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Board of Education

The Miller Place and Rocky Point school districts saw community members come out with enormous support for each of the 2017-18 budgets.

In Miller Place, voters passed the $126.2 million spending plan 763 to 162.

“On behalf of the board, we thank the community for supporting our proposed budget with a passing margin of 82 percent for the second year in a row,” Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said. “We look forward to partnering with the community to provide relevant and challenging instructional and noninstructional opportunities to our students, while supporting our staff, and maintaining fiscal sustainability.”

With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes, respectively. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

“I’m very happy and honored to continue to serve for the next three years,” Reitan said in an email. “This board has worked so well together that now we can continue on without skipping a beat. I look forward to continue working with the administration and staff here to make Miller Place school district better everyday.”

Rocky Point school district will hold a technology meeting Jan. 26 to gain public input on the preliminary Smart Schools Bond Act spending plan and how to spend leftover funds. File photo by Desirée Keegan

In Rocky Point residents approved the $83,286,346 budget with 663 yes votes and 246 no’s. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is the principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

“I’m honored that the people had confidence in me,” Callahan said. “We’re just trying to continue to communicate with the community, continue what we’ve done and have a more open dialogue. It’s not about me, it’s about what we can do for them.”

Coniglione has two kids in the community, and another on the way.

“I just really want to make sure it’s a wonderful district,” he said. “Rocky Point is already wonderful, and I hope to be a great part in continuing that.”

He said juggling two positions won’t be too much of a challenge, especially with support from the Comsewogue school district, and he’s also hoping to keep the communication lines open.

“I work in a district that’s very, very accommodating — they believe in education not just for their kids but for any community,” he said. “I think [this board] will be a nice team. We’ll collaborate to make good, healthy decisions for kids. We want to make sure we have their best interests in mind.”

The evening of May 16 was a good one for school boards across New York State, as residents cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of district budgets.

According to the New York State School Boards Association, the average proposed school district tax levy increase in 2017-18 will be 1.48 percent, more than half a percentage point below the acclaimed 2 percent property tax cap. It is the fourth consecutive year the tax cap growth factor will be below 2 percent.

Here’s how school districts on the North Shore of Suffolk County fared:

Commack
According to the Commack school district’s website, the district voted 2,019-555 in favor of the $187,532,818 proposed budget. Carpenter edged out Janine DiGirolamo 1,363 votes to 1,059, and Hender narrowly beat April Pancella Haupt 1,240 to 1,148.

Comsewogue
Comsewogue residents voted 789 in favor and 208 not against the $89,796,337 budget. Incumbents Ali Gordon and Jim Sanchez won back their seats in an uncontested race, with 882 and 846 votes, respectively.

Harborfields
Members of the district voted 1,224 to 249 for the $84.4 million budget. In a tightly-contested race, David Steinberg and Christopher Kelly won the two open seats with 800 and 741 votes, respectively. Sternberg won back his seat, while the third time seemed to be a charm for Kelly. Laura Levenberg finished with 623 votes while Anila Nitekman totaled 467.

Hauppauge
The Hauppauge school district passed its $107,965,857 budget 811-308, and its capital reserve fund proposition 869-248, according to the district’s Facebook page. James Kiley and Lawrence Craft were elected to the board of education, with 803 and 797 votes, respectively.

Huntington
Residents passed the $126.2 million budget and capital reserve proposition, according to the district website. Trustees Jennifer Hebert and Xavier Palacios were re-elected to three-year terms.

Kings Park
The Kings Park community passed its $88.5 million proposed budget with 1,360 yes votes to 533 no. Incumbent Joe Bianco won back his seat with 989 votes, while challengers Katy Cardinale and J.P. Andrade finished with 733 and 110.

“I just feel great,” Kings Park Superintendent Tim Eagan said. “The budget passed with 72 percent approval. I’m just happy that the community is very happy with what we have going on here, and it’s just great to have their support. We’ve been fortunate the last couple of years. We’ve been 70 percent passing or higher.”

Middle Country
Residents chose to pass the $243,590,487 proposed budget 1,658-418. Runners Dina Phillips (1,523), Ellie Estevez (1,380) and Doreen Felmann (1,512) won their uncontested board of education seat races, with 17 write-in votes.

Miller Place
Voters passed the $126.2 million budget 763-162. With no challengers, Lisa Reitan and Richard Panico were elected with 726 and 709 votes. Other write-in candidates totaled 23 votes.

