Clarifying Wendy Roth’s Allegations

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This is a response to Wendy S. Roth’s letter (“Vote No on May 16,” April 12) attacking a previous letter (“GN School Bond Defeat,” March 29) by Martha Cohen, a retired kindergarten teacher who wrote in to express her concern and sadness over the February bond referendum defeat, as well as to voice her, vote yes on May 16 for the bond and budget viewpoint.

Imagine an America where retirees, specifically government pension-receiving retirees, are not legally allowed to publicly opine, recommend and/or judge anything either related to or in their area of expertise. Try to envision just one moment of your day in that strange alternate un-American universe. Let’s go!

You grab your Sunday newspaper, and the headline that reads, “Over 120 Retired Generals, Admirals on State and USAID Budget: Now is not the time to retreat,” starts to fade away and disappear. Retired generals have no business writing a letter to congress to implore them not to cut funding! What would they possibly know about military spending and war? They were once employees of the government! Unethical! Illegal! So, instead, the title is changed to, “Jase Robertson and a car salesman named Ed on State and USAID Budget: “Now is not the time to retreat,” because due to American law, one of the Duck Dynasty brothers and a car salesman named Ed, are America’s best legal bets for persuading congress in regard to military spending and the eradication of ISIS.

It’s beyond crazy, right?

Well, welcome to the United States of Wendy S. Roth (a Great Neck resident, maybe—I could not find a Wendy S. Roth listed as living in Great Neck, and it’s legal and ethical to use a nom de plume only if you let the newspaper and its readers know), where nothing makes sense and a sense of entitlement and a nefarious agenda come with fake news, poor grammar, and something to offend and potentially ruin us all.

In her piece, Roth promotes her fascist nightmare, by stating that retirees can’t publish or publicly comment, make recommendations or have opinions because it’s illegal. That is simply not true. Retirees and, yes, government retirees can and do make recommendations, many times at the request of the highest-ranked U.S. officials and most successful business CEOs in our country.

In fact, it’s not only both legal and ethical, it is often our patriotic democratic American duty. When Roth writes about retirees, “As long as they are an arm of the state government, they must maintain a position of total neutrality,” she sounds like a propaganda flier straight out of communist Soviet Union, from where some of my Jewish ancestors fled. Anti-free speech, anti-union, anti-democracy. Where are we—Russia? North Korea? I thought we lived in the United States of America? The land of the free.

Roth’s letter is an offense not just to the excellent, caring teachers she unfairly and falsely vilified, but also to the many families who worked very hard to come to Great Neck so that their children could attend Great Neck’s top-rated public schools. Great Neck is home to generations of us. And, lucky for all of us Roth’s letter it is just a badly constructed piece of fake news

In fact, it’s so absurd, it’s funny.

Until it’s not.

Here’s the larger problem. While at first, the United States of Wendy S. Roth-land is laughable, it turns the corner when it hurls defamatory and libelous slander at teachers, the Great Neck Public Schools (GNPS) district and the Board of Education (BOE). That’s a harder piece to turn into comedy, because it hurts people who care for and care about my child, who care for and about all of our children.

Roth’s true agenda is not to save herself or anyone roughly $200 on this upcoming year’s tax bill. Her agenda, along with the Concerned Citizens of Great Neck, is to take money away from public school children’s education in the hopes of funneling it to private schools through a voucher system they are hoping will magically be passed through senate to cover their private religious school annual fees. (It won’t, as the New York State constitution forbids it, despite what Betsy DeVos desires and insidious fake news universities, such as Prager U erroneously claim.) Their larger and more nefarious goal, though, is to pave the way for religious charter schools, which they plan to build and fund using your hard-earned tax dollars.

Wendy, you and your friends haven’t just crossed the line, you have re-drawn it.

There is a vehemently anti-public education group of individuals in Great Neck that parade around under the auspice of Concerned Citizens of Great Neck. Some of us have gotten their emails and many of us have seen their bogus fliers in town and posted briefly on some mommy boards. They claim that in just a few years, the population of children in the GNPS has dropped by 4,000. It has not. They say that the very small tax increases from a bond referendum, which is stretched out for a span of 20 years to fix critically damaged structures, would hurt property values. They won’t. In fact, they would actually increase the value of the schools which, in turn, increase the values of our homes. Any decent Realtor without some ulterior motive will tell you that. And, by the way, the BOE doesn’t decide how much your taxes increase annually, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano does and, unfortunately, he has done a terrible job doing so, which has burdened both home owners and school districts all over Nassau County.

