By Joshua Schein
Seven years ago our community came together to secure a greater voice on the Lawrence School District’s Board of Education. We knew we deserved it because we cared about our children’s education and we paid taxes–but at that time we were being unjustly disregarded.
With hard work and unity-of-purpose, our community mustered the votes and got what we asked for, and our community has made great progress on the board and in our schools since then.
While our school district certainly isn’t broken, cracks have started to show. These cracks came to everyone’s attention as details emerged about our school board’s decision to sell the Number Six School.
Errors In Judgment
These errors in judgment included an ill-defined bidding process, closed-door decisions and a one-sided contract that benefited an outside developer at the expense of our community.
Worse, our school board agreed to a secrecy clause that hid details of the sale–especially the developer’s generous benefits–from parents, taxpayers, and the community who would vote on it.
When it came to a voter referendum on the Number Six School sale, we saw more cracks in the system. Voter turnout was discouraged with a series of hurdles and roadblocks.
The board scheduled a pre-Passover referendum date, when the contract called for a date a month later; it tried to limit the hours and polling places; it made it hard to obtain or submit absentee ballots; and on the day of the referendum it did not provide enough voting machines or poll workers.
Once again, our community came together to have a greater voice over the Number Six School sale. Voters stood in inordinately long lines to reject a deal that would have had disastrous consequences on the Five Towns for decades to come. The referendum was a real community victory, and the upcoming school board election is an opportunity for another.
Our Community’s Candidates
Because of their principled track records of advocating for this community, the Community Coalition of the Five Towns (CC5T) is endorsing the candidacies of Nahum Marcus and Dov Herman.
Nahum Marcus is now seeking reelection to his third term as a school board trustee, and Dov Herman is running for a school board vacancy created when trustee Solomon Blisko decided not to run again.
Six-year incumbent Nahum Marcus has been a tireless advocate for all children in the community, especially special-needs children and their families. He has advocated for high education standards, equitable transportation for all students, and the fair use of district buildings and facilities for the entire community. He has steadfastly pushed for transparency and fairness in all board proceedings.
Instead of addressing his concerns, however, fellow school board members ignore him and try to silence him. For his openness and candor, the board shuns Nahum Marcus and excludes him from their deliberations. In so doing, they disenfranchise those who elected him. More cracks.
Dov Herman is a popular and respected community advocate who was one of the principal organizers of CC5T and helped ensure that our community truly understood the details behind the Number Six School sale.
Dov Herman is actively involved in his children’s schools and is a local small business owner who understands budgeting and fiscal responsibility. His experience as a building inspector will be valuable as the district’s aging facilities continue to undergo extensive repairs following Superstorm Sandy and as the Number Six School sale process begins again.
CC5T is supporting Nahum Marcus and Dov Herman, but these men are not “CC5T candidates.” They are independent-minded men of integrity who are sincerely determined to always put our children and our community first.
Unfortunately, instead of embracing the fresh ideas that a new school trustee like Dov Herman will offer, and instead of accepting incumbent Marcus’s calls for transparency, other school board members choose to view them as opponents and are trying to undermine their candidacies.
A last-minute candidate was recruited to run against Dov Herman–who had already announced his candidacy–in an act that will split our community’s vote for the vacant school board seat.
In an unprecedented move, board members also recruited a candidate to oppose incumbent trustee Marcus. This is the very definition of divisiveness and a transparent attempt to keep independent thinkers off the board–not the type of transparency we were hoping for.
Our school board–or any publicly elected body–should always be willing to hear new ideas and should always operate with openness. It is not only the right thing to do, but will lead to greater progress and improvement.
Unity Is The Answer
Our community cannot afford more short-sighted mistakes or errors in judgment. They could jeopardize the years of progress that our community and our school district have enjoyed.
The lack of transparency is not working and it is wrong. It creates an attitude of mistrust, it breeds disrespect, it shows contempt for parents, it creates division in the community, it leads to bad decisions, and it sets a bad example for our children.
Our school district isn’t broken, but cracks are starting to show. It is time for our community to come together again to ensure that we have a seat at the table–more of a voice on our school board. Don’t let our district fall through the cracks. It is time for our community to continue our momentum and progress.
To accomplish these goals, on Tuesday May 21, I urge our community to unite once again to reelect Nahum Marcus and to elect Dov Herman. They are the only candidates with a proven record of advocacy for our children and for our community. v
Joshua Schein is the President of the Community Coalition of the Five Towns.