Mount Sinai
The $59,272,525 budget was overwhelmingly passed by residents, 1,007 to 251 and the library 1,111 to 144. Incumbents Robert Sweeney (1,013), Edward Law (866) and Peter Van Middelem (860) won back their seats, while Michael McGuire almost doubled his total from last year, finishing with 597.

“I’m very happy that it passed,” Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “We have great programs here. We can maintain those programs. We made the AP Honor Roll two years in a roll. Almost every team right now is in the playoffs, our music program is better than ever, so to keep those programs is great, but we’re not resting on that. Now we can get to work on our elementary reading program, bolstering that, we have a new principal coming in who has high expectations. There are programs we want to put in place that a lot of our kids need in the elementary school.”

He was disappointed with the turnout, though.

“I’m not happy,” he said. “We’re 200 lower than last year. We have 9,000 eligible voters. I’d like to see 500 to another 1,00 approve it so we have everyone together.”

Northport-East Northport
Northport-East Northport residents said “yes, yes, yes.” With 2,074 votes for and 636 against, the $163,306,840 budget passed, while support was also strong for the capital reserve expenditure, with 2,197 votes for and 512 against. This will allow the district to use capital reserves to fund additional projects including resurfacing/replacing two tennis courts and replacing the fence at William J. Brosnan School, installing new operable gymnasium windows at East Northport Middle School, replacing circuit panels at Northport High School, replacing auditorium seating at William J. Brosnan School and replacing classroom ceilings at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School. Donna McNaughton beat out Thomas Loughran for the lone seat up for grabs with 1,750 votes to Loughran’s 769.

Port Jefferson
Community members passed the nearly $43 million proposed budget 338-74. Renovations and upgrades using the capital reserve funds was also passed, 368-43. Incumbents Adam DeWitt and David Keegan were re-elected to serve three-year terms, with 357 and 356 votes, respectively.

Rocky Point
Rocky Point residents voted to pass the $83,286,346 budget with 663 saying yes, while 246 said no. The district also sought voter approval to access $3,385,965 million from its capital reserve fund in order to complete facility renovations across the district. For that proposal, 600 voted for and 312 against.

“We are extremely grateful for the community’s support of our proposed budget and capital improvement plan,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said. “The educational enhancements included in this budget are ones that we believe will further support the needs of Rocky Point students while also providing them with opportunities to succeed at even greater levels, while still maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility.”

Incumbent board of education member Sean Callahan and newcomer Joseph Coniglione, who is principal of Comsewogue High school, were elected with 713 and 641 votes, respectively.

Shoreham-Wading River
Voters approved the $74, 842,792 budget 1,112 for to 992 against, and passed the capital reserve fund with 1,282 yes’ to 813 nos. The people are calling for change, as Katie Anderson (1,318), Henry Perez (1,303), Erin Hunt (1,279) and Michaell Yannuci (1,087) won seats, while James Smith (1,015), Jack Costas (563) and John Zukowski (524) missed the mark. Yannucci, who has previously been on the board, will be taking the one-year seat left by Michael Fucito, and both incumbents have been ousted.

Smithtown
The community passed the proposed budget with 2,241 yes votes to 693 no. Incumbents Gledy Waldron and Joanne McEnroy, who were running unopposed, won back their seats with 2,095 and 2,090 votes, respectively.  Matthew Gribbin defeated incumbent Grace Plours with 1,835 votes to Plourde’s 1,155.

Three Village
Three Village residents voted 1,708 for to 719 against the proposed $204.4 million budget. With no challengers, incumbents Jeff Kerman, Irene Gische and Inger Germano won back their seats with 1,805, 1,794 and 1,753 votes, respectively.

The administrative building on New York Avenue may soon be the site of a new apartment building. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Kings Park

The Kings Park school district has only one seat available this year for a board of education candidate, and three residents vying for the opportunity.

Trustee Joe Bianco is looking to continue his work with a second term.

“I believe my experience on the board over the last three years has affirmed that given my background in accounting and law … I have the technical skills and experience to help the [board] address many of the issues it faces today,” he said in his candidate statement.

Bianco has worked as a lawyer since 1995 and has volunteered for different athletic activities  in Kings Park including the Kings Park Youth Athletic Association.

“If re-elected, the board’s first priority is to finalize a new contract with our teachers,” he said in an email. “Sustainable, predictable and equitable revenue streams and contracts are critical to our long-term success as a district and to the long-term security and empowerment of our staff.” He also talked about the importance of continuing the bond project and facility upgrades.

“We must continue to challenge ourselves, our administration leadership, our staff and our students to embrace new ideas and developments in a manner that stays true to the goals and values that are important to our community,” Bianco said.

