At a recent meeting of the Great Neck Village Officials Association, Tom Dolan, superintendent of Great Neck School District, painted a picture of demographic change.
“We’re going to tell you where we are,” Dolan said, as he walked local elected officials through some numbers generated by the federal government. “There is a marked downturn in the white population (which includes Persians) and a large increase in the Asian population.”
Dr. Dolan presented a 10-year history of the public school population, from the 2004-2005 school year through the 2013-2014 school year. “We’re not getting any smaller,” he said. Yet it is an open question as to how any particular group—populations studied include Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaskan native, Asian, Black/African American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and White—will grow or shrink. The biggest difference over the years has been the great increase in the Asian population. “Others remain fairly stable,” Dolan reported.
The federal statistics include only public school students; Dolan said the district transports over 1,500 students to parochial schools.
In 2004-05, there were 1,148 Asian students; in 2013-14, there are 2,090. That is an increase from 19.2 percent to 32.7 percent of the total student population. In the same timespan, the white population went from 4,250 (71 percent of the total) to 3,648 (57.1 percent).
For the E.M. Baker Elementary School, the Asian population grew from 67 to 200; the white population slid from 368 to 348. The JFK Elementary School added two to its count of 42 Asian students, while the white population fell from 396 to 348. The Lakeville Elementary School/Lakeville pre-k nearly doubled its Asian enrollment, from 276 to 501 students, while the White population declined at a slightly lower rate—from 515 to 291. At the Saddle Rock Elementary School, the Asian population went from 51 to 139 and the White population went from 427 to 378.
During the 10-year period, the Great Neck North Middle School went from 46 Asian students to 95, and the White population went from 536 to 587. Great Neck South Middle School had 234 Asian students 10 years ago to 403 today; the White population went from 536 to 322.
For Great Neck North High School, the Asian population went from 94 to 148, and the White population went from 769 to 816. Great Neck South High School saw 338 Asian students 10 years ago and 558 today, while the White population went from 703 to 523.
The Village School had no Infinite Campus data available, but there was only a small increase in Asian students over the past 10 years. The population at the Village School today shows two Asian students and 35 White students.
Dr. Dolan also said that the “optional zone,” the zone in the middle of the district where students are permitted a choice between the north and the south middle and high schools, is “working out very well,” evening out the numbers attending each school. Additionally, the district has weeded out non-resident students by enforcing re-registration for eighth grade students, saving the district “a lot of money.”
And both the Village School (the alternative high school) and the SEAL Academy (Supportive Education for All Learners) bring in revenue. When there is room, both schools will take out-of-district students who need the services, at the cost of the service. “We save lives here,” Dolan said.
Dolan noted that in all of the schools in the district, the female population is a bit higher than the male population.
I live in this community for 17 years and both my children graduated from Great Neck Schools. I am not surprised that the Asian populations have grown to 32.7 percent because they value education and recognize the quality of our schools. As any good school district would do, Great Neck Schools need to respond to the changes accordingly, providing the necessary services and communication to these new neighbors who dutifully contribute to our tax revenues.