In a year that has seen some tension about the size and transparency of the school budget, some residents of the North Shore Schools District have been active in promoting the budget to the community. Members of the Facebook group North Shore Strong have been running ads and speaking online and at meetings in support of the budget, and of the school district in general.
Last year, the North Shore School District’s budget almost didn’t pass. It managed to squeak through with only 17 votes. Discussions, sometimes heated, around the budget and expenditure have been ongoing in the community for nearly two years.
Melissa August, a resident of Glen Head with one child in the district and another who recently graduated, was an early member of North Shore Strong. She and others were shocked by the negative, and in some cases misinformative information being circulated in the community regarding the budget.
“I saw an incredibly troubling trend in our communities of anti-budget, anti-Board of Education and anti-administration, which I just truly could not understand,” August said. “I’ve been truly perplexed by this contingency that has been going out of their way to discredit the schools.”
North Shore Strong is a very ad hoc, informal group that does not meet or have a board and have not endorsed candidates running for the Board of Education. They are rather a group of concerned citizens who research the district and post articles highlighting the schools’ successes, as well as information in support of the budget.
For example, on their Facebook page one post explains how to register to vote for the upcoming election, in addition to other relevant information. It provides details for registering to vote in person, absentee and provided access to links for both.
Roger Friedman, of Sea Cliff, the main administrator for the Facebook page who has two children in the district, explained that the group was not trying to stir the pot in the community, but instead hoped to provide residents with factual information they could rely on. He founded the group, then called the Real Friends of the North Shore School District, to post relevant facts that he says anti-budget groups were choosing to ignore.
“Someone would put out a chart saying the school has had a $2.5 million surplus over the last five years,” Friedman said. “But they wouldn’t show the side of the ledger which shows how the district gave that money back to the community. So we just wanted to point out truthful and positive information about the school district.”
In addition to their Facebook page and posts, the group has also been active in the community with numerous ads, paid for by pooling their own money. The ads have run in the Sea Cliff–Glen Head Herald, advocating for residents to vote yes to the budget. The ads, which first began running March 10 and will run until the budget vote, encourage residents to vote in the election and provide facts about the district and the benefits of strong schools.
One of the group’s ads, from the April 21-27 edition of the Herald, presented a chart showing the benefits strong schools have for property values in the district. The ad cited real estate brokerages like Redfin, news sources like Newsday and even the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Jason Martin, of Sea Cliff, who has one son still in the district and a daughter who recently graduated, was one of the people who helped design the ads, along with Melissa August. Martin said the purpose of these ads was to get voter information to as many people as possible, not just those who interact with the Facebook group.
“The ads we’ve done, you know, they’re factual, and they really show you the true value of the North Shore Schools District,” Martin said. “I just want to help the community if I can, and counteract some of that negativity that’s out there.”