Katy Cardinale is looking to unseat Bianco, a 10-year Kings Park resident herself.

Cardinale has volunteered for several district committees, including the facilities and legislative committees.

“Positive things are happening and the tone is enthusiastic and collaborative [in the district],” Cardinale said in her candidate statement. “I aim to continue the momentum in that direction.”

But Cardinale said she is concerned about state and federal overreach and its effect on the Kings Park district. She said the current board’s decision to not pass a resolution rejecting Secretary of Education Betsy Devos inspired her to run.

The candidate said she also thinks the board needs to protect school funding more vigorously.

“I feel that our school board needs to be very loud when it comes to protecting every last penny,” she said in her candidate statement.

J.P. Andrade is the third candidate looking to represent the Kings Park community.

Andrade is a Kings Park graduate and recently worked as a diversity advisor and surrogate for then candidate Donald Trump. He has been a television contributor for multiple news stations. He said he also volunteers for various Smithtown groups.

Where Kings Park is concerned, Andrade said his diverse background can be an asset to the board.

“My various work in the government, political field, and the community will be beneficial in serving this community,” he said. “I want to be able to bring some youth, diversity and innovation to Kings Park.”

Andrade said he wants to continue to keep a close eye on common core curriculum, calling the implementation a “disaster,” and wants to bridge the gap between the schools and the community.

“[I want to] ensure that the students are equipped with the best possible educational team, and to make sure they get the top-notch education they deserve,” he said.

Smithtown

In Smithtown three seats are up for election this May, with two of the three uncontested.

Long-time incumbent Gladys Waldron is hoping to continue her service, with no challenger looking to unseat her.

“I’d like to continue with the board, providing a financially responsible budget,” Waldron said in a phone interview. She also said she’s in support of many of the programs being expanded at the district now, including AP Capstone seminars and other educational opportunities for students.

“We’ve also replaced study halls with elective programs which has been a great success, and been able to maintain small elementary class sizes, all without piercing the tax levy cap,” she said.

Incumbent Vice President Joanne McEnroy is also looking to move forward with the district.

“Serving on the Smithtown Board of Education gives me a sense of pride,” she said in an email. “I love the place that I have called home for over five decades and in particular, I love our schools.”

McEnroy, who first ran six years ago, said she is proud of what she has accomplished so far.

“I am very proud to have lived up to the campaign promises … which was to balance fiscal responsibility with quality education,” she said. “We have remained within the tax cap while continuing to restore or build on our already outstanding educational program to make it even better.  The expansion this year of our full-time integrated co-teaching program so that it now encompasses kindergarten thru grade 12, is a source of pride and accomplishment for me as it was just one of the many program improvement goals that I hoped to achieve as a board trustee.”

She is also running unopposed.

Incumbent Grace Plourde is the third incumbent running for re-election; however, she does face a challenger. Newcomer Matthew  Gribbin has thrown his hat into the ring.

Plourde said simply why she’s running again.

“The job is not done yet,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ve been on the board six years and we’ve gotten through some tough times.”

Plourde referred to the state-mandated tax levy cap as one of the issues the district has had to work on to create a budget that still benefits the district and the students.

“It’s all about sustainability,” she said. “We have to make sure we go forward and match revenue to expenses to maintain high-quality programs while staying within the cap.”

Gribbin did not return requests for comment.

Harborfields High School. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Harborfields

The Harborfields school district has two seats to fill this May and four candidates. The school runs an at large election, meaning the two candidates with the most votes will fill the two seats.

Vice President David Steinberg and Trustee Nicholas Giuilano’s terms are up, however only Steinberg has chosen to run again, with three resident challengers looking for a first term on the board.

Chris Kelly is running for a third-time, hoping to finally secure a seat. Kelly has been working in the market data business for the past 19 years, and said he wants to bring his professional skills to add something “unique” to the board.

“I deal with a lot of changing variables and big budgets, and I need to anticipate what the future is going to hold,” he said in a phone interview. “I see this aligning with the school district perfectly.”

He has volunteered for the Harborfields Get Out the Vote committee and the Parent Teacher Association.

Anila Nitekman said she moved from Manhattan to Greenlawn because of the strong reputation the district had.

She’s the founder of Tiny Bites Food Shears, and has worked for Cablevision, American Express, and the city of New York after 9/11.

“I have worked to develop and cultivate collaborative partnerships,” she said in a phone interview. “And I think I could create a unique opportunity to bring new partnership opportunities to the district.”

She said she wants to partner students with industry leaders to help kids with their future careers.

