The following letter was sent by Erica Mendez to the Westbury Union Free School District Board of Education on July 1.
My name is Erica Mendez. I am an alumna of the Westbury High School Class of 2006 and also a resident of Westbury.
I am writing to you because I was once told that only the people that complain are the ones that get heard, but the ones that had something positive done to them hardly ever speak up. Therefore, I’m writing to point out some good things that have happened in my children’s schools. This brings me to Fernando Agramonte, the middle school principal; a person that has shown that he does care.
Every concern that I have brought to the table he has tackled, and he has proven that he can get things done. For example, middle school isn’t typically known for recognizing academics, but he has a reserved time to congratulate every student that makes the honor roll and he invites the parents to be part of it too.
I also raised a concern about the water fountain situation at the middle school, and sure enough, he has them working again. I see him at PTA events and also at school events. I even saw him participate in the recent Thankful Tuesday caravans.
I can tell you that I hardly ever saw my middle school principal at any event. Mr. Agramonte’s presence makes a difference for our parents and children.
During this quarantine he has had several live ZOOM meetings with parents and has had over 50 parents show up to these meetings. I gave him my concerns over grades that my daughter received, and he told me, “Ms. Mendez, I will call you,” and he surely did. I felt heard and I felt that by him hearing and acting to my concerns, he helped the school get better.
Mr. Agramonte has made a huge difference in the middle school. I see him in the mornings motivating kids for school. He even has motivational phone calls on Mondays for parents and kids. He is very involved, and I appreciate that in a principal. He surprises me because he greets the children in his school with their names. I wish that I would have had a middle school principal like him.
Another positive experience I’ve witnessed in the district is Mr. Eudes Budhai. Where do I start? I’ve known Mr. Budhai since my own high school years. He was always positive, and always pushing for my friends and I to go to college and get a higher education. He is always with a smile.
Now as a parent, I came to him the first time regarding issues with the school food. I told him all of my concerns and Mr. Budhai assured me that he would address my concern, and he did. Now I am happy with the change with the food distributor in schools to bring better and healthier options for our children in the community.
I also brought to him a situation that happened after hours in the Drexel Avenue Elementary School playgrounds. He couldn’t believe what I said to him and a week later, I saw them installing security cameras and a solar panel light, and also, he made sure that the park lights were on during night time.
I feel respected and appreciated by Mr. Budhai, which means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to the community. He also supports almost all events. I have seen him in winter concerts at Drexel. I have seen him at the high school events. He has been present at PTA events, showing support to our parents and children. He even created the FACE events, which are a great thing.
He has been present in the meetings of different student bodies of the schools in Westbury. How do I know? Because my 10-year-old told me all about how Mr. Budhai went to her meeting and he heard her and her peers talking about solutions for her school.
One time we went to the high school for the Christmas show where all of the schools sing together. My daughter saw Mr. Budhai and said, “Mom, I have to go and tell Mr. Budhai my idea because I know it’s a good idea for the school and I know he will say it is!”
For my daughter to tell me that she cares about someone else’s opinion speaks volumes to me because she isn’t the one to care for outside opinions. When my daughters see him, they know who he is and they aren’t intimidated by him and they always greet him and he greets them with a smile.
These are just two people in our district that have made a positive change since they have been leaders in our schools. Being present, involved and invested in our community is very important and unfortunately that hasn’t been done in the past. I feel that people like Mr. Budhai and Mr. Agramonte see the bigger picture for our children and our community. I wouldn’t want to imagine not having them in my community and as the good examples that they are for our children.
Losing them would bring us back 10 steps or more, like back when I went to school. I hardly ever saw my superintendent or my middle school principal, let alone be heard by anyone. Back then, I would see the need in my schools and it never got past the main office because my suggestions would fall on deaf ears.
I was very skeptical at first when parents would tell me that the middle school principal was very involved, and showed with actions that he cared, until I was actually heard and my concerns were set at ease.
When I found out that Mr. Budhai became superintendent, I was so happy because I know how positive he is and how he strives for the children to look at the big picture and believe in themselves.
Taking 10 steps back won’t do our schools good. Acknowledging the positive changes and bringing them to light is important, and I wish that our district moves forward with leaders like them to make our schools the best they can be.