Roughly 60 adults and children marched from Hecksher Park to Huntington’s Town Hall today carrying signs asking Town Council members to trade locations with the children in Jack Abrams Intermediate School (JAI) in order to keep the children safe and at the same time reverse the deterioration of Huntington Station. Meryl Otis Kessler, a mother of two in the district, led the procession, which included the three Board of Education officials who have been most vocal about their safety concerns for JAI students. The trustees marching today were John Paci, Rich McGrath and Liz Black who all voted “No“ to keeping children in the school for a unified sixth grade center. They were overruled by the other four trustees who voted in favor of moving all sixth graders in the district to JAI and putting all 4th and 5th graders into Woodhull Elementary.
Although the mission was serious the tone of the rally was positive. Many people have found new friends over the past school year, united by the common goal of providing the district’s children an excellent and safe education. Meryl Otis Kessler, with bullhorn in hand, made it clear that today’s march was all for the town’s children and took the opportunity to speak to the children in attendance about the importance of doing the right thing, standing up for what you believe and told them that they will be safe because their parents and community are doing everything they can to ensure a safe school environment. The children responded with cheers and games of tag and trying to get themselves on TV or in the papers.
Meryl spoke for about ten minutes reiterating why the residents found themselves once again on the front lawn of Town Hall. “We are here today for one reason and one reason only, the safety of our school community. Not school AND community but school community because they are one and the same” she said. She named each town Council member asking for them to hold to their promises of stemming the crime and violence in Huntington Station and keeping our children safe. She added, “keeping them at JAI is not our option!” She called out to the Town,”We are the only school in this district whose children cannot go outside for gym class the only school whose field is occupied with police presence during recess, the one school in our district that requires police presence at arrival and dismissal”. Councilman Mark Mayoka came outside to talk to residents at the rally. At Mayoka’s community meeting on Wednesday night at JAI, Mayoka stated that he has absolutely no problem moving his office into JAI and the town currently has an architect undertaking a feasibility report to determine if moving JAI students to Town Hall is feasible or not.
Meryl made a promise that these parents and concerned residents will keep the pressure on the Town because, “pressure makes diamonds and this town can be a diamond.” The rally responded enthusiastically to Kessler’s speech. In conclusion, Meryl proclaimed, “We are energized and we will not rest until our children are safe.”