Letter To The Editor: Public Servant Par Excellence

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After 10 years of service, Susan Miner Healy, my cherished “colleague in parenting,” has retired from the Great Neck Board of Education. She deserves tremendous gratitude for all she has done on behalf of our community.

Susan Miner Healy has been an independent voice and consistent force for good, previously holding PTA leadership positions in three buildings and, as a member of the Great Neck Board of Education, always working to bring people together on behalf of our kids. She has led by example, seeking diplomatic pathways when confronted with difficult issues or challenging personalities. She has never burned bridges or marginalized people whose views differed from her own. Having put multiple children through the Great Neck Public Schools, Susan deeply understands and appreciates the beauty of individual differences and that knowledge informed her public service in powerful and important ways. As a result, Susan has fulfilled the mandate of our school district—working daily to meet the educational needs of each individual child—with distinction.

Susan’s activist background and public contributions are substantive and unique—she has been both a South and North parent, she never had a political base in a particular religious, ethnic or neighborhood, an ideological ax to grind, been governed by personal ambition or held ties to special interest groups. She has always been there for the children of our community and their families, working diligently to fulfill the mission of public education—lifting all boats as high as possible, as various political tides rolled in and out. She never raised her finger into the wind to determine what was popular, but kept her heart and mind open to what should be in the long-term best interest of all children. This approach has been particularly valuable in a school district where “The Big Three” are known as “Harvard, Princeton and Yale,” as opposed to “Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.”

One key experience we shared during our overlapping PTA presidencies involved getting separate executive board approval for a North/South PTA letter asking parents to voluntarily end the unfortunate social practice of bar/bat mitzvah sweatshirt giveaways. Susan knew belonging was the most important lesson children needed to learn, and that having our middle schools become more caring communities must be our goal. Sending this joint letter was a small act of conscience in response to such parental sentiments as “You can’t make people stop doing this” (that’s why we’re making a request) and “Children need to learn they will not be invited to everything” (as if they didn’t already know this from elementary school?). This cooperative letter pricked the conscience of some parents, and encouraged them to reflect upon the social consequences of their individual choices. We couldn’t change everyone’s behavior, but fostering greater awareness about what was accepted as being “normal” social practice was what mattered. The vaunted home-school connection was about more than getting kids to do their homework—it was about putting more compassion and empathy into classrooms, hallways and lunchrooms. Working hard to put that kind of love into our schools made Susan’s leadership so very special.

Susan Miner Healy made abiding concern for other people’s children her personal mission and tried to make our often competitive community a much kinder place. She’ll be greatly missed.

—Mindy Ohringer

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