Key West, Fla.
April 6, 2011
I thought that your readers might be interested in my interview on National Public Radio.
On Wednesday, March 16, I was interviewed by Dick Gordon of “The Story in North Carolina” for a broadcast on NPR. The interview was about my book, “My Father and Albert Einstein,” that was published in 2008 by iUniverse.
I’m not sure if or when the interview would be broadcast in the East Hampton area. Here in Florida, the interview was broadcast on March 18 on the local NPR station. However, anyone can hear it by going to the Web site www.thestory.org. If you click on “archive” and then “March 18,” you can listen to the entire interview. (It’s on the second half of the broadcast, after the discussion of Three Mile Island.)
A Remarkable Man
April 9, 2011
Recently, my students and I finished reading “The Chosen,” a bildungsroman by Chaim Potok. On the day we reached the final pages, it was clear that many hearts were moved. I could see it in the heightened quality of attention, and in the number of students who offered to read aloud that day, right till the bell. It was a pleasure hearing them read so beautifully, with appropriate inflection and understanding. We also spent some time discussing a particular passage from the novel, in which a father says to his son:
“Human beings do not live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye? I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning; meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning. That I do not think you understand yet. A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here.”
Potok’s words resounded when I read Lona Rubenstein’s letter to The Star dated March 25 (printed in the March 31 issue). Through her letter, I learned that someone dear to me had passed away. I’d been so busy with schoolwork the week before that I missed reading the issue in which an obituary for my friend and former professor, Eric Kruh, appeared.
He was indeed a remarkable man — one with great presence of mind and compassion, as Ms. Rubenstein intuited after spending merely an hour with him. He truly filled his life with meaning, and in so doing influenced many others. When I heard the news of his passing, of that gentle eye’s final blink, it felt as if a beacon had left the world. “I know not where is that Promethean heat/ That can thy light relume” (Othello, Act V: scene ii: ll. 13-14).
But I was blessed to have known such an exceptional human being. May we all aspire, as he did, to our noblest selves.
In closing, I’d like to share some threads from my ninth grade students’ latest essays. They echo the very message Prof. Kruh tried to instill:
“You must consider things larger than yourself to fill your life with meaning; you must impact other lives and not just live your own life selfishly.” — Serrana Mattiauda
“Man should live with a purpose, whether that be a goal or personal achievement. He must work hard to find the meaning he lives for. To find it, he must give his personal best and help those around him.” — Emma Newburger
“A human life in itself [may be] insignificant, but what one does with it can make it matter. Many strive to have an impact on future generations, and those who do are the ones who are remembered and valued” — Sage Gibbons (author of another fine line a recent poem: “I wonder why can’t peoplejust be good . . .”)
“Although human beings live only a short amount of time, those who make great sacrifices and contributions to their communities will leave legacies that live forever and set examples for future generations.” — Maggie Pizzo
“A man can live a powerful and successful life, but that does not necessarily mean his life was meaningful; he must do meaningful and fulfilling things during his lifetime.” — Carly Grossman
“Many opportunities will approach you, but what you do in response is what gives your life meaning.” — Ceire Kenny
“The human life span is short and it may seem that not every individual is remembered forever, but in order to make our lives count and give them meaning, we must follow what we believe in and put meaning in our hearts.” — Mary Nolan
“Make life worth living, and always look on the bright side.” — Adam Cebulski
“For a person to fill his life with meaning, he must seek it out and earn it.” — Peter Shilowich
“Only one who puts in the labor and chooses to do right by humanity achieves meaning.” — Sedona Brosse
“One must work long and hard to give substance and meaning to one’s life.” — Cosima Schelfhout
“To make one’s life meaningful, one has to work for it throughout one’s existence.” — Alexander Osborne
“Life doesn’t grant you with purpose, it grants you with the tools to find that purpose and see what you will become of yourself.” — Dennis Lynch
“People need to know who they are and what they can bring to the world.” — Cecelia Fiorello
And there are so many more insights from other students. I wish I could include them all. They speak well for a healthy outlook — the kind of outlook Professor Kruh helped foster in me and his other students.
Farewell, bright light. You have earned your rest. Long live your afterglow in those who follow.
Ms. Schell is a teacher at East Hampton High School. Ed.
Board Gave Nothing
April 11, 2011
To the Editor,
The Springs School budget is coming up for a vote. There is a lot of hysteria from parents aimed at those who are unhappy with the budget proposal. Many of us who oppose the proposed budget have raised children, taught in schools, care deeply about our community, and want an excellent Springs School. We just differ about how to achieve that goal.
One parent and teacher said we have an “ignorance and lack of understanding of the distribution of property” and its effect on tax rates. We certainly do not want to see a wholesale gutting of the program, but we do believe there are cuts that can be made that will not affect the educational program.
The superintendent cited 34 possible cuts to the budget that could be made if the budget needed to be reduced. Yet not one of these expenditures was deleted from the budget after the high school tuition agreement was made with East Hampton. The board and parents believe that a 5.3-percent increase in taxes is fine. No need to trim the budget from their point of view.
Most taxpayers in the private sector are not receiving a 5-percent increase, or any increase at all. Their incomes are down, and taxes and the cost of living keep going up. Any and all trimming of the budget that can be done without harming the classroom should be done. New York State mandates that the district provide busing for students who reside 2 miles or more from the school; not 1 mile or 1.5 miles. It is outrageous that we are being taxed to fund this “free” busing and additionally to pay for a new bus.
