Babylon’s First Advocacy Panel


Lauren Ryan, Contributing Writer

On Friday, February 26, a number of school officials, and county and state leaders met in the high school library to discuss a very important issue: the finances of our public schools. Among those in attendance were Superintendent of Schools Linda Rozzi, Deputy Superintendent of Schools Dr. Peter Daly, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Daniel D’Amico, New York State Assemblyman Joseph Saladino, New York State Senator Phil Boyle, Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey and Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino. These officials, as well as a number of teachers, members of the Board of Education, representatives from the Babylon Community, and a few members of the senior class, were led in an informational meeting concerning the GEA, or Gap Elimination Adjustment: a policy put in place by New York State officials that decreased funding to public education in order to shrink the State’s growing debt.

As a seventeen year old who considers herself fairly aware of current events, the words of these officials seemed to fly right over the head of myself, and the five other members of the senior class who had the privilege of sitting in. It was certainly eye-opening to learn about the tedious but important work that our school administrators complete behind the closed doors of the business office. Although I am heavily involved in the student council and believe to be fairly well versed in the affairs of BHS, having the opportunity to sit in on this serious meeting, as well as being involved in a very serious conversation, was certainly beneficial, as I was able to walk out of that meeting not only having been informed on what the GEA was, but also having a greater understanding and appreciation for all the arduous tasks our school’s administration completes in order to ensure that we have all the tools necessary to guarantee that we can have that awesome school year that the student council promised in September.

The hearing wrapped up with a group activity, in which members of each table discussed what three causes they would advocate for. Once again, the room’s adults cited that they would advocate for policies that I didn’t understand, and spoke to the members of the panel using vocabulary my colleagues and I weren’t entirely familiar with. When the time came that we, the students, were to present their ideas, Student Council President Haley Watt explained that if given the opportunity, we wished to support efforts that would allow upstanding BHS upperclassmen to forego some of their standard, core education classes in order to take time during the school day to gain real world experience—in the form of internships, more specialized classes, and getting exposure to the workplace. Moreover, Student Council Vice President Adam Gumbardo spoke of the importance of increasing educational opportunities for students in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) fields in our district. Student representatives also noted the importance of accepting the use of technology in younger generations, rather than condemning youth for taking full advantage of the devices available to them.

Overall, the first annual Advocacy Meeting was a tremendous success, not only in informing members of the community of the efforts the district is making to regain the funding lost after the GEA was put into effect, but also in allowing these members of the Babylon community to voice their concerns and ideas in a productive environment, and with county and state officials standing by to hear the concerns of their constituents.