Readers Write: New Port schools head must prove his worth

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Our current superintendent of schools, Dr. Kathleen Mooney, will be retiring very soon, because of health reasons. The president of our school board, Karen Sloan, recently described Mooney as being “just wonderful.”

Mooney has been our superintendent since 2013, when she officially replaced Dr. Geoffrey Gordon, who had been our superintendent of schools for 10 years, beginning in 2002. Gordon was an assertive superintendent. He was not shy about expressing his thoughts and his ideas to our school board, which caused him and our board to sometimes have an uneasy relationship.

Mooney, his replacement, proved to be a quiescent superintendent, almost passive in the eyes of some in our community. Our school board appeared to appreciate Mooney’s lack of assertiveness, and perhaps that was one of the reasons that she was appointed superintendent.

Our school board retained an executive search firm to find candidates to replace Mooney. I suspect that’s when Dr. Michael Hynes, the five-year superintendent of schools at the Patchogue-Medford school district, gave surprise notice to the school board there that he was resigning.

The Patchogue-Medford school district is one of the largest school districts in Suffolk County and just about half of its 7,513 students are minority students (43 percent Hispanic/Latino, 5 percent black).

I believe that if Dr. Hynes was a great success at Patchogue-Medford, or even a moderate success there, that the school board there would have rushed to find another $50,000, or so, in its $196 million budget, to give to Hynes to persuade him to stay on. The school board there, though, didn’t do that.

I believe that there was a mismatch at Patchogue-Medford between that district’s educational goals and Hynes’ educational agenda. I believe that the great majority of parents and guardians of Patchogue-Medford students want their children to achieve the great American dream of success in life. Achieving that dream requires a sound academic education and often acquiring specialized knowledge or skills and sometimes technical skills.

That is not what Dr. Hynes emphasizes his educational agenda is all about and that is not what he has become so well known for educationally. His educational agenda appears to be more concerned with the emotional well-being of children, who should not be burdened at school with tasks that lead to stress and anxiety.

I believe that when the very comfortable, radical/progressive mothers in Port Washington, heard Dr. Hynes’ agenda and watched his compelling video, they then determined that they just had to hire Hynes. He sang the radical/progressive educational songs that they wanted to hear.

After all, those mothers, especially the ones now serving on our school board, have all achieved the American dream. They believe that they will pass on their successes to their children by osmosis, or by family planning, or by inheritance, so why should their children have to experience stress and anxiety at school at all?

Barbara Cohen, in her June 7 letter in the Times, said: “Dr. Hynes stood out as a candidate because of his robust educational leadership career.” I believe that is pure “puff,” coming from one of the very comfortable, radical/progressive mothers in Port Washington, who I’ve just mentioned. I would like Cohen to detail for us the “robust educational leadership career” that Hynes has had, during his very short years as a superintendent of schools on L.I.

Dr. Jonathan Geisler is correct when he states in his June 7 letter that “we should welcome Dr. Hynes and give him the opportunity to succeed.”  Our community has no option but to do that now. How we measure success is a matter to be determined, however.

If Dr. Hynes can move Port Washington up from being just an average school district in Nassau County to being a high achieving school district in the county, then I will call that an outstanding success. I will not be impressed with Hynes, however, if all he accomplishes is to increase student play time, recess time, meditation time and the opt-out rate in our school district.

Joel Katz

Port Washington

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