When my husband and I moved here in September 2015, I was nine months pregnant with our son and our daughter was two.
We came to be close to family, but we also came for all of the things that are wonderful about Great Neck. We came for the parks, the pool and the short, albeit more and more frequently delayed, train ride to Penn Station. As a modern orthodox Jewish family, we came to find like-minded neighbors and, probably, to put our kids in religious schools. As people who value diversity, we came to be with non-observant and non-Jewish neighbors, too. And, as people who value education, we came, knowing that our taxes would be high, to support the strong public schools. Even though we may not send our children there, we understand that our top-rated public schools are an integral part of the fabric of our neighborhood (not to mention the fact that they drive, in large part, the rising values of our homes). Finally, as people who prioritize kindness and acceptance, we came to live in a community that is known for those values.
We should not let this school board election and budget and bond vote divide Great Neck. We have been seeing the warning signs playing out, largely on social media, for months. We were saddened when we recently learned that some of our new friends are considering leaving the neighborhood because they fear that this episode portends that Great Neck is becoming a town rife with conflict.
If Great Neck doesn’t want to fall prey to the divisiveness that is eating the country alive around us, we must recognize opportunities to find our common ground and seize them—even though that necessarily means not getting everything that we want.
There has been some very passionate writing on both “sides” of the bond debate. We have seen technical analyses of the bond proposals from both its supporters and detractors. Great Neck can and should be having those conversations. Certainly, the current proposal doesn’t align perfectly with anyone’s wishes—it represents, as Nadine Shatzkes pointed out in her letter, a compromise from the initial proposal. I take heart in that fact because it means we are still doing something right here. There is still listening and nuance in this town.
We have plenty of time ahead of us to keep refining and improving the way we support our public schools. We will keep talking about our priorities and whether we can do things more efficiently. As far as I can tell, we are about to elect two new board members who will approach that conversation thoughtfully and with true commitment to the public schools and our community at large (no matter which of the candidates get elected—they all, thankfully, appear to demonstrate those qualities).
Voting down the bond proposal again would be a destructive exercise for Great Neck. It would undo all of the refining and collaborating that has happened since the community spoke through its last vote. We should not cut off our noses to spite our faces and rip the town apart to prove a point. The fabric, it seems, is already fraying. If we want to preserve the thing that really makes Great Neck beautiful—our sense of community—we should come together on this measure with the promise of continued and respectful dialogue.
—Sara Raisner Fisher