Opinion

It was wonderful to attend the Oyster Bay High School performance of Annie Get Your Gun. There is something magical about theater. It takes you away from your problems and puts you into a special place where you are free to let your emotions go: laugh, smile, clap, shed a tear of joy.

The amazing cast of the OBHS production of Annie Get Your Gun at their performance on Sunday, March 29. Thank you for a great theater experience!

It was great that it was happening here in the Oyster Bay High School Performing Arts Center. The students were at the top of their game. The music flowed. The performers were great actors as well as singers and dancers.

The songs are a great example of what makes musicals live forever - the lyrics touched on universal themes. Many of the songs stand on their own and live outside the context of the plot. Take the opening song, There's No Business Like Show Business: There is no business like show business [unless it is working at a newspaper] to teach about working as a team. It takes so much coordination and work between the different elements of the production to make everything come together, and come across the stage to the audience. It sort of is a cap on the educational experience of high school.

On the same subject of education, music and shows: On Thursday, March 26 the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School Board took its budget show on the road for its first performance. OB-EN Superintendent of Schools Dr. Phyllis Harrington, Assistant Superintendent of Business Christopher Van Cott and Board of Education President James Robinson presented the 2009-2010 school budget. Dr. Harrington told of how she made cuts in last year's budget expenditures when Governor David Paterson threatened to cut aid in midterm. She told of new budget cuts including: intramural sports; combining the seventh- and eighth-grade athletic classes; and cutting out the summer programs.

The money saved from last year's budget is part of the current fund balance of $800,000 that is being proposed to be set aside to reduce taxes next year when the increases are expected to be heavier.

There are two more threats to the budget in the form of whatever Governor Paterson decides about preschool for special education from birth to age 5. The state may turn 15 percent of the cost to the local school district to pay. Another problem is the MTA payroll tax that the district, as a government arm, may be called on to pay. Those additions may take the district's 3.74 percent increase up to 3.94 percent. The contingency budget figure this year is 4 percent.

At the East Norwich Civic Association meeting Caroline DuBois and Gary Drury and others suggested taking $100,000 of the fund balance and putting it toward continuing the summer programs for students. Dr. Harrington said it was a new suggestion from the public and she would take it up with the board at its next meeting. In light of the production of Annie Get Your Gun there is a good reason to continue to offer those summer programs to the students.

Music is an amazing part of the human experience. We all seem to make music, wherever we live on the planet. A recent Nova program on India analyzed the songs sung in a southern Indian town - in a language no one remembers - that is traditionally passed down from father to son - is actually akin to bird song. It appears to be the first form of speech on the planet. It is as if we sang before we talked! Music is that important to us as humans.

The suggestion to keep the summer programs in the budget will be evaluated shortly. Student programs are not the problem with school taxes. It appears that the way school taxes are collected on the property values of homes - which is a burden on local residents who own large parcels of land in this wealthy community - is not the best way to fund public education. Hopefully that will be eventually addressed with a bit more pressure on the legislature.

Whatever happens - we had a great time at the theater on Sunday; including that we bought a T-shirt for the play to wear at Quilting by the Lake this summer - to show off the school district; we bought three succulent plants - Hens and Chicks - to replace an original rock garden at our East Norwich house; and we bought a black cowboy hat and marshal's badge for just $3 - all to support the OBEN PAC. We are ready for anything now! - DFK


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