Steinberg said he is eager to continue the work of the board, which he said has been very successful lately, including the creation of a new technology initiative.

“The district has very strong momentum,” he said in a phone interview. “With a new superintendent and Tech 2.0, there is a lot of great work happening here. Why wouldn’t I want to continue to work with this community?”

He said the support from the community has been great, like the $50,000 recently raised for Tech 2.0 by a Harborfields organization.

Lauri Levenberg has been a district resident for more than 20 years, and said she has the insight to help lead the school in a positive way.

“The most important issue facing Harborfields is how to provide an education for the whole child while remaining fiscally responsible to the community,” Levenberg said in her candidate statement.

She works as a speech therapist in the Three Village school district, and has served on the board of religious organizations including Temple Beth El in Huntington.

Northport-East Northport

With only one seat available at large, this is a unique year for the district, as the board will see a reduction of two members thanks to a petition filed two years ago by United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport to reduce the number of trustees.

The petition was made into a proposition which voters approved during last year’s vote to bring the board from nine members to seven.

Trustees Donna McNaughton, Regina Pisacani and Jennifer Thompson were all at the end of their terms, however due to the petition only one of the three seats can be filled. Pisacani and Thompson have both decided not to seek another term on the board.

Pisacani said the decision was not an easy one.

“I dedicated an enormous amount of time to my board of education duties,” she said in an email. “It was many hours away from my family and many hours away from my own professional development.  My motivation for joining the BOE was to assist in bringing change and stability to this school district.”

Thompson did not return calls for comment.

However McNaughton is still eager to continue serving her community.

“I still have a passion for it,” she said in a phone interview. “We should be taking enthusiastic 5-year-olds and making them into  enthusiastic 18-year-olds.”

She said the district is going in a positive direction, with plans like the recent bond approval which will see infrastructure and athletic facility improvements.

“We’ve had seven one-term board members, there has been a lot of instability and I want to continue to work with the superintendent to help bring his vision to fruition.”

The incumbent said the district will face many challenges in the future, including the ongoing LIPA lawsuit, decreased enrollment and more, and she wants to work to find solutions.

Challenging the current trustee is East Northport resident Thomas Loughran, an attorney who only recently got involved in the district board affairs.

Loughran said he started attending school board meetings in February when the board was able to approve the nearly $40 million bond.

“I’m a paralegal and my firm deals with school districts all the time so this is right in my wheelhouse,” he said in a phone interview. “My voice is beneficial to the board. I know community members and teachers within the district.”

The challenger said he has an extensive background that would lend itself to a positive collaboration with the board. He has dealt in his profession with legal matters, civil rights issues, discrimination issues and more involving school districts.

Huntington

In the Huntington school district things are business as usual, as two incumbents are running unopposed for another term. Vice president Jennifer  Hebert and Trustee Xavier Palacios are both running for third terms.

Hebert and her husband have lived in Huntington for 20 years, and have two boys attending district schools, as well as a third in college.

A Long Island native, Herbert worked as a public school kindergarten teacher in Massachusetts for several years and is currently the director of the pre-school program at St. John’s Nursery School in Huntington village.

She volunteers for the Huntington district in the Parent Teacher Association and has served as  president and treasurer.

Hebert has served on various district committees through the years, including the long range planning committee.

Hebert said in her candidate statement she believes in listening to all sides of every issue. She is particularly passionate about public school education and believes the learning experience offered to Huntington students should be the finest in the nation.

Palacios is an attorney and a Huntington district alumni himself. He and his wife have three children, including a daughter who was a member of Huntington’s Class of 2016.

In 2008, Palacios purchased and renovated a distressed property in Huntington Station where he established a satellite law office along with a community revitalization non-profit organization.

Palacios volunteered in each of the past two years to serve as the high school mock trial team’s legal advisor, training students in the art of courtroom skills and strategies. He has spent hours working behind the scenes with coaches and athletes to help spur participation and promote excellence in the Blue Devil athletic program.

Palacios said in his candidate statement he has strived to be a problem-solver and to use his legal expertise to contribute to solutions regarding pressing issues facing students, teachers and taxpayers.

Voting will take place at Newfield High School May 16. The high school is located at 145 Marshall Drive. File photo

Three — one an incumbent — are vying for three seats on Middle Country’s board of education. Current trustees Debbie Parker and Daniel Hill are not seeking re-election.

Doreen Feldmann

Doreen Feldmann

Doreen P. Feldmann, a 46-year resident, said she strongly believes in the value of community service.