Many people in Springs, including some of the parents, do not believe that we should be paying for the pre-K program, a non-mandated program traditionally paid for by parents. The district has set up an affordable program utilizing grants, so let the parents pay for it. Those of us who have raised children paid for these programs as needed. Now we have other financial priorities. Today’s parents must take responsibility for their children’s education.
The school board’s decision to give a $20,000 raise to Michael Hartner, combined with non-mandated “free” pre-K and “free” busing, raises questions about all other areas of the budget and the judgment behind those decisions. The appearance of padding the budget to avoid dealing with the substantial changes in teacher and administrator compensation that will come with a state-mandated tax cap seems reprehensible.
Education costs cannot continue to rise beyond the point that a community can afford to pay. The governor and most New Yorkers understand that changes will necessarily have to be made. I believe that there need to be caps on teacher salaries and that teacher compensation should be tied to the economy and kept in line with the private sector. Many districts have salary caps and Springs evidently needs them. For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2010, there were 9 teachers earning between $120,000 and $130,000, with another 17 teachers having a salary between $100,000 and $120,000. Added to their salaries are majestic health insurance and pension benefits that those of us in the private sector can only dream of.
Younger teachers who form the future of the Springs School may have their jobs jeopardized because the district cannot afford these salary and benefit packages. How can a superintendent who takes an almost 12-percent raise in our current fiscal environment possibly make decisions geared toward reining in teacher and administrator compensation packages? Isn’t that like the fox guarding the henhouse?
When pushed to consider costs to trim from the budget, Mr. Hartner looked to cut teachers and programs and to pack classrooms, rather than cut administrative costs and non-mandated extras. The board appears to have unanimously endorsed his recommendations. Are Springs taxpayers entering some “Star Trek” space warp where we will have to “boldly go where no man has gone before”?
The board gave nothing to those who asked for restraint when it put this budget together. We will have to see how the public feels about those choices. I do feel that if the budget is voted down — and the vote is certainly stacked in the board’s favor — it will be because they wouldn’t give an inch or pay any heed to the voices calling for cuts. With school taxes representing about 70 percent of most homeowners’ tax bills, I hope that Springs voters will come out and vote in the upcoming election and not let a small minority of voters determine our tax liability.
Should parents, teachers, and administrators decide the majority of our tax liability without input from the rest of the community? That is what happens when only 600 people go out to vote in a school election. We can have an excellent school at an affordable price!
Mark the Date
April 11, 2011
To the Editor,
Sometimes you cannot see the forest through the trees. The sleeping giant is finally waking up. I can hear the sound of dialogue and conversation, agreement and disagreement in the hamlet of Springs. We have a very controversial issue that is being discussed, and we welcome discussion. This is a good thing.
There is a vote at the Springs School on the upcoming school budget Tuesday, May 17, between 2 and 9 p.m. Springs residents, please mark the date on your calendar and please show up to vote. There also are vacancies on the school board and an election to fill those vacancies.
It’s time to get back to the three Rs and send the proposed school budget for next year back to the drawing board for revision.
There is a new Web site. It is called springshomeownersalliance.com. On this site you can read the position of the Springs Homeowners Alliance and you can participate in a blog, give an opinion, read other people’s views, hear what your neighbors are saying, and educate yourself a bit. You can find out if you are qualified to vote, how to get an absentee ballot, and learn how to run for the school board.
We welcome all views and invite you to check it out.
April 5, 2011
And you wonder why many Springs residents are up in arms about the Springs School annual budget increase? Again! CNNMoney reported on March 28 that the Federal Reserve said, “household wealth since 2007 has been reduced 23 percent.”
The time has come for the Springs Board of Education, teachers, and the parent teacher association to hear us — retirees, widows, widowers, pensioners, the unemployed, the underemployed, and those whose homes are in foreclosure. We do not want an increase in school taxes. We want a rollback in taxes that acknowledges the pain and suffering of the rest of us.
Michael Hartner and the school board have decided to ignore 34 “potential reductions” Mr. Hartner himself laid out in his PowerPoint presentation to people attending a recent school board budget workshop. Just because East Hampton capitulated to a less usurious cost per student for Springs 9th through 12th-graders because of the fear Springs would send some students to other schools, that is no reason not to implement each and every one of the 34 potential reductions. By the school board’s own calculations, these reductions would save Springs residents $3.97 million.
By the way, it is not too late to have the proposed annual budget amended; all that is needed is 100 signatures of qualified Springs voters to sign a proposition to amend the budget. It must be submitted by April 18 at 4 p.m. Anyone interested in signing such a proposition, which would simply be to reinstate the 34 potential reductions, can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hurry.
LYNNE W. SCANLON
April 11, 2011
To the Editor.
A trillion is such a big number that most cannot fathom how enormous it is. One trillion seconds is equivalent to 32,000 years, or a million times a million.
We have this incredible time bomb we’re sitting on, $14 trillion in national debt. Then you have to add over $42 billion in interest that we are forced to pay to foreign countries because of irresponsible borrowing and spending on the part of our Congress, and we end up in a hole we can never dig our way out.
It is time for all taxpayers to remind Charles Schumer that we are not “fleas that wag the dog’s tail” but his employers, and that we will fire him, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Tim Bishop if they continue to support spending bills that bankrupt this country.
Join the Tea Party Friday at noon and 5 p.m. on the green in front of East Hampton Town Hall as we remind our governments that we will no longer tolerate their free-spending ways.
LYNDA A.W. EDWARDS
East End Tea Party