Shoreham-Wading River voters may have passed the school budget Tuesday night, but residents made it clear they want change.
The district’s $74,842,792 budget for 2017-2018 was supported by residents with 1,112 for and 992 against, as was a second proposition to establish a 10-year, $7.5 million capital reserve fund with 1,282 voters in support and 813 in opposition.
With the capital reserve fund secured, the district will be able to fund complete facility renovations across its four schools, such as Americans with Disabilities Act features, upgrading athletic fields, bleachers, auditoriums, computers, energy management systems and gymnasiums, among other projects.
“It’s a great relief,” Neil Lederer, the district’s interim superintendent, said of the budget and capital reserve fund passing. “I’m very appreciative of the community … mistakes were made in the past, [and] we’ve corrected them for the future with this budget they voted on. The individuals who benefit the most from this are our students — we’ve got some very nice programs put in place next year.”
It was out with the old and in with the new when it came to the seven candidates who ran for four seats on the board of education.
Two incumbents, board president John Zukowski and trustee Jack Costas, were ousted with 524 and 563 votes, respectively, in favor of three school board newcomers — Katie Anderson (1,318), Henry Perez (1,303) and Erin Hunt (1,279) — who will each serve a three-year term.
Michael Yannucci, a former trustee from 2005 to 2008, received the fourth highest number of votes with 1,087, so he will occupy the vacant seat that belonged to longtime trustee Michael Fucito, who resigned in March before his term was up. He will serve a one-year term and was sworn in immediately after the vote.
Candidate James Smith missed the mark with 1,015 votes. Zukowski, who’s served on the board for six years, said he does not intend to run for the board again. Costas, who was up for his fourth term, also won’t run again.
“I did nine years, the community doesn’t want me, that’s it — I’m done,” Costas said. “I get the message. I’m glad the budget passed and I give the best of luck to the new board.”
Smith, however, expressed interest in running for Yannucci’s seat after the one-year term is up next year.
“There’s a very good possibility,” Smith said. “I’m disappointed, but I wish all the candidates well and hope they make the best decisions for the students and district and community.”
The board’s new crop of trustees, who were all smiles after the results came in, said they were excited to help guide the district.
“I’m on a high,” said Perez, a professional engineer. “I’m thankful that people have faith that I can hopefully provide further vision toward taking the school district to the next level. I’m hoping to work collaboratively with everybody.”
Hunt, a former secondary education teacher, echoed Perez’s call for collaboration.
“I think we have a diverse board and I’m thrilled to work with everybody,” Hunt said. “The main thing we can do is change the narrative in the district to a positive one. Shoreham-Wading River is a really great community and I think we can move forward by focusing on building on all the positive we have here. We can also do more to connect our communities.”
Yannucci said there’s a lot of work to be done to be a more transparent district.
“In my run, I think we had a strong message of bringing the community into the process and engaging a lot of people who were not engaged prior to the election,” he said. “There’s been a loss of faith over the last few years and I’m excited to be able to restore the faith and give the community a sense of pride in terms of the decisions and direction of the district.”
Anderson, a mother of two students in the district, is determined to get to work as soon as possible.
“I’m so thankful to the voters for how the vote went,” Anderson said. “I’m ready to serve.”
A student voice
By Kevin Redding
Jack Tressler wanted to try something new at the start of the academic year — so he threw his hat in the ring to be the student member of the Shoreham-Wading River board of education.
Tressler, a senior, was officially sworn in April 18 to sit in on board meetings and represent the student body by weighing in on district-related matters and discussions.
“I’ve learned a lot about how people conduct themselves and how things at the school are done and how people present their ideas,” Tressler said. “I don’t think a lot of people, especially students, know how these things work and now I have some idea. I’ve been able to present myself in front of professionals and act cordially and it’s helped me out in terms of public speaking, [something] I’ve always been weak with.”
But at his first board meeting, when a group of engineers proposed their plans to renovate the high school’s parking lot, Tressler was quick to speak up.
“They wanted to renovate the lot and most of their renditions would make for less parking spots, and being a student myself, the parking’s already a bad situation — there aren’t always enough spots.”
With just another month as a board member, Tressler, an AP physics and AP environmental science student, said he’d like to implement some change in regards to the school’s environmental standards, like switching to glass bottles in the district.
“In his role as a student board of education member, Jack has proved to be invaluable,” interim Superintendent of Schools Neil Lederer said. “He has provided the board with a unique student perspective that is important to consider when making decisions. I have also been impressed with Jack’s willingness to contribute and self-confidence.”
Tressler will serve on the board until the end of June, when he’ll pass the torch to a new student representative. In the fall, he will be studying physics and engineering at James Madison University in Virginia.