The Great Neck Public School District is facing one of the biggest challenges it will ever see. Although nobody knows the details at this time, it is clear that the state of New York will be drastically cutting funding. On May 11, Gov. Cuomo presented an estimate of 20 percent aid cuts for all school districts in the state. There is a strong possibility there will be shortfalls from other sources. The key point is that the near future brings deep uncertainty.
Great Neck residents are being asked to vote (by mail) for two Board of Education trustee positions. Jeffrey Shi is running unopposed. For the other position, John Jahng has chosen to oppose Rebecca Sassuoni.
Mr. Jahng presented himself and his credentials at a virtual meeting I attended. In the meeting I attended, when Mr. Jahng was asked how many board meetings he has attended (as an indicator of his familiarity with board matters), Mr. Jahng said the most recent board meeting, via YouTube, was the first meeting he had ever attended. When Mr. Jahng was asked what he thought the biggest budget challenge the district faces is, he deflected. When Mr. Jahng was asked to explain the thinking on his decision to oppose Ms. Sassuoni and leave Mr. Shi unopposed, Mr. Jahng said he had “no answer”. Mr. Jahng’s platform seems to be that he is a smart, successful man in the hedge fund world and that these hedge fund skills will translate well to a trustee position.
Ms. Sassuoni, a current trustee, has a solo practice in the area of education law. On a daily basis, in her professional role as an attorney and in her role as a trustee, Ms. Sassuoni is tasked with digging extraordinarily deep into the rules and regulations regarding education. Ensuring that students are treated fairly and justly is her life’s work. Ms. Sassuoni is deeply aware of the current budget and all that entails, including revenue sources, discretionary and non-discretionary expenses, and status of reserves and capital accounts. This knowledge is not trivial and nobody, no matter how bright, can become an education expert like Ms. Sassuoni, by the time the projected state budget cuts will hit, which is imminent.
I urge every voter to vote for the stability and knowledge that Ms. Sassuoni represents, and that our school district needs in this unprecedented time.
As a final note, in the School Board Election of 2017, I wrote a similar letter pointing out Mr. Shi’s lack of qualifications for the role of trustee. Several members of the community called me a racist for opposing Mr. Shi in a public Facebook group. Some of these people I never met, and I never received an apology from anyone. As I stated in 2017, I simply cannot believe that anyone in our educated, sophisticated community of Great Neck would let a candidate’s ethnicity affect their vote, either for or against.