It's an area that is often disputed. Is it Massapequa, or Amityville? The maps call it East Massapequa, while residents prefer calling it Massapequa East. The post office is in Massapequa, while their kids go to the Amityville schools. Located within the Town of Oyster Bay, East Massapequa is a border town; often forgotten, or otherwise neglected.
Serving this community, which is located south of Merrick Road, just east of Nassau Shores, is the East End Civic Association of Massapequa, Inc. The group has been a major advocate for the neighborhood since their inception in 1931.
"I want a feeling of togetherness," said Mary B. Rice, secretary and treasurer for the group. "I'm in this because I'm interested in my community."
Donald Cardwell, president of the civic group, said that he's very concerned about the neighborhood. A Massapequa resident since 1944, Cardwell moved into his 1913 built home 33 years ago. Working with the East End Civic Association, Cardwell has seen a great deal of changes in the neighborhood. For the past 57 years, the civic group has been a active player in many of these changes.
In the 1960s, Cardwell, Rice and the East End Civic Association, along with the Joint Council of Civic Associations of Massapequa, lobbied the Town of Oyster Bay to purchase the land owned by the Thorn Estate to be converted into a town park. Working with Councilwoman Marjorie Post, the group was ultimately successful. Today it's known as Marjorie Post Park.
Also, a few years ago, the civic association pushed to have a senior citizen housing project put in place by the Town of Oyster Bay on the land located at the corner of Clocks Blvd. and Lake St. After much debate, the proposal was approved.
As of late, the association's time and energy has been spent trying to make changes to the school district. According to Cardwell, 975 children living in the Amityville School District don't attend the Amityville schools. And there is no surprise as to why. According to figures released by the State of New York, only 69 percent of sixth graders passed the reading exams, 79 percent of sixth graders pass the math exams, and 74 percent of third graders passed the reading exams.
"It's been going downhill since the 1950s," said Cardwell. Members of East End have become regular attendants at the districts school board meetings, raising questions that, Cardwell says, the district does not want to answer.
One they want answered is about the district's Alternative High School. Established to separate students who are disciplinary problems from the rest of the school, the alternative program is run at night. "What we are trying to find out is how many kids graduate from this program," said Cardwell. In other words, he added, "What are we getting in education?"
"My main concern is the lack of academic progress," added Rice, a retired school teacher. "They need to run a tighter ship. The administration does have to supervise. They have to get into the classroom and mentor the teachers."
Part of the problem, Cardwell said, is that for years the school district has raised teachers salaries and, to avoid raising taxes, has reduced funds allocated for buildings and grounds maintenance. "Whenever they needed money to raise teachers salaries," said Cardwell, "they took it from maintenance."
Last year, Newsday reported the problem. The report cited the Park Avenue Elementary School, which, built in the 1930s, is literally crumbling apart. Fences and overhangs were set up to protect children from falling debris.
Rice says that the district needs to become more efficient. "It just seems odd that we have a $37 million dollar budget for the amount of kids that are going to school."
Part of the problem, Cardwell and Rice said, surrounds the district's adoption of the Princeton Program. Local neighborhood schools were eliminated in favor of districtwide schools which serve only two or three grades at a time. Established back in the 1970s as a method of racial integration within the district, Rice questions wether or not the program is still necessary.
Also, one of the major problems that the group faces, representing the eastern shore of Massapequa, is that the district refuses to acknowledge the area as being in Massapequa. "We can't even get them to issue reports comparing Amityville to Nassau schools," said Cardwell. "They say, 'we're in the Suffolk County system' and that's it."
Rice added, "If you ask anyone where we live they say 'in Amityville.'"