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Letter: Daring to Disagree

In last week’s Press, the board president’s husband, Dan Tamkin, wrote a letter that was so objectionable I could write a letter even longer than his in response, but I’ll refrain. While I have been vocal on the bus issue, I have never written an anonymous letter on this or any subject and I reject the insinuation that I have acted “cowardly” in this matter. This is my fifth signed letter to the Press and I have spoken, with my name stated publicly, at nearly every public BOE meeting since October. I am now a member of the Manhasset Proponents for School Accountability, which published the Theatre of the Absurd article on its website.

I have been following the bus issue since 2005 although I do not “live” it. When the district circulated its ballot proposition last fall, I couldn’t believe what had transpired and how they had dealt with it. I am not sure their actions, in constructing the proposition while simultaneously acting to undermine reinstatement of the transportation system, would withstand judicial scrutiny. But it appears the union and former employees are tired of fighting, so as the negotiations continue, we wait to see how it resolves. Given the anticipated settlement costs, outsourcing has not saved us money so far. Whether it saves us money in the long run remains to be seen. I’m sure the district will claim victory in any event.

I hope Mr. Tamkin is not seriously justifying the board’s prior actions by saying that the Taylor Law is illegitimate. He does seem to be trying to shift the blame for the district’s losses onto those liberal PERB judges.

And while the board’s advocates have been highly critical of the “pitchfork” terminology, Mr. Tamkin uses similarly inflammatory language and attacks everyone who dares to disagree.

Board advocates also seem to be under a misconception that it is only a small group who are critical of their actions. Yet, I have been approached by many members of this community—including longtime residents and community leaders, who are disgusted.

Why aren’t more people vocal? Perhaps the board seems like a bully and people are afraid to speak out. In fact, some have asked me whether I have suffered any repercussions. Not that I know of and I hope none are coming for my kids in school.

Furthermore, those of us who have been vocal are not a “cabal” but a diverse group interested in our schools and community—we just happen to disagree with the district on the bus issue, which is the recent lightning rod. From other letters and conversations I have had with residents, it seems there are also other bigger issues to be concerned about.

The board claimed in its letter last week that it is open to constructive dialogue. But this has not been apparent over the past few months. I have never been given a straight answer as to whether it was truly “impossible” to restore the transportation system without voter approval. For example, while a long-term contract with an outside vendor requires voter approval, the district’s one-year contracts with Huntington Coach does not. In addition, the community never received a response to numerous questions about whether the district has any kind of insurance that will ease the taxpayers’ burden from this situation.

At the public meetings, we are allowed one question each, while board members are allowed unlimited questions and comments on every topic. And when you do get a chance to ask a question outside of a public meeting, you get talking points in return. It’s no wonder more people don’t participate.

It is good and necessary that those with opposing viewpoints run for a seat on the board and it is short-sighted to state that someone should not run because it may cause disharmony on the board!

I hope that more people will get involved with what is happening in our schools. And I hope this board and future boards will truly be open to collaborate with those who may have different ideas.

One last side note—my first grader left his backpack on the bus last Thursday. When the bus driver gave it back to us on Friday afternoon, he said it had been on the bus all night and had been eaten by raccoons! Mr. Tamkin said the former buses were not fit for animals, but I guess they are now!

Chris Sessa Allen