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Sunday, September 21, 2014
Why am I on the East Meadow School Board?
Guest Column
Joseph V. Danenza, East Meadow School Board Trustee

A new school year is beginning. The school board will dutifully meet to tend to the business end of the beginning of our educational process. My service on the board inevitably evokes the question: Why would you ever want to be on the school board? It’s a thankless job, it’s loads of work, taxes are too high and grades are too low.

So, today I come clean.  I am on the school board for selfish reasons.

I am not here for the taxpayers. I am not here for the community. I am not even here for the kids.

This revelation came to me during our sweltering high school graduation. Baking in my black robe, I lost focus as the graduates snaked forward to receive their well-deserved diplomas. I, too, began to question why the heck I was there.

And then it came to me. I am in it for me.

My mind started to wander as names were cadenced in alphabetical order punctuated by bursts of applause from cheering family and friends. I focused on the last row of mortarboard-shadowed faces wondering whether another Zuckerberg was sitting back there mentally programming the next MyFaceSpaceZingerYooHoo Social Mobile Exchange. Would I be handing a sheepskin to the next Mark Z who would develop the “App” enabling me to see and speak with my holographic son upstate?

My heat-addled brain was jarred back to the proceedings by a rather hefty varsity left tackle. I laughed as I thought that on a Monday morning years hence I might be grousing with my friends about this large gentleman from the “Fs” missing a crucial block in a Jets-Packers game. I might be cheering the following spring as the lanky lefty on the right side of the “L” row pitches a shutout for my beloved Mets. I felt a twinge of sadness thinking that the quiet kid tucked in the “Hs” could be manning a faraway military checkpoint this time next year so that I could enjoy a violin concerto by the beaming young lady in the “Vs” excitedly clutching her newfound diploma. And, many years from now, that honors grad with the sashes and cords, may someday walk up to me in her white lab coat as I sit in a lonely waiting room and say the only words that will assuage my anguish, “Don’t worry, Mr. D, she’s going to be fine.”

So that is why I am on my school board. If I can, in my own small way, contribute to the happiness and success of these children through the trusted stewardship that I have been granted, then I believe that I become a worthy recipient of the gifts that these graduates will soon bestow on me.

And I now have an answer to that vexing question. When someone asks, “Why would anyone want to be on your board?” I will think of graduation day and say, “How could anyone not want to be on our school board?”

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