricks and Mineola Boards of Education or their superintendents. His “idea” was just that, a personal thought. Last year, when I asked him at a public meeting of the board of education to articulate a solid plan, ” Well, the community is still waiting.

One of Mr. McGrath’s statements was particularly bothersome. He claimed that local employers have told him “ graduates require an ‘inordinate’ amount of training.” Training for what, exactly?

McGrath’s comment is anecdotal, irresponsible, and insulting. Ninety-two percent of our students from the attended college immediately upon . A number of our students receive vocational training through excellent programs at BOCES. Mineola Union Free School District college acceptances last year included Harvard, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, John Hopkins, Holy Cross, Columbia, Boston College and Penn State. I challenge Mr. McGrath to provide evidence of such a claim.

It reminded me of a time when Mr. McGrath’s argument for merging with Herricks was that Herricks would get the benefit of our commercial base, while we would get the benefit of the “prestige” of the Herricks school district. Puzzling that a board of education veteran of so many years would speak so poorly of our own students. I am very proud of our students and proud to be a part of the Mineola School District.

Though remarks through the media are certainly one way to campaign, I remind residents that which is a unique opportunity for residents to see and hear all the candidates’ positions.

Christine Napolitano is currently the President of the Mineola Board of Education. The views expressed in this letter do not necessarily reflect those of the board of education, its other individual trustees, or the Mineola Union Free School District.

