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Letter: A Deafening and Defining Silence, Just Vote Yes

For years we continue to hear about the wonderful achievements of the incredible Herricks School District. Intel awards, Grammy’s, the Arts, and recently the beginning of Athletic Championships again. How wonderful we have all felt, until this year.

The residents of the community year after year have supported budget after budget, occasionally questioning a few items here and there but together with the school board worked to ensure education excellence in the community. We even overwhelmingly supported a bond issue needed for capital improvements, and the purchases of new transportation equipment. Again, all on the financial “backs” of the residents. We haven’t moaned or groaned we just hunker down every year and do what we always do pay! Pay to ensure the educational integrity for all our children in the Herricks School District; until this year!

With just one vote (or two), and the rise of 500 “no” votes, the residents spoke loudly and clearly, we just can’t do it any more! The time had come to stop the automatic yes vote and show that the terrible economy had affected almost everyone in the district. It seems the recession had hit almost every resident’s paycheck, but it would not hit the paycheck of any employee of the district!?! I too, have made these comments publicly, but it was in no way meant with personal regard toward any one specific employee, my call was part of the growing call across New York State for true contract reform for all the employees of the public school districts. With over 80 percent of the budget encompassing employee salaries and benefits, some how, some place, some where there was room for us all to “feel a little pain” together as one community, not a community segmented by residents and employees. I whole-heartedly appreciate the jobs all our employees do, and am in awe of the amazing teachers and faculty my children, my wife and I have had the honor and pleasure of experiencing!

We all sat in the meetings, waiting with baited breath for the union leadership of the district to say something, anything, and not even a Hello, my name is “___” and I represent ‘so and so,”  but all we heard was silence. Silence from the representatives of the people we have come to know and love, silence from the representatives of the people we entrust with our children on a daily basis, silence from the representatives of the people who we choose to be our partners in the educational upbringing of children. Maybe all we wanted to hear was something like, “…we understand the concerns of the community and moving forward we will try and address some of those concerns.” Something as simple as that would have made all the difference, generic and non-descript but some sort of acknowledgement of the community and its concerns. We will not forget the deafening silence at the board meetings as it will now serve as a clarion call to work towards the restructuring of the employment contracts of ALL the employees of the district, not just one group or another. I also must commend the school board for their public statement about continuing negotiations with the Herricks employee unions now and for the upcoming future years.

But not to worry, we as parents will do the right thing as we always do, and as we must do. We MUST AND WILL go out and vote yes for this amended budget! There is no other option because the cuts that would have to be implemented would be devastating for our children and recovering from those cuts would take approximately five years. With a vote of support we ensure once again the full educational integrity for all the children in the district. Right, wrong, or indifferent please go out, VOTE YES and pass the budget. Our community needs you to do so!

Jim Gounaris