As I conclude my first term of office working pro bono as a Trustee of the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education, I look back on three years of public and executive session meetings, inordinate hours of preparatory reading and research, hundreds of hours of conversations with stakeholders about the educational endeavor, and meaningful public showcase events with appreciation. The learning curve is gradual: I prepared, showed up, listened, questioned, evaluated, voted. Most often, I enjoyed. Due to much encouragement from the community, I have decided to run for a second term.
After over a decade of involvement serving in parent leadership on the districtwide Citizens Advisory, UPTC, Legislative, Shared Decision, selection, and other committees, as well as in my children’s schools, I was elected in 2017 in one of Great Neck’s most historic elections. (It remains a measure of note that the 6,884 votes I received then exceeded the 6299 votes in favor of the Bond that year.)
I appreciated the mandate and pledged then and still to bring integrity, a questioning analytical mind, arms length distance, and a fresh set of eyes to the Board of Education. I have lived up to this promise both publicly and behind the scenes. During my first term I fostered a renewed sense of process, best practices, and engagement to Board service. I continue to make myself available and responsive to Great Neck's diverse range of constituents, making a point to guide and follow up on their matters, as appropriate. Among other achievements of GNPS during my first term, I am gratified that a pre-Kindergarten program on the north side of town at JFK (to complement the Parkville program) was launched. In addition, I note that during my tenure, annual tax levy increases have remained well below the allowable levy limit, while the district has continued to excel.
This year I was pleased to have been elected Alternative Vice President by my Board colleagues, and to have been bestowed a NYS School Boards Association “Board Excellence” award in recognition of my efforts. I previously chaired the Board of Education Citizens Advisory Committee in 2018 and 2019, served on the Financial Advisory Committee, and currently serve on the District Safety committee.
As a Trustee, I am your eyes and ears. This school year (before the abrupt switch to remote learning) I dedicated time to tour every one of the District’s programs and buildings. I met with every administrator as well as many teachers and students from pre-K through Adult Learning and Adult Continuing Education. I remain persuaded that the breadth and depth of what is offered in Great Neck to young and elderly, general education and special education, remedial and exceptional, English Language Learner children and adults, public and private students, remains unparalleled.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge challenges, too. I indicated that the 2017 election in which I was first elected was portrayed as a referendum on public education. At the time, it seemed like a once-in-a-generation (or at least 20 year Bond term) phenomenon. Alas, given all that has happened since – including Nassau County’s property re-assessments, the federal limit on the mortgage interest and property tax exemption; higher than anticipated bids on some bond projects and the transportation contract; the coronavirus pandemic; disruptions from the abrupt shift to to remote learning; a forecasted economic recession; a drastic cut in State Aid; and Albany chatter about the desirability of continuing remote learning after the pandemic – it feels as though the 2020 election may be of even higher import.
Due to social distancing guidelines, this year the vote has been postponed to June 9 and will take place entirely via mail-in ballots. Each qualified voter will soon be receiving a postage-pre-paid mailing to vote for Board of Education candidates and the district's annual operating budget.
I have been a resident of Great Neck for 26 years, and an involved community member for nearly 20. Community service animates me; my track record in the schools and several other institutions (including the Nassau County Bar Association, SHAI, Temple Israel of Great Neck, and Hadassah) is quite extensive. My husband and I have raised four children, all educated in our top-notch public schools. Although my youngest child is graduating (remotely, online) this year, and though serving as a Trustee of the public schools means that, professionally, I continue to forego taking on local clients to avoid conflicts of interest, I am willing to continue to volunteer myself to the school board and administration in order for the district to remain the beacon of Great Neck for future generations.
I am mindful that property tax payments this year and next will be challenging for many of us. Still, I will vote for the annual school budget to avoid imposing the pains of an austerity budget; for the value of educating our next generation of students; in furtherance of the values of our community; and preservation of our historically strong property values (which literally are contingent on our school system).
I hope you agree that I merit re-election. I am hopeful to remain a Trustee to the Board of Education for the next three years as a steward of Great Neck's investment in education. Feel free to visit www.rebeccaforboe.com and email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Copyright © 2020 Rebecca Sassouni for GNPS BOE - All Rights Reserved.