The Island Now: Thursday, September 8, 2016 9:59 am | Updated: 10:02 am, Thu Sep 8, 2016.
By Joe Nikic
The new Great Neck Teachers Association president, Jim Daszenski, said it was the “challenge of the job” that drew him to the position of representing the 750-member union.
“I want the challenge. I want to work with the Board of Education and with the community,” Daszenski said. “I want to make sure that the Great Neck Teachers Association remains vital and that we are fairly represented.”
The former association president, Sheila Henchy, retired this year, leaving a vacancy for the remaining year of her two-year term.
Daszenski, who lives in Manhattan but has taught English at Great Neck South High School since 1999, was elected to finish the remainder of Henchy’s term, which ends in April.
He said that while his immediate plan was to serve out the remaining year, he has an interest in serving longer.
“I didn’t think of this as a short-term type of thing,” Daszenski said. “My intention is to do the best I can and I will serve as long as I have the honor of doing so.” He said he believes he has “valuable contributions” to make to the association and wanted to ensure that the school district remained in a positive light in the community. Daszenski also said that one of his main goals was to protect the professional rights and responsibilities of the members that he represents.
“We’re middle-class people and what is more important than the job that we do?” he said. “To work with young people, to educate the young people in the community, it’s the most important thing there is.” Daszenski said his duties also include working with other New York State unions and handling the day-to-day operations of the association.
The teachers association and the Board of Education, Daszenski said, have a “very strong working” relationship and he was looking to strengthen the partnership between the two. But, he said, he would like to see the board do more for the employees of the school district. “They’ve shown a real commitment to investing in the district’s facilities and technologies and we want that going forward,” Daszenski said. “We’re hoping that they will show the same commitment to the personnel.”
On Nov. 20, 2015, association members voted to approve a four-year contract agreement with the school district.
But two affiliated groups that the teachers’ association represents, the Paraprofessionals Association and Per Diem Chapter, currently do not have active contracts with the school district, he said. “My feeling has always been that people don’t move to Great Neck for the ocean beaches and mountain views, they come here for the world class education,” Daszenski said. “We hope to see a greater investment in personnel.” While the union understands the limits placed on the school district in terms of the state-mandated tax cap and other financial restrictions, he said more focus should be placed on the district’s employees, currently ranked 25th in salaries across Long Island.
“We understand the financial realities and no one knows the tax cap situation better than we do,” Daszenski said. “But we also need to work to make sure that the community and Board of Education values the staff as much as they value their investments in facilities and technologies.” He said he has enjoyed teaching in Great Neck and wanted to continue to improve students’ performance, noting the success of Great Neck schools in Newsweek and Niche.com national rankings. “It’s an amazing place to be and I can say that because I’ve worked in two other school districts earlier in my career,” Daszenski said. “I hear a lot that Great Neck is unique and it’s true.”
“I know I’m proud to be here, and we want to keep that success going,” he added.