Massapequa Board of Education News and Views By Leslie Dowell
When I decided to run for a seat on the Massapequa Board of Education, I thought the timing was right. I had one daughter in college, and another daughter was a junior at Massapequa High School. They were now at a stage in their (still young) lives that had brought them to an “independent” status, where they didn’t need to totally depend on a parent to get them where they needed to be.
For myself, I have dedicated almost 15 years to various PTA positions and committees, 10 years to attending Board of Education meetings and volunteering for school district committees, 4 years to running a junior field hockey league, 8 years to various athletic booster clubs, 19 years to the Biltmore Beach Club, etc., etc.. Again, the timing seemed right, to focus my energies entirely in one direction, for one organization, and into what I am most passionate about….children, educational and athletic issues, school finances, and the community at large. Of course, myonly answer was to run for a seat on the Massapequa Board of Education, while everyone else I knew asked, “What are you thinking? Are you crazy? Don’t you have anything better to do with your time? Don’t you want a job that pays you? (that last question was from my husband), and “it’s a thankless job!”. Oh well!
Little did I know, that in addition to the two incumbents, both seeking reelection, there would be five additional candidates as well. Wow, eight candidates for only two seats. Usually we would have to search far and wide to come up with that many interested community members, but now the field was wide open. The list of candidates brought a variety of backgrounds, but the issues were not all that different….fight to keep educational issues high, and taxes low. Would the election come down to who could publicize their candidacy best? Only the voters know for sure.
In the end, one candidate would withdraw, one incumbent would be reelected, and the second seat would be separated by only one vote. Only ONE VOTE! We could not have written a more controversial script. Only time will tell if the one vote victory will be challenged, or if the election will stand. I unfortunately, am not the candidate in any of those aforementioned positions. Hence, why I now have the time and opportunity to write this column. I am thankful to still have a voice that can be heard.
My future ramblings will focus on the Board of Education meetings, what issues are covered, and the community input at those meetings. In attendance at these meetings, there are usually less than 20 residents. That number includes approximately 4-6 members representing district employees, 6-8 members representing PTA’s, a few District Committee members, the staff presenting reports for that evening, and the usual parent or community member that has a question or issue to raise. It is truly sad, but usually all attendees know each other on a first name basis, and regardless of if we agree or disagree on the subject matter, we greet each other as if we are part of a “special” family, of sorts.
Only when a “hot” button issue arises, (usually a sports issue), do the Massapequa masses come to speak out and be heard. If everyone only knew what critical decisions were being made at each and every Board of Education meeting, the attendance might be greater. I know we all lead busy lives, but are we truly that apathetic about our children’s education? Should it be a priority? How is our school district operating? Who are the leaders of our schools? Who are the leaders of our district? Do we budget and spend responsibly? Are we keeping pace with other school districts in Nassau County? Long Island? New York? The Nation? The World?
Decisions are continually made at these meetings regarding academic programs, sports teams, salary increases, labor negotiations, individual school results, district results, energy audits, financial audits, technology enhancements, outside influences on our children, grading issues, special education programs, and so, so much more. The residents that decide to complain about the proposed increase in either our spending or tax levy, attend one Board of Education meeting every April, and are nowhere to be found the other eleven months. By waiting until April…it is basically too late to make the types of changes they want to have considered. Financial decisions are made at almost every meeting, albeit, before the audience can comment. All year long.
In closing, I will attempt to put my thoughts to paper (or computer) at the conclusion of each Board of Education meeting. I will include the facts (as well as my opinion) on the reports, discussions, motions, and community input from each meeting. I hope you will come to learn, love, and enjoy Board of Education News and Views.
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