Ok. You know what? I've had enough. I am willing to overlook the air of divisiveness tacitly encouraged by so many who live in this fractured community - up to a point. But frankly, I have finally, completely, totally, had it. I am too absolutely disgusted by what is going on in this community to try to act calmly and reasonably on this matter. It's high time for a change. To explain, I was appalled to open up the Nassau Herald and see the two ads pictured above (click each one to enlarge in all their offensive glory).
There is so much that is just wrong with these ads that I don't even know if I can do their offensiveness quotient justice. But I guess I'll just have to try.
1. The use of the phrase "Orthodox Board".
Um, hello? Do you think this phrase would be acceptable if any other racial or ethnic group was highlighted? Try replacing the phrase "Orthodox" with the term "Black", "Hispanic", or even just "Jewish". Offended yet? I know I sure am.
2. The Flat Out Lies and Misrepresentations.
a. The ad that says "Stop the Current Orthodox Controlled Board from Dismantling our Public Schools" (who doesn't get the clearly intended visual of the Orthodox community turning out en masse, literally dismantling the schools, brick by brick), goes on to say: "they cut...Reading Recovery, Super/Sunday Saturday", among other programs. Now perhaps the creators of these ads think that every single one of us greenhorn Orthodox types have moved to this neighborhood in the past several years, and therefore do not remember the fact that Super Saturday/Sunday and Reading Recovery were cut years ago, well before this community had an "Orthodox Controlled Board". But I guess when the truth is simply not that sensational, why not look to lies to get the revenge juices flowing?
b. The ad that claims the Orthodox board members do not have the best interests of the public school candidates at heart, and to prove that, supplies a quote that purports to be the views of the Orthodox candidates by putting the words "the two Orthodox school board candidates also do not recognize this ethical obligation owed to the public school children", followed by the quote: "Dr. Blisko and Mr. Marcus will attempt to maintain a majority on the school board who will fight for non-public school interests". This statement regarding Blisko/Marcus was solely the Nassau Herald's characterization of the candidates' intentions. It is obviously unfair and dishonest to ascribe a view to them based on a characterization the paper made.
3. The suggestion that there is some "ethical" problem in having a board with an Orthodox majority. The implication seems to ostensibly be that parents who do not have children in the public schools are not concerned with the educational standards of the public schools, so their having a majority on the board is not "ethical". But clearly that is not the real point here, as the statement refers only to "Orthodox board members" and not board members who are not public school parents. Is the point that Orthodox board members present an extra-special ethics concern? I truly hope not.
Is the point that parents who want equity in the services allowed by the law for their private school children represent a conflict of interest? If they are talking about the code of Ethical Standards that they quote from in the ad, they are advised to read the "no conflict of interest" provision. With that in mind, how to address the point that there are past board members and present school board candidates who are related to teachers who work in the district? If they have something to potentially gain from approving generous teachers' benefits, is it "ethical" for them to be on the board? If the answer is "no" to one, it's "no" to the other. There is no law that bars childless people or empty nesters or private school parents from representing the children of our community, or calls their election to a public school board "unethical". We all know taxation = representation. Don't like the way those the voters elected to represent the district kids are doing so? No problem. It's a democracy. Vote 'em out. But please don't imply that a certain religious group represents a greater ethics concern if elected than another. Last I checked, the financial scandals that concerned other area school boards did not include Orthodox board members as perpetrators (Roslyn, anyone?).
If those ads aren't bad enough, I got a copy of this flyer, which is just as chock-full of offensive references and misrepresentations as the Nassau Herald ads were:
Let me number my objections to this piece of offensive propaganda:
1. More use of the term "Orthodox school board". Is there any good reason the term "majority Orthodox school board" was used instead of just referring to the incumbents as the being members of the present board - any good reason aside from fostering anti-Orthodox hysteria, of course? As I noted above, name me one other racial or ethnic group that would ever be deemed appropriate to use in the manner "Orthodox" was used above. Can you imagine the hue and cry had there been ads that used the phrase "majority Hispanic school board", or "majority Jewish school board"?
2. More lies and misrepresentations.
a. The allegation that the sitting board "funneled $135,000 of Public School funds to send 6 Private School students to an unaccredited Yeshiva" is misleading. First of all, as I note here, this was a settlement that ultimately saved the district money by preventing costly lawsuits, which could have caused the cost to skyrocket. The flyer somehow also neglects to mention that the at the same meeting, a similar settlement was reached to pay to send a public school student to an out-of-state school. With regards to the claim that the school is an "unaccredited Yeshiva", I note in the same post that the school is chartered by the NYS Board of Regents. The flyer implies that this settlement decision was fiscally irresponsible on the part of the board. Considering that this settlement potentially saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and coupled with the emphasis on the private school students who benefited from the deal - with, in a particularly dishonest and misleading move, no mention whatsoever of the public school student who benefited - lead me to believe that the thrust of the point was to prove that the board is attempting to (gasp) provide help to special needs private school kids. The fact that that the threat of helping private school students get appropriate special ed - with the added benefit of saving the district money - is actually considered an appropriate and effective scare tactic for these candidates to use, sums up what makes this ad campaign so reprehensible.
b. This one is truly unbelievable. The claim that the sitting board "deliberately breached the teachers' contract costing the district unnecessary and extensive legal fees" is laugh-out-loud funny - if this were even remotely a laughing matter. May I remind my readership that the last sitting board (which did not have the dread "Orthodox majority") were the ones who rammed this fiscally irresponsible teachers' contract in the eleventh hour of their term, when they so clearly had lost the voters' mandate?
All in all, this campaign material is just disgusting. It is designed to foster and encourage xenophobia, intolerance and division. They add fuel to the fire, deepening the fracture that already pits neighbor against neighbor in this otherwise lovely community. The fact that some in this community are so obviously and egregiously playing the hate card by attacking the religious affiliation of candidates shows me just how low people have sunk in this sad saga.
I would love to hear the candidates who are touted in these ads getting up and having their Sister Souljah moment, decrying the willful divisiveness apparent in these ads, and make good on their claims at candidate night - now ringing hollow - that they wish to heal the divide.