An active member of the PTA, the nine-year board member is also the chairperson of the Selden Centereach Youth Association; serves on the Middle Country Education Foundation; and has served or is continuing to serve on district committees such as the audit, anti-drug coalition, policy, legislative, PPS advisory council, safe schools and school business advisory boards.

She particularly enjoys her work on the business advisory board.

“It allows me to advocate for a clean and safe environment,” she said, through the Green Career Job Fair and e-waste collections.

She and her husband, Bill, who are both graduates of Newfield High School, do work via their solar equipment distribution company. They supply no-cost solar energy equipment to Habitat for Humanity and other not-for-profit groups.

A mother of two, she received formal recognition for her child advocacy work and community service, such as the NYS PTA Jenkins Award and the Distinguished Service Award, but said the best recognition comes when she is allowed to serve on the board of education.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve Middle Country,” she said. “I want to continue my work supporting children and the school board.”

Dina Phillips

Dina Phillips

Dina Phillips, a 17-year resident and stay-at-home mother of two, was in the accounting field for 12 years.

Phillips attended Briarcliffe College, obtaining an associate’s degree in graphic design in 2008.

She has been an active member of the PTA for many years, holding the position of treasurer, and is currently vice president at Stagecoach Elementary School and recording secretary at Selden Middle School, which she said gives her the skills needed to serve on the Middle Country board.

Phillips has chaired committees like homecoming, book fair and staff appreciation. She is also a recipient of the NYS PTA Jenkins Award, and is currently serving on the Middle Country legislative/community outreach committee, and has served on the interview committee.

“I have been advocating against high stakes testing for the last four years and want to continue my work on the board of education,” she said.

Ellie Estevez

Eliness Estevez

Eliness “Ellie” Estevez is a three-year resident and a senior at Newfield High School. The president of the mock trial team is also a member of the jazz choir, jazz band, pit orchestra, Tri-M Honor Society and leadership club, and is also a volunteer at Stony Brook University Hospital.

A soon-to-be business major at Stern School of Business, Estevez looks to apply the knowledge she obtains of finance and management, to maintain fiscal responsibility.

“I want to continue to offer students opportunities for success and academic excellence,” she said. “As a Middle Country student, I offer the perspective of the students as the district moves toward greater success in the future.”


Budget breakdown

This year’s proposed budget of $243,590,487 for the Middle Country Central School District is a 1.21 percent increase from last year’s expenditures, with a tax levy increase of 1.929 percent. It would cost homeowners roughly $108.41 and is under the 2 percent cap.

“We look forward to continue offering our district-wide STEM programs — allowing students the opportunity to explore robotics, zSpace labs and 3D printing,” superintendent Roberta Gerold said. “These programs — along with our math literacy initiatives, music, arts and athletics programs — provide students with a well-rounded educational experience.”

There is $63,215,804 in proposed foundation aid. The district will look to expand upon AP and College Tie offerings, add lab space for eighth grade living environment, add math periods for students in sixth through eighth grades, increase K-5 literacy and continue the full-day, pre-K program.

The May 3 board meeting gave Three Village residents another chance to learn about the 2017-2018 school district’s budget before heading to the polls April 16. Along with the budget, they will also vote on three school board trustees; all are incumbents who are running unopposed.

The board trustees on the ballot are Dr. Jeffrey Kerman, current board Vice President Irene Gische and Inger Germano. This will be the third three-year term for each since joining the board in 2011.

Jeff Kerman. Photo by Deanna Bavinka

Kerman, a dentist with practices in Mount Sinai and New York City, is the father of two Ward Melville graduates and served previously as the board’s president, in addition to a six-year term from 1999 to 2005. He currently sits on the board’s audit and facilities committees.

Well known for sewing costumes for the district’s theater productions, Gische is also a parent of Ward Melville graduates and grandmother of current Three Village students. She was head teacher at Stony Brook University’s preschool for 25 years. Prior to her current service on the board, Gische was a board trustee from 1983 to 1995, during which she was president for two years. Gische currently chairs the board’s policy committee.

Germano, the mother of two Three Village students, is president of medical management and billing company Universal Medical Billing, Corp. A Three Village resident since 2005, she also served on the North Shore Montessori School board and owns Global Alliance Realty with her husband. Germano sits on the board’s policy committee.

At the May 3 board meeting, Jeffrey Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, addressed the issue of the $204.4 million budget that stays within the 3.4 percent cap on the allowable tax levy increase.

Carlson announced that the district will receive a $715,000 increase in state aid, up from the governor’s original proposal of $247,000. There will be no cuts to programs or services to stay within the cap, he said. In fact, the new school year will bring new programs.