So, you can vote no to the bond and to the budget, but your taxes will still increase. And, you can thank Ed Mangano for the mess and debt Nassau County has fallen under.

If there is a majority no vote and the bond and budget are defeated, our children will lose many enrichment programs, such as AP classes, orchestra, and before- and after-school enrichment classes, clubs, intramurals and sports teams. School rankings will go down. Capital improvements will still have to be made and they will have to come out of the funds of a possible bare-bones budget.

If the budget is not passed, there is only one more chance to try. If, at that time, it fails to pass again, GNPS will be legally forced to assume a bare-bones budget, an austerity budget. So, yes, many of the amazing offerings and statistics that make GNPS the #1 ranked district in the state of New York, such as AP classes, orchestra, small class sizes and superior special-ed services, will either be taken away entirely or hit hard, as 21 districts found out in 2005.

But, your taxes will still increase.

The Not-So-Concerned Citizens and Ms. Roth, don’t want you to know the truth, so they have plastered their outrageous fliers around Great Neck and handed them out at the Great Neck LIRR train station on the evening of the defeated bond referendum, Feb. 14, 2017. They are now, as seen via Wendy S. Roth, writing letters to local publications and having them published.

The one silver lining in all of this is that it gives me a great forum to let you know what is really going on. So, for that, I say, “Thanks, Wendy.”

Identical to Roth’s letter, Concerned Citizens’ one true flier fact is that South High is ranked 136th nationwide according the U.S. News’ 2016 report. But, please note: It is 136 out of more than 13,600 public schools—and that number does not include the magnet and specialized public schools. In other words, without even including those magnet and specialized public schools, GNPS is in the top one percent of our nation’s schools and ranked #1 in the state of New York by several outstanding sources.

Why post the national rank instead of state rank, you may wonder? Well, similar to the many lies pushed forth by this group (isn’t it sad when I have to look hard to find one real statistic), this one truth was a lazy attempt by Roth and Concerned Citizens, to pull the wool over all of our eyes in order to push their true agenda—defunding the public schools in an attempt to create Long Island’s very own East Ramapo.

But, the Great Neck version comes with a twist. In East Ramapo, primarily lower income families without the means to fight were affected via a public school run into the ground by a board filled with anti-public education officials, which is beyond awful. Concerned Citizens, would like to take this one step further and harm the families of everyone in Great Neck—lower, middle and upper income, who do not want their children attending private schools by defunding our public schools and ruining our homes’ values. We have the means to do something. So please, read on.

Roth and Concerned Citizens of Great Neck’s agenda is to get a majority of no votes, fill as many open BOE seats as possible with anti-public school individuals and fleece our children of both their excellent public-school system and of their constitutional right to a free and public school education.

Again, Roth and her cronies are not concerned about your taxes or your children’s education. Contrary to what they may have told you when they invited you to one of their private parties, they will not support your candidates for the BOE seats. Their goal is to take our children’s public education money away from us and funnel it into their unaccredited private religious schools, and to eventually create charter schools that they think they can legally build and properly sustain and grow. East Ramapo has built charter schools and now all of East Ramapo’s residents’ hard-earned taxpayer money goes to the constant litigation of such schools, as they can’t seem to abide by state laws, educational standards or mandates.

Concerned Citizens’ latest absurd move is to disseminate, via email and Facebook messaging, Prager U’s YouTube videos to public school parents in an attempt to sway them to instead send their children to private school. Some of my friends have received these videos, as did I. And, guess what? We are very happy with our public schools. We don’t want our children in your schools.

Prager U is not a university; it is a right-wing Judeo-Christian infomercial site that claims you can learn all you ever need to know about anything and everything in five minutes. Aside from slickly produced misleading videos on private-school vouchers, Prager U also has videos explaining myriad absurd propositions, such as how fossil fuels are really the greenest form of energy.

Mr. Prager, a Columbia University dropout, is a CPAC darling who recently spoke at a Rick Scott rally to let people know that sexual assault and rape don’t really exist on college campuses.

