The demographics of the Great Neck residents, as reported by several articles in the media, have changed significantly over the last 10 to 15 years. Asian and Persian families have flocked to Great Neck because of the excellence of the school district, convenient access to New Year City and availability of the communities of similar culture. With this change, the attitude toward the public school has evolved. As evidenced by the close No vote on the bond proposal a few months ago, Great Neck residents appear to have unfortunately divided into two camps. One clearly not happy about increasing taxes and other behind a bond issue regardless of the price.
I strongly believe that those who oppose the bond because of the cost, not the intent, is short-sighted. The deteriorating infrastructure of our schools must be addressed and the only way to do so is through a bond. An outstanding school is not only a civic pride, but hits our bottom line when it comes to property value. At the same time, I’d argue that those who state that we should provide our schools with the funds they request (not necessarily need) are too quick to accept the price tag in the name of education. Many people have pointed out the unnerving line items of $440,000 to renovate five toilet rooms for faculty or $87,500 for seven window-unit ACs. Or do the roofs really cost $4M? I realize the bureaucratic (some state mandated) nature of the school procurement system has inflated the cost, but I think it must be reexamined or simply revamped.
The fact that the current bond still faces uncertain fate points to the need of more socializing these issues with the voters and get their buy in with sound rationale. Since the bond is binding, we should let the new BOE trustees have a chance to look at these items on their own. But regardless of the bond vote, we must elect those candidates who believe in the academic excellence of our public school and fiscal responsibility (as were my themes three years ago when I ran for BOE). The candidate whom I recommend is Jeff Shi. He is committed to delve into the thorny financial issues and he will do so with consultation with our community. He also shares with me the notion that while the GN school district is academically in sound foundations, our standing is only a perception. That’s because Great Neck’s state ELA and Math results in the last few years show that an unacceptable number of our elementary and middle grades are ranked in the 40th or 50th place or lower in Nassau County. So it is not just the budget and bond, but also the quality of education that is at stake in this BOE election. We need someone like Jeff to energize our BOE and provide the necessary input and oversight to our current administration. And, hopefully, along with the other elected trustee, the new BOE will bring the Great Neck community together and strengthen our school.
—Dr. Chris Huang