As residents go to the polls, one of the most discussed additions is the free, district-run preschool for four-year-olds. The prekindergarten will replace the district’s current fee-based preschool, run by Scope Education Services. The district will now offer morning and afternoon sessions that run two and a half hours, five days a week, at Nassakeag Elementary School. 

Inger Germano. Photo from Germano

Some residents have questioned the district’s decision to subsidize a free preschool. Gloria Casano, who said her taxes have increased by $13,000 since purchasing her home in 1994, raised the matter at the meeting.

“I would like to know when you can give taxpayers a break,” she said. “With continuing enrollment decreases, you’re instituting a free pre-K?”    

Board president Bill Connors responded that the preschool and other new programs were not “frills” but lay the foundation for the district’s students. 

“We are very concerned about costs because they affect all of us in our community,” he said, adding, however, that the board is also concerned about maintaining the quality of educational programs.

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said the preschool and the additional programs would give students “the opportunity to be successful.” Also, she said, preschool is shown to save money in special services that would be needed later. 

“Early intervention is priceless,” she said.

Carlson said that it is estimated that the cost of the preschool will add about $20 to the average tax bill.

Other new academic offerings will include fourth-grade chorus and daily band and orchestra for ninth-graders, as well as additional secondary level electives, an expansion of the high school writing center and the introduction of math centers at the junior high schools. 

The budget covers small increases in staffing at the elementary level — up to 4.2 full-time equivalent positions (FTEs), Carlson said. The preschool will be staffed by three FTE elementary positions that will be reassigned to the preschool because of declining elementary enrollment. If the preschool reaches its capacity of 200 students, the district will hire two more teachers.  As of last week’s meeting, enrollment was at 111, requiring 3.5 FTEs, Carlson said. 

Irene Gische. Photo by Deanna Bavinka

With more students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), 2.2 FTEs will go toward elementary special education, health and physical education. The secondary level will see an increase in staffing of 1.15 FTEs, Carlson said.

Three Village will also hire a drug and alcohol counselor to work with students and their families. Additionally, the district will add a supervisor of technology and information systems to help pilot its one-to-one device program, an initiative to provide junior high students with notebook computers. Two FTEs will be added to the grounds and maintenance staff.

The district’s capital projects, which are reimbursed by the state at a rate of 66 percent, will include the installation of generators at the elementary schools and field renovations at Ward Melville High School and P.J. Gelinas Junior High. Also planned are building repairs at Ward Melville and Gelinas, as well as district-wide plumbing and bathroom renovations.

Voting for the budget and trustees will take place on Tuesday, May 16 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Residents zoned to vote at Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementary schools will vote at Ward Melville High School. Those zoned for Mount Elementary School will vote at R.C. Murphy Junior High and those zoned for Setauket Elementary School will vote at P.J. Gelinas Junior High.

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

In Mount Sinai, four candidates — three incumbents and one newcomer — are vying for three at-large seats on the school board.

Robert Sweeney

President for five of his six overall years on the school board, Sweeney wants to stay on top of the district’s finances and continue to give the community a voice in how their children are educated.

The father of five and lawyer by trade has lived in Mount Sinai for 15 years and serves on the Eastern Suffolk BOCES advisory committee as well as the executive board of the Maritime Explorium children’s museum in Port Jefferson.

Sweeney said he’s running for a second term as a result of his deep commitment to the school district.

“Mount Sinai doesn’t really have a main street, so the community is the three school districts — that’s where my interest is,” Sweeney said. “I want to continue to be community-involved and have a say in where education is directed. I think the state education department in Albany is trying to take away a lot of the local control of school districts that were always meant to be community based.”

Sweeney said he ran for the board six years ago because he was concerned about taxes in the district. Admitting he was still concerned, Sweeney wants to continue to ease the burden on the taxpayers.

“From day one on the board, I’ve advocated for long-term financial planning,” he said. “While I was president, we never pierced the tax cap … I’ve had my own law practice for 30 years and in running a business, you pay attention to money coming in and going out. We have to understand what revenue we receive in the school district and work within our means.”

Edward Law

Law has served the board for the past six years, three of which he served as vice president. A former coach in the district’s intramural youth soccer program, he works as a management consultant who helps organizations transform themselves either by implementing computer systems to be more efficient or cutting costs — which, he said, lines up with what he’s brought to the board.

