I’m new to this beautiful town. Having settled in Great Neck for only a few months, everything here is still fresh and exciting to me. I can’t help but look at Great Neck with rose-tinted spectacles. After all, this is the only town in the entire U.S. whose knowledge of existence came to me from a great novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work is so wide-reaching that when family members heard about my move, my brother-in-law, who is a Shanghai native, immediate exclaimed, “Hey, isn’t your town the famous West Egg in The Great Gatsby?!”
Of course, I did not move here because of a novel. Unsurprisingly, I came for the famous Great Neck Public Schools. My previous home was perfectly fine, a French château–style house my husband and I absolutely adored with a huge designer-landscaped backyard and a wonderful neighborhood in the well-regarded Half Hollow Hills School District. We had every intention to stay for a long time. But when my son came into this world in 2015, all of a sudden, it wasn’t good enough anymore. We wanted something better for him. To me, Great Neck was the obvious choice. Compared to Jericho, Syosset and other top school districts on Long Island, Great Neck has the best overall appeal—an exceptional education system, an active and tightly knit community, a convenient commute, excellent public facilities—all within one physically beautiful location. It has an old-world charm and a rich cultural heritage that Jericho couldn’t dream of in another 20 years. Moreover, one of my best friends moved to Great Neck a few years ago, and we love being close.
Nevertheless, the prestige and attractiveness of Great Neck comes from its public schools foremost. It is largely what puts this town at the top and what holds the real estate values. I’ve known several Stanford schoolmates who came from the Great Neck Public Schools. People I talk to often consider sending their kids to Great Neck Public Schools, the equivalence of securing their bright future. This town’s reputation is unquestionable.
So, imagine my shock and amazement, when I went through a lengthy renovation, preregistered for day care in the Great Neck Community School and finally moved into the area with my 1-year-old son, only to find out little by little from friends and acquaintances that the public schools could be in decline, that certain private interests could lead to some residents going against the public schools’ well-being and that there is going to be a vote on May 16 that could very well decide the fate of the Great Neck Public Schools, for better or for worse.
As a newcomer, there is a lot that I have yet to learn. But the things I hear and articles I read (“The Case of the Disappearing Great Neck Records,” April 26) already dumbfounded me. I find it unimaginable that any town person would wish the decline of the public schools. I also heard about people voting against the budget to improve the schools because they are not happy with how the budget is managed/allocated. This, at least I can understand. However, the answer is not to take money away from the schools, but to find suitable leaders to manage better, which is what the voting on May 16 is about.
The recent years have seen conflicts caused by diversity intensified on a global scale. Differences in beliefs, cultures, religions and personal interests often lead to much human suffering. Instead of increasingly putting diversity in the spotlight, how about focusing on things common to everyone—the need to ensure the wellness of our children and providing them with a bright future being one of the foremost. There are unprecedented challenges that our next generations will face together as a human race, such as environmental issues. After all, our most heated arguments instantly become irrelevant and insignificant in the face of global catastrophes. To that end, we not only want bright futures for our own offspring, but for as many children as possible. Only good public schools can do that.
On the other hand, if you do not care about the future of the human race, at least care about your real estate value.
Please go out to register and vote in support of public schools on May 16. Let’s get this right.