This Wednesday, July 4 is the nation’s 236th birthday. Some things about Independence Day have remained the same. People associate the day with fireworks. That has been true from the beginning, even though they were called “illuminations” back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some have changed. Independence Day was about far more than loud noises. It was once common practice for people to gather at a picnic and then for a local resident, usually the town lawyer, to get up and read the entire Declaration of Independence, right from “In the course of human events” to “we pledge our sacred honor.” We can think of only a few places where that is performed today and usually, it is only a portion of the document, not the entire text. There are probably millions and millions of college graduates who can’t even tell you who wrote the declaration not to mention what it says. The old practice of actually reading the declaration is one in dire need of revitalization.
Next week, Americans all across this great land will celebrate our nation’s 236th birthday. I’ve written previously that the Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. It’s the beginning of summer and the coming months ahead are filled with the promise of warm days, golden sunshine, fun days at the beach, barbecues, picnics, and afternoons of relaxing in a hammock or lawn chair as a gentle summer breeze cools and refreshes.
Another unique aspect of the holiday is that it is a time to celebrate. Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day require a bit of solemnity – and rightly so I might add - in honor of all those who have given their lives for this country. However, Independence Day is a chance to be happy and celebrate all that is great about our country. While we should always remember the sacrifices of those who have protected our way of life, as well as those who are presently doing so, whether it is July 4th, Memorial Day or any average weekday, it’s also okay to spread some cheer on this patriotic day.
This month, Massapequa High School will hold its graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2012. Seniors will be congratulated on their achievements. They will also be receiving plenty of advice, mostly unsolicited. Here’s one more piece of advice. Many graduates will be going off to college, new places with numerous amenities, including large libraries, with hundreds of thousands of volumes. Take advantage of those libraries and what they have to offer, namely the world of possibility.
Due to the trials that both Nassau and Suffolk counties are experiencing with financial woes, I’d like to comment on an important sector of our population, our seniors. These daytime centers where they congregate on a daily basis are extremely important to their well-being. To sanction cutbacks and possibly limited availability would be devastating to them. I am employed at a daytime senior center. There are two cooks and we help prepare hot meals to our seniors on a daily basis. Aside from the usual senior center activities of bingo, cards, entertainment, outings and various classes, there is a daylong event that takes place once the summer months are here. On Fridays, a group of us accompany folks to Lido Beach for a day of fun and making memories.
As we were going to press, The Massapequan Observer received the same sad news as other local residents: Harry Jacobson, one of the giants of recent village history had passed away. From the time he moved to Massapequa in the early 1950s, Harry did more than just help to raise his growing family. He eagerly served the village in a range of capacities, providing leadership and educating a rising generation of leaders, also.
At the risk of sounding precocious, I’ve been suspicious of new curriculum initiatives ever since I was 5 years old. Actually, it’s more like I have one very vivid memory from when I was 5 that I only realized the significance of much later, but it certainly planted a seed of wariness.
One day in kindergarten, my classmates were called up to our teacher one at a time during our usual playtime. When my name was called, I nervously approached the desk only to find my teacher pointing to a single word on a page. “Can you read this?” she asked.
One of our faithful readers, noting all the attention focused on school board elections and budgets, points out that the real culprits in the middle class struggle are not school board members, but state and county legislators. Fair enough. We have great respect for those who serve or seek to serve on school boards. They handle budgets that run into the tens of millions of dollars while also dealing with parental demands and worst of all, unfunded mandates. It’s a thankless persuasion. But what about state lawmakers? They tend to have safe districts and seem more distant from constituents than school board members. The points are well taken. Citizens need to remain vigilant on such matters.
Now Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is taking a go at it, and has charged a commission with increasing efficiencies and improving outcomes at our schools. But if Cuomo’s team focuses on the same old solutions, we can expect the same dismal results. To really make a difference, we need to start thinking outside of the classroom.
“How is the Water?” is a question people are asking Island-wide and nationwide. Nitrogen pollution is an increasing threat to the quality of our drinking water, and the water in our harbors and bays. Environmentalists, scientists and government leaders came together last month to discuss “Water We Going to Do?” The event was coordinated by the Group for the East End (GEE), Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), the Long Island Pine Barrens Society (LIPBS) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), with support from the Rauch Foundation (RF).
Bob DeLuca of GEE reviewed the findings of the Suffolk County Health Department study of the water supply. The decline of water quality is commensurate with the rise in population since the 1980s, with increasing contamination from septic systems, pesticides and fertilizers. Groundwater takes approximately 20 years to filter through the ground and enter the harbor and bays, so the problems we are seeing now are the consequences of actions taken long ago.
Almost all candidates that ran for the board of education pointed out that administrative salaries were the cause of the increases in the Massapequa School District (MSD) budgets over the past few years. That is not the main reason for the budget increases.
I am also surprised that concerned property owners and, it seems, some of you struggling to meet your financial obligations, cannot see that reducing administrative salaries will not solve the rising costs of the MSD. Even if administrative salaries were reduced in half to the $60,000 - $120,000 range, the savings would be about $3 million. However, that would be a one shot savings. What would you do the next year?
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