“My involvement over the past six years has brought a lot of transparency and fiscal discipline for the public,” Law said. “We’ve been able to keep our taxes and costs under control to the best of our ability … although the tax cap puts a lot of pressure on us, we’ve been able to expand in a very fiscally-prudent manner. We’ve added a lot of AP classes, implemented full-day kindergarten and the Columbia writing program. Our music and fine arts program has been growing and sports teams have been extremely successful.”

The father of three said, looking ahead, he and the board want to start vocational training programs, mostly revolving around hospital services and culinary arts, so students don’t have to travel to outside schools for college credit.

“I want to stay part of it,” he added about maintaining his seat. “I’d love to continue to be part of helping improve the district. We’ve been pretty darn effective over the past six years.”

Peter Van Middelem

A product of the Mount Sinai school district, Van Middelem, who serves as commissioner in the fire district and president of the youth lacrosse program, has lived in the community his entire life. He’s seeking a second term on the board because, he said, he “lives and breathes helping people.”

Van Middelem said he’s proud of the work the board’s done in the last three years — implementing full-day kindergarten, adding components to the music program without piercing the cap — and looks forward to making things even better for students in the district.

“Like anything else, you always want to leave something better than you first found it — we’ve identified different areas we need to improve and I want to continue with that,” he said. “You might see me at a school board meeting, might see me on the back of a fire truck, or at a fire district meeting … I’m just trying to make the community a better place.”

After graduating from Dowling College with an accounting degree in 1996, Van Middelem worked as an accountant for many years before becoming a New York City firefighter in 1999 — where he served for 12 years. He has experience auditing neighboring districts and values communication with others. He has three children, two currently in the district, and his mother and brothers still live in the area, too.

“Mount Sinai is home,” he said. “I love the water, love the people, and love helping to create an environment where kids can excel.”

Michael McGuire

The father of two moved to the community three years ago because of the school district’s reputation. The Port Jefferson native serves as an accountant in his family’s CPA firm, is a former Marine, and served as a police officer in New York City from 2001 to 2008. He recently completed his first year of classes at Touro Law Center in Central Islip.

McGuire decided to run for the board because he believes his professional experiences with auditing and examining financial statements for governments and nonprofits within the CPA firm will provide valuable, and what he sees as much-needed insight into solving the district’s financial problems.

“I’ve gone to the meetings and the district is projected to be broke in two years,” said McGuire, whose one-year-old child will become part of the district in three years. “We have a great district … but there’s a lot of wasteful spending. We need to stop blaming the governor or tax cap and everyone else and look internally on how to save money now to prevent cuts in the future.”

McGuire said it’s unacceptable that the board is presenting a budget with a $1.8 million deficit this year, and said there are plenty of ways to generate revenue.

“A lot of schools have BOCES programs they run at schools and other schools pay tuition to be part of it … the school cut BOCES a few years ago and I’d like to bring it back,” he said. “The school could also rent out fields to PAL or flag football leagues to increase revenue. I want to make sure the school can keep being amazing without worrying about having to cut things to keep it running.”

Miller Place board of education trustees Rich Panico and Lisa Reitan are seeking re-election with no challengers actively running against them. Photos from candidates

The Miller Place board of education has two seats up for election, but it seems, with no challengers, that incumbents Rich Panico and Lisa Reitan aren’t going anywhere.

Rich Panico

Panico, a business owner and 20-year resident of Miller Place, was first elected to the board in 2014 and is seeking a second term because he believes the board as it is works well together.

“Right now it’s going really well — it’s a nice calm that we have and, fiscally, we’re in really good shape,” Panico said. “We have really good relations with the different unions and work together with administration well.”

The father of three sons, two currently in the district, tossed his hat in the ring three years ago because, as the owner of a technology-developing company Symbio for 15 years, he thought he could contribute his business expertise to the district. Outside of the board, he runs Friends of Miller Place Sports as well as the Miller Place Touchdown Club.

Looking forward, he said he’d like to focus the board’s energy on mental health within the district in order to prevent suicidal thoughts or actions among students.

“Kids are under so much pressure and the board is trying to do something about it, like putting together some type of program,” he said. “It’s really difficult — we don’t have the answers yet, but, as a group, we’re trying to figure something out in that area. There are some students who will go to counselors, and others who just won’t when they’re in trouble. I want to find a way to make those kids comfortable. Luckily, as a board, we’re all committed to do something, and it’s one of our real big initiatives.”

Lisa Reitan

Also coming off her third year on the board, Reitan, a fourth-grade teacher in the Brentwood Union Free School District for 25 years, is seeking a second term to continue the work she and her colleagues have been doing.

