MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- The Mamaroneck Daily Voice accepts signed letters to the editor. Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To The Editor:
Open Letter to Dr. Robert Shaps, superintendent of Mamaroneck Schools, about layoffs in proposed school budget.
Dear Dr. Shaps:
I am writing to you about the current proposed Mamaroneck School District budget. Specifically, I am addressing the fact that Keith Yizar is among the 20 employees who will be laid off under the budget and his position will be eliminated.
For 29 years Mr. Yizar has served as an adviser and mentor to students at risk. Now, two years before his retirement, he is being discharged.
I and many others believe this is a mistake. Just walk the corridors with Keith, as I have done, and you will be impressed with the affection and respect that pours out from students and fellow faculty members for this 6-foot-4 friendly man whose office is always open and who has never put in for overtime for the many extracurricular projects he has carried out to assist low-income and troubled students. Over the years he has helped turn around hundreds of youngsters who might otherwise have fallen through the cracks. Many of these have come back to shake his hand in his warm, slightly shabby office decorated with banners of colleges that many of those rescued have been able to attend.
There is a another reason why I think that abruptly laying off Mr. Yizar is a mistake. As one teacher told me privately, he has been a much-needed bridge to the community. And that is why, many years ago then-Superintendent Norman Colb asked Mr. Yizar to leave his promising position as a senior caseworker with the Westchester County Department of Social Services to come counsel the kids and be a bridge to the community. As you may know, Mr. Yizar’s family has been in this community since the Civil War. Mr. Yizar has been a member of, or party to, many of the institutions that help make this community work. He has been an informal but effective ambassador, presenting the school’s case in deed and argument to school stakeholders. Now, of course, he needs help in presenting his own case.
As you sit in your office, Dr. Shaps, and look at the numbers, you may not always realize why you need a local bridge to the residents who pay the school system salaries and the maintenance costs of its physical facilities. One reason is many residents are aware that most of the school administrators and faculty members do not live in this community. They reside and pay school taxes elsewhere. To some locals, this huge educational institution that you manage sometimes seems like an independent island.
Many residents don’t personally know the inhabitants of this island. They don’t usually meet them at the supermarket. And, frankly, many residents sometimes wonder what is really going on.
As an aside, I should mention to you that I am writing this as a retired businessman. Both my children went through the Mamaroneck public schools. For the 60 years we have been here, my wife and I have voted for every school budget. I might note that at the company from which I retired as president, when times were bad, it was those of us on top who took the first hit to save employees. I might ask: Are any on top in your organization now taking a hit? Do we need all the deputy and assistant administrators?
Are they all more essential than people such as Mr. Yizar, who actually deliver education to students on a daily basis?
In addition to the district schools’ need to have a local bridge, there may be a further delicate but practical reason why you may want to reconsider Mr.Yizar’s discharge. It wasn’t very long ago that the schools suffered a racial incident that it didn’t deserve. On Sept. 12, 2012, CBS, Channel 2 put out a digital news story with the headline, “Feds Monitoring Mamaroneck School Accused of Arranging Classes Along Racial Lines.” Essentially, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights concluded that the school district assigned minority students disproportionately to one kindergarten class. This smacked of racial discrimination. The official public response of the school district sounded to many of us like “Oh, we just didn’t notice.” Now, the district is proposing to lay off a 29-year veteran African-American counselor of students from largely low-income families. You certainly cannot be happy with the thought of the community lumping the above two events together.
Finally, Dr. Shaps, I want you to know I sympthize with your plight of coming up with a budget that does right by all your constituents. I’m sending you this letter because I personally believe that laying off Keith Yizar does not really help you maintain a first-class school system.