Ashley Alyse April 18, 2012 at 04:54 PM
As a recent alumni of the Mineola High School, I take exception to Mr. John McGrath's portrayal of us being ill-prepared for life beyond high school. His broad brush comments paint our entire group as struggling, uneducated members of society. On the contrary, we are thriving in our lives beyond high school and owe our successes to the structured education we received along with the opportunities to strengthen ourselves through the many programs offered by our school district, be it sports, fine and performing arts or the many service organizations that were available to us. To suggest we, the graduates of Mineola, are anything less than capable members of society is a slap in the face to us, our parents and the entire staff of our former school system. Mineola has provided me with the communication skills, as well as the motivation in order to continue on as a lifelong learner in my pursuit as a future educator. As a proud and thriving alumni, I feel I was adequately prepared, and claims that Mineola alumni require an "inordinate" amount of training is just as misguided as it is insulting. Ashley Alyse, Oneonta, Class of 2013
mary d April 18, 2012 at 04:59 PM
I think Board President Napolitano made the right decision to respond to the statement Mr. McGrath read at the BOE meeting on March 29th. I was at that meeting and was disappointed to listen to the statement as a personal attack on Mr. Barnett with no reference to the education of our kids. The fact that Mr. McGrath seems to be keeping score of personal victories is very concerning.
joanne farrell April 18, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I agree with Mary D and Board president Napolitano. I too find it disappointing that Mr. Mc Grath would make statements concerning our children being ill-prepared when they leave high school. I think that it is up to us as parents to work together with the school to make sure that our children are prepared to face the challenges upon completion of their high school education. I am amazed at what choices my children are being presented with at both the elementry level and high school level as well.
Gail Jakubek April 18, 2012 at 07:06 PM
As a Mineola High School graduate, I feel plenty prepared for life in college and the working world. I found my desire for learning in that school, and was inspired to be a teacher myself from the more than capable and wonderful staff. To say that students who graduate from Mineola are unable to to fulfill Mr. John McGrath's vision of future successful Americans, is an insult to all of us who have pushed on and are making something out of our lives. Gail Jakubek, Hunter College, Class of 2013
Patricia Navarra April 18, 2012 at 10:35 PM
"McGrath believes the school district has made significant progress in its educational achievement and student improvement in recent years and wants to continue on the board to safeguard the strides the district is making." Mineola American, "Meet the Candidates", May 15, 2009
Donna T April 18, 2012 at 11:34 PM
I also disagree with John McGrath, and I am truly saddened that he would make such a broad statement concerning our children's life beyond their Mineola education. Both my boys experienced all that Mineola had to offer and neither one of them struggled, were ill-prepared, or required an 'inordinate amount of training'. In fact, the rigorous courses offered to them "lightened" the load of their college experience. I am proud to say that upon graduation, both of my sons are successful engineers. Even their internship experiences were both rewarding and positive. They both graduated with honors at the top of their classes. Like Joanne stated, it takes both parents and schools working together to prepare their children for the future. Mineola is a wonderful place to raise and educate children. I do not need the "prestige" of Herricks. I already have the "prestige" of Mineola. Thank you Chris Napolitano for always being supportive and never bad-mouthing our district. I have known Chris for a very long time. She speaks from her heart, solves issues, and she certainly doesn't portray this community in a negative way.
Molly Healey April 19, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Mrs. Napolitano has once again proven to this community that as a member of the Mineola BOE, her motivation for seeking re election is clear...ensuring that each child receives the best education possible, while being mindful of the cost of doing so. Trustee McGrath has once again proven that his motive(s) for seeking re election is very unclear. A disappointment during the reconfiguration process (he never "got back" to us regarding HIS plan for reconfiguring our district as he promised), he disappoints again by not only publicly attacking BOE Candidate Artie Barnett, he also managed to insult the very district he has served for over 12 years, by stating that our MHS grads are ill prepared for life and require an "inordinate" amount of training. If that indeed is the case, what is HIS plan to fix it? I guess he will get back to us...
CDatys April 19, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Of course, using the Board of Education meeting to announce his candidacy (and to begin actively campaigning) is an inappropriate use of the Board's time. To be motivated to run for office to get back at another candidate rather than what he can contribute to our students is, of course, the wrong motivation for such an important decision. To insult the very students he was elected (and should be proud) to serve is, of course, outrageous and deplorable I think what we have here is a career politician that feels entitled. Clearly, after 13 years in office, Mr. MCGrath feels that he can treat the voters and their children with disrespect. This is no way to serve the public and certainly no way to gain my vote. But to be honest, the community has been supporting, even encouraging, the outrageous antics of Mr. McGrath for years, re-electing him time and again to "serve" our children. When will it be enough already? The time has come to thank Mr. McGrath for his years of service to our community and our children . The time has come for Mr. McGrath to move on If we, as a community, are to allow this man to insult our children and reward him by re-electing him, than we deserve what we get See you at the polls
Patricia Navarra April 19, 2012 at 10:17 PM
McGrath's words about his career and his work on the BOE, March 28, 8:39pm Save Long Island Schools: "Christine, I'm not sure that I know a lot or that it's good for you (US) as you put it, but I'm an elected member of the Mineola School Board in Nassau County. I am also a lawyer representing disabled students in lawsuits against school districts. Talk about split personalities it don't get more split than that. But I am happy that I may have been helpful to you and others. I know first hand the frustration of being to push an excellent educational agenda fighting unions, administrators, my own constituents, etc...It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it."
Patricia Navarra April 19, 2012 at 10:45 PM
So which McGrath comment are we to believe?
SLJ April 19, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Looks like the beat up McGrath band wagon is alive and well.
CDatys April 20, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Of course, using the Board of Education meeting to announce his candidacy (and to begin actively campaigning) is an inappropriate use of the Board's time. To be motivated to run for office to get back at other candidate rather than what he can contribute to our students is, of course, the wrong motivation for such an important decision. To insult the very students he was elected (and should be proud) to serve is, of course, outrageous and deplorable I think what we have here is a career politician that feels entitled. Clearly, after 13 years in office, Mr. MCGrath feels that he can treat the voters and their children with disrespect. This is no way to serve the public and certainly no way to gain my vote. But to be honest, the community has been supporting, even encouraging, the outrageous antics of Mr. McGrath for years, re-electing him time and again to "serve" our children. When will it be enough already? The time has come to thank Mr. McGrath for his years of service to our community and our children . The time has come for Mr. McGrath to move on If we, as a community, are to allow this man to insult our children and reward him by re-electing him, than we deserve what we get See you at the polls
Andrews Rd April 20, 2012 at 02:44 AM
I was at the meeting years ago when the hampton students were urging the board to "keep Hampton open". McGrath suddenly made a motion to keep all schools open. I was shocked and annoyed. After months of studies and planning, he wanted to be a hero. I knew then, it was time for him to go. Sorry, time to go. And yes, those recent comments were insulting to the entire school community. Do tell- who are the local employers that say our students are "ill prepared". I don't believe those words were ever muttered as he states.
Sharon Demelas April 20, 2012 at 04:41 PM
So as not to go against the rules for posting comments and have my post censored, I will put my filter on. For someone who sits up at that dais looking bored and detached at any school board meeting that I have attended and I am certain at the ones I have not, I can't help but wonder why Mr. McGrath wants to serve on the Mineola School District Board of Education. I always feel as if we are taking up his time and that he has something better or more important to do at the moment. He seems more like a "bored" member than a "board" member, meandering around and leaving the room while important issues are being discussed, yawning, leaning back in his chair with his arms behind his head like he is about to get ready to put his feet up on the desk and nap. I cant help but wonder what his interest of being on the board is. I am uncertain as to what Mr. McGrath's vested interest in our district is except one that puts another line on his resume. It clearly is not to help Mineola school district soar into the future. It seems to me his only interest is to impede any progress made or to be made in the future of this district. His big contribution to the whole reconfiguration process was "Herneola" which frankly sounds more like an ailment than a solution.
Sharon Demelas April 20, 2012 at 04:45 PM
(continued) Despite his smug efforts in the past to slow down or halt progress in our district, Mineola has persevered and has produced thousands of bright and well rounded young men and women who have gone on and made a difference in the world we live in. We are always proud of their accomplishments we read or hear about. I believe our school district with all of its wonderful programming and technology is turning out students who are far beyond ready for the world than we ever were. Mr. McGrath sits among the board like a thorny rose amongst a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Nobody likes the roses in the bouquet when they start to die the quickest and begin to smell rancid. I for one like to remove the ugly dried up flowers so they doesn't ruin the rest of the bouquet. I think that after 12 years of his time serving on the board this community deserves someone who is passionate about this district, our kids and progress. Artie and Chris, you certainly have my votes. Mr. McGrath never shows any interest in any events our district holds. I personally have never seen him at any event besides a board meeting or meeting of the sort. Oh wait, I am wrong. I stand corrected, he attended the iPad demonstration given by the Jackson Avenue fifth grade last year. That's right, that's because it was 30 minutes prior to a board meeting. Gee thanks for taking an interest!
Sharon Demelas April 20, 2012 at 04:46 PM
(continued)Mr. McGrath is like a dandelion amidst a beautifully green lawn and I say it's high time we take out the weed killer and destroy the weed before it does any more damage.
Rosie April 21, 2012 at 05:58 PM
As a MHS graduate, I take great offense to Mr. McGrath's comments. I received wonderful preparation there for life outside the walls of MHS. My classmates and I have all gone on to thrive and succeed in a diverse range of careers, which would not have been possible without all of the wonderful guidance we received from the excellent teachers and administrators at Mineola. While we should always be working to improve and build our schools and community, his comments are irresponsible and detrimental. I don't understand how insulting one's constituents and their children will win him any popularity. Best of luck to him after those comments.

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