Readers Write: Port school district gets F in Siemens competition

Readers Write: Port school district gets F in Siemens competition

I hope that you read the exciting article about the 2017 Siemens Competition, that appeared on Pages A10 & A11, in yesterday’s Newsday.

The subtitle to the article is, “L.I. (high) schools produce 56 semifinalists in Siemens competition.”

Two days ago, the Siemens Foundation named 491 high school students, across the nation, to be semifinalists, in the very prestigious Siemens Competition in math, science and technology, for 2017. 90 of the 491  semifinalists are New York State students, while 56 of the 90 attend high schools on L.I.

Of those 56, 27 are students who attend high schools that are a part of Port Washington’s peer group of 12 school districts.

That’s a very impressive achievement for our peer group. How many Siemens semifinalists did our Schreiber High Schoo produce? None, Nada, not a one.

The following is a list of our peer group districts that produced semifinalists and how many each produced:


Great Neck                                                                    6

Herricks                                                                          6

Manhasset                                                                     6

Jericho                                                                            4

Roslyn                                                                             2

Syosset                                                                           2

Garden City                                                                    1


I think that it’s more than embarrassing for our school district to have to try to explain how the Half Hollow Hills school district (in Suffolk County) could produce seven Siemens semifinalists, or how Great Neck, Herricks and Manhasset could each produce six, while Port Washington could not even produce one.

Port Washington is one of the largest school districts in Nassau County and It is the third largest district in our peer group.

Only Great Neck and Syosset in our peer group have slightly larger student enrollments. Surely, we must have at least as much student brain power in our high school, as the seven school districts listed above have in theirs.

So, Port’s lack of performance must be attributable to an absence of focus by our school district and a lack of STEM talent and leadership on the part of our educators.

If you had the chance to ask our superintend of schools, or the president of our school board, to explain the lack of award winning STEM performance on the part of our high school students, you might get the following responses from them.

 I think that our superintendent of schools might tell you that in our district, the primary focus is on educating the “whole child” and that we do not have the spare time, the educational resources, or the money, to focus on a specialized STEM project, like the Siemens Competition.

She may not be able to tell you how our high achieving, neighboring school districts manage to participate in the competition, but we do know that in our school district, girls softball, girls volleyball, girls tennis and girls badminton, for instance, are high priority programs, that we devote substantial resources to.

Our superintendent will probably tell you that these fun programs are essential to educating the “whole child”, while focusing on participation in a STEM competition, is not essential.

 I’m also sure that if you had the opportunity to speak to the president of our school board, she would tell you that we don’t focus on “statistics” in Port Washington, like the winning of a science competition, but instead, we focus on trying to produce well adjusted children, free from too much stress and anxiety and with happy, smiling faces.

She may also tell you that Port Washington is a very diverse community, where 40 different languages are spoken and where we have high proportions of English language learners, students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students, in our student body, thus limiting, she will claim, district resources that could otherwise be devoted to a STEM competition.

Of course, all of the seven peer group districts listed above also have significant numbers of ELL students, disabled students and students who are economically disadvantaged, in their student bodies.

But, apparently, those districts have learned how to allocate their resources so that they can participate in a STEM  competition.

The president of our school board may also tell you about our wonderfully high graduation rate (it’s high, but how high, she may not say – 97 percent?), but she probably won’t tell you how our high rate differs from every other district’s very high rate. It doesn’t.

 My children meandered through the Port Washington school system, long ago, so I have no particular interest in seeing our district performing any better, academically, in the future, than it has been performing, to date.

However, I would hope that any parent having children in the school system today, would ask our school officials why Port Washington appears to be a “no show,” at the annual Siemens Science Competitions and at some other prestigious STEM competitions.

Perhaps, we have to worry less about our children’s self esteem levels and more about their proficiency in subjects that matter a great deal, in life.

 Joel Katz

Port Washington




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