What credible educator would promote five-minute infomercials based on climate change denying, sexism and false information on school vouchers? What credible educator would promote putting out false ,poorly constructed fliers and promote its group members to lie about teachers, promoting them as hawkish uncaring monsters?

None.

Wendy, I can’t stop you and/or your cronies’ Concerned Citizens’ campaigns from trying to divest Great Neck’s public-school system of its funds in the same manner that places like East Ramapo did, where the majority of the school-board positions are now held by people whose children attend private schools. (Charter schools do exist there—rife with legal problems and inabilities to meet state standards.) However, I can be a spokesperson for Great Neck’s large group of pro-public school parents and make your true intentions public to those who were not aware and for those who are aware and are too afraid and/or feel too overwhelmed to do so.

The GNPS district is one of the best. It has the only accredited high schools in Great Neck aside from North Shore Hebrew Academy, which I believe is not too happy with Ms. Roth for using the school in her defamation of the GNPS.

All of the other private schools in Great Neck, which include Long Island Hebrew Academy (LIHA) and Silverstein Hebrew Academy (SHA) are not accredited, nor are they registered with any independent school association. If they were or if they were in the process of doing so, they would appear as registered or registration-pending by state accreditation boards and/or they would at the very least be listed as members of the Independent School Association, neither LIHA or SHA are.

Ms. Roth, in your piece, you bring up electioneering and illegal behavior, and try to falsely attribute it to GNPS teachers and its union. This truly does not help you or your friends’ agendas. Quite the opposite, it actually opens the door to a request for a good, hard look at what is really going on.

Your bogus claims against teachers have opened the door for some of us to start to wonder: There are elected officials and religious leaders who send their children to these schools and are closely affiliated with these schools. How many mayors, religious leaders and shop owners are trying to defund children of their educations while lying to our faces? Are any of them electioneering? I truly hope that is not so. Electioneering is illegal. Further, under the Johnson Amendment, any religious institution found guilty of such behavior is in risk of losing its tax-exempt status.

Those who (may) live in glass houses, Ms. Roth, should not throw stones.

Finally, largely and thanks to our great public school system, Great Neck has become quite a multicultural town, especially in the past 25 years, full of many religions from Jewish to Christian to Hindu and many more, and to many cultures and ethnicities, including Chinese, Persian, Italian, Russian, Korean and Indian, just to name a few. We are not only public-school parents, our coalition also includes: private, parochial and religious-school families, and we are all very proud of our town’s public-school district, as we should be.

We parents have not told you where to send your children to school, Ms. Roth/Concerned Citizens. We believe that you should have the right to educate your children in the manner you believe works best for your families. But, you cannot defund children’s public educations to fund your decision to educate your children privately in a specific manner. You cannot defund a public-school system, a town, in the attempt to create your charter schools with our hard-earned tax dollars.

No one messes with our children’s education and gets away with it.

No one messes with the educations of an entire district of thousands of public school children and gets away with it.

I urge Great Neck families and community members to come and join the diverse, wonderful pro-public school parent coalition and stand with us—united.

Please, vote YES to the bond and the budget on May 16.

Vote yes, for our community, for our children, for all of our futures.

—*S. Miller

*S. Miller is a nom de plume that the writer said she was forced to create due to harassment by some members of the anti-public school Concerned Citizens of Great Neck.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I enthusiastically agree that a community thrives when its public schools are strong and well-supported. Let’s keep Great Neck great and vote YES on May 16.

  2. Excellent retort to a piece not only filled with falsehoods, but one with an agenda that is not in the best interests of the citizens of Great Neck. The intellectual health of our students depends upon a broad curriculum that includes opposing ideas as well as advanced learning (AP classes), and areas that inform the soul as well as the intellect, i.e. orchestra, the arts and other classes that would be dropped in an austerity budget. Aside from what a broad education means for our children, our excellent schools, some of the best in the nation, are a selling point for our homes. Without continuing the excellence and varied curriculum that the GNPS offers, the values of our homes would plummet. What a shame that would be after all the decades of excellence in everything that has been represented by Great Neck.

  3. This is a great piece of writing and I applaud you for standing up for our schools. Especially in today’s political climate, you are taking a risk speaking the truth. But this can not be the town that proves Devos and the charter school dream doesn’t work. What a devastating thing that would be.

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