A school board should be and must be a body that answers to the community. It is ultimately the community’s children the board is charged with educating. In order to do this properly, the board must be open to the community.
But, it is oftentimes difficult to be transparent in a public setting. It is not expedient. It takes work. It can lead to criticism as diverging viewpoints work themselves out and different communities have their say.
The Great Neck School Board, as run by Barbara Berkowitz, is not transparent. It is opaque. It does not answer to the community. This plays itself out in ways large and small. It plays itself out in ways that are critically important.
Look at the school budget and the processes that surround it, for example. Specifically, consider the UPTC Budget Committee. This is a committee, which includes community members (parents), that is meant to coordinate capital requests from each school and to help educate other parents about the school budget in order to get out the vote.
It is also responsible for searching for revenue and cost savings, as well as examining the longer-term budget prospects of the district. Part of carrying out this duty requires the committee to have access to the school budget before it is proposed to the community.
My first-hand experience with the UPTC Budget Committee involved the Board of Education actively trying to stymie the committee’s ability to do its work. I was amazed to learn that the board would only turn budget information over if the committee filed a Freedom of Information Act request (then the question of whether the information was released in time became a very firm “maybe”).
Requiring a Freedom of Information Act request before giving the committee the information to which it is entitled is anathema to transparent, community-focused governance.
But, apparently, it is preferable to the board because it is easier to raise roadblocks than to answer questions. Michael Glickman was the member of the UPTC who called the board to task over this policy, by the way.
The board’s refusal to be transparent is not something that has just happened. It is the product of an insular group being in charge for too long. Since Barbara Berkowitz is the head of the board and has been for the last 15 years, it is by definition a product of her leadership.
So, it was with deep skepticism that I read the editorials endorsing Barbara Berkowitz and attacking Michael Glickman, which were published here over the past week or so.
When the argument is that Mike is too critical of the school board or complains too much, my response is: that is precisely why he needs to be elected.
Truth needs to be spoken to power, especially the cozy, coterie that has entrenched themselves here. We should have a responsive, forward-thinking and effective school board that looks after our children’s interests, not one that makes sure its members are comfortable and unoffended before all else.
Mike Glickman is right that the board should be comprised mostly of people who have children in the schools. Forty percent of the board, assuming the election breaks a certain way, is not enough. In these unprecedented times, I do not want my children’s education in the hands of people who are trying to analogize what is happening today to what it was like when their kids went to school a decade ago.
Those people are not fully acquainted with what this pandemic has wrought, socially and educationally, on our kids. They have not experienced the disruptions that occur, and the chaos that ensues when a class is quarantined. They have little first-hand insight into the effects social media and the current culture have on school-age children.
And, Glickman is right in his fundamental belief that transparency needs to come.
Those asking for another term to propagate the status quo, and point to this as a selling point, miss the point entirely. Are we really supposed to believe that re-electing the same people will create a “dream team” that will suddenly, after decades, embrace new ideas and become responsive to the community?
Glickman has run high-profile, large, public institutions. He is an invested parent in the community, with children in Saddle Rock and North Middle. He understands – on a professional and personal level – the dynamics at play and how they affect all of the stakeholders, including the students, the staff and the wider community, i.e., the parents of actual students.
He will advocate relentlessly for what he believes in and build the necessary consensus to achieve what is in the best interest of the schools. He is well-suited for the role he seeks.
The Great Neck School Board’s sole duty lies in making sure that the schools run smoothly and meet the needs of the children in Great Neck and the wider community. Michael Glickman is the best choice to make sure that happens.
R. James DeRose, III