“I feel like the district has come a long way,” Reitan said. “We’ve added programs, clubs, upgraded our buildings, brought in full-day kindergarten, upgraded libraries in the elementary schools, put in a brand new playground, increased communication with the community, all within constraints of the tax cap. This board has worked so well together and we bring so much. We have a lot of consensus … and we’ve done a lot for the kids and that’s most important.”

Reitan, a longtime Miller Place resident and mother of three, said she ran the first time because she thought the board could use a teacher’s perspective. A big push to run again this year, she said, is to defend public education amid the federal government’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. DeVos has talked about taking funds away from public schools and expanding private education and charter schools.

“That’s wrong and people’s taxes would increase as a result of that,” she said. “I really believe in public schools and the whole idea of education for everybody. I would really like to tow the line with the secretary coming in and make sure our school district gets everything it’s entitled to.”

She added that between the school district and community: “I don’t think you could find a better place to be on Long Island.”

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo

The year’s race for the Shoreham-Wading River’s school board is a crowded one.

With four openings, seven residents — including two incumbents — are hoping to win a seat. Candidates Katie Anderson, Henry Perez, Erin Hunt, James Smith and Michael Yannucci are running, while incumbents Jack Costas and President John Zukowski are seeking re-election. Michael Fucito, a former school board member, resigned earlier this year, leaving a vacant one-year term available.

John Zukowski

John Zukowski

Zukowski has served the board for the past six years. He also serves on the policy committee and space and facilities committee, and has a law firm with his wife in East Setauket. He was heavily involved in finding the district’s newly-appointed superintendent, and said it would be his duty and pleasure to serve alongside him for at least another term if the voters will have him.

Zukowski said the district has been moving in an uphill direction.

“We’ve made some great strides this past year,” he said. “We’ve added robotics and are continually expanding offerings to our kids to ensure that, whether it’s college or the service or trade, they have the skills available to make a living. Since I’ve been here, the board has functioned as a cohesive unit, we pass budgets the voters approved, we pass propositions and, for the first time ever, we’ve passed a bond.”

He said, moving forward, it’s imperative the district continues to seek the input of residents, provide an exceptional education while navigating what he sees as an ill-conceived and poorly implemented Common Core and maintain a strong fiscal position.

Jack Costas

Jack Costas

Coming off his ninth year on the board, Costas is seeking a fourth term because, he said, “contributing a tremendous amount of time to the schools, volunteering in the classroom and cafeteria, fuels me.”

Costas, a self-employed general contractor and 13-year resident of Shoreham, said his time on the board has given him valuable insight and knowledge into the educational, fiscal, legal and personnel functions of the district.

When he was first elected, he said, the district was in disrepair both facilities-wise and fiscally, but said he thinks great progress has been made.

“We’ve improved our facilities, passed several propositions, passed the bond and I think morale is higher overall,” Costas said. “Giving up four to five nights out of the month is a small price to pay because I have a vested interest in this district. Not only am I a homeowner, but I have three children currently in the high school and I believe in giving back.”

Katie Anderson

Katie Anderson

Anderson, a mother of two young children in the district, has been active in the schools as a member of the Miller Avenue School PTO and Wading River School PTA. She decided to run for the board to serve as a positive communicator and bring people together.

She said she wants the district to take advantage of all its active parents, and that communication between administration and residents is the key to success.

“Communication with the community could definitely be improved,” Anderson said. “We are very reactive at this time, and I think we need to be more proactive in communication and unify the community. I would like to promote the mission and vision of our school district, which is whole child-focused.”

As a licensed real estate associate broker working from her home office, Anderson said she would be able to actively participate and attend all board meetings. She also said as a realtor, she wants to safeguard the district’s budgetary reputation, protect the community’s property taxes and use the taxpayer’s contributions to the district in a fiscally responsible way.

Erin Hunt

Erin Hunt

President of the Miller Avenue School PTO, a member of the Shoreham Civic Association and a mother of four, Hunt has decided to run for the board to continue to serve her community.

“I think we have a really awesome community and great schools, and I want to ensure that continues,” Hunt said. “I think we have some of the best teachers on Long Island here in Shoreham, [but] there’s a disconnect between school and board and administration and community, so I’d like there to be more positive dialogue and transparency as to what’s going on. I feel called to serve.”

The former New York City secondary education teacher said she wants to fight to preserve tax rates and serve residents with a lean budget.

“I am committed to contributing a fair perspective that represents all district stakeholders; children first, but inclusive of parents, teachers, staff, administration, coaches, volunteers, taxpayers, board members and residents,” she said.

Henry Perez

Henry Perez

The father of two