Readers Write: Berkowitz Formed Publications Committee

As a retired teacher who taught at Great Neck South High School for over 45 years, I speak from personal experience when I strongly endorse Barbara Berkowitz for re-election to the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education.

The community needs her wisdom, experience, and understanding of every aspect of the position, from educational policy to fiscal responsibility. Your vote will enable Barbara Berkowitz to continue her longstanding support for the outstanding academic accomplishments of the Great Neck Public Schools.

I began working under Barbara Berkowitz’s leadership in 2000, when I was appointed editorial adviser to the Southerner, the student newspaper of South High School, and continued in that role for the ensuing nine years. I became the faculty advisor when the then faculty advisor resigned during a struggle over editorial control of the student newspaper.

A conflict developed between the student editors in chief and the school principal, the result of a letter sent to the Board of Education by Great Neck residents objecting to a satirical article in the student newspaper.

In her role as a Board trustee and chairperson of the Board of Education Policy Committee, together with the then-superintendent, Dr. William Shine, Mrs. Berkowitz formed a school board committee on student publications that could have taken the easy way out and done what other schools have previously done — taken editorial control away from the student editors and faculty advisor and given it to the school principal.

That would have caused the student newspaper to become a mere public relations vehicle for school administrators and would not have allowed students to independently comment on school policy. Rather than following this route, Mrs. Berkowitz spent the next two years holding public meetings to gain input from students, parents, and other community members.

With her support, I received helpful, editorial advice from the excellent editors/reporters then at our local Great Neck newspapers: Wendy Kreitzman and Carol Frank of the Great Neck Record, and Karen Rubin of the Great Neck News.

Thanks to Barbara Berkowitz’s thoughtful leadership, we were able to establish clear guidelines for our student publications that put responsible limits on school-published student newspapers.

These guidelines were in accordance with the Supreme Court 1988 ruling in the Hazelwood decision while, at the same time, supporting the Supreme Court’s 1969 Tinker decision that upheld student newspaper reporters’ and editors’ First Amendment rights under freedom of the press.

The event I described was a real-life teachable moment for South High students in how to protect their Constitutional rights in a responsible manner. It is only one of several instances of the value of Mrs. Berkowitz’s wisdom and experience acquired through many years of service to our school district.

I urge you to vote for Barbara Berkowitz for the school board so that she can continue providing the excellent educational leadership she has displayed throughout her many years of exceptional public service.

Norman Wheeler
Retired South High School Teacher

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