As the president of the Great Neck Teachers Association, let me tell you why we’ve endorsed both Rebecca Sassouni and Jeffrey Shi in the May 16 Board of Education elections. It’s because they are clearly the most pro-public education candidates in the race at a time when public education is under attack across the country and in Great Neck. And, make no mistake, attacks on teachers and our schools are attacks on the children of our community. No one advocates for kids or works harder to protect and improve the lives of our kids than the teachers of the Great Neck Public Schools.
I’ve had the privilege to teach at Great Neck South High School for the past 18 years, and what we’re undergoing now is unprecedented. You wouldn’t think that a group of highly educated, hard-working middle class people who’ve devoted their professional lives to educating our young would be so vilified. But it’s happening. You’ve no doubt heard the blatant lies being spread by the anti-public schools movement. Is quality public education expensive? Absolutely. Yet, while our public schools consistently rank among the very best locally and nationally, Great Neck taxpayers in 2015–16 ranked 58th in Nassau. That means that there are 57 other school districts in the county with higher Class I tax rates. Are teachers’ salaries skyrocketing out of control? Absolutely not. Based on median teacher salaries in Nassau County, teachers in the Great Neck Public Schools are being paid well below those in Roslyn, Manhasset, Herricks and Jericho. Since the New York State property tax cap was enacted in 2011, we’ve seen minimal salary increases at best, and we’re paying more towards our health care than ever before.
I can also tell you it is neither illegal nor pure self-interest for teachers to support school budgets, bonds and Board of Ed candidates. Quite the contrary, we’d be derelict in our professional duties if we didn’t raise our collective voice to fight for what we know is best for our students. We’re working with them in the classroom all the time, and we know when they’re having a good day and when they’re not. We know when they’ve had a healthy breakfast and when they haven’t. And we know what they know and what they still need to learn. That’s why we work tirelessly to help them improve in their intellectual, social and emotional development. Attacks on teachers and the public education system ultimately fall on the kids, which is why we also support the proposed bond referendum and school budget. Without proper funding, the programs, services and infrastructure that are the lifeblood of our public schools will vanish. If the roof in my classroom leaks, then it also leaks on my 28 students. Our working conditions are their learning conditions. We’re in this together.
On May 16, please elect Ms. Sassouni and Mr. Shi to the Board of Education, and vote Yes on the bond referendum and the school budget. We all know families don’t move to Great Neck for the ocean beaches or the mountain views. They come here for the world-class pre-K to12th-grade public education. It happens in our classrooms every day. If we lose that, we lose everything.
Great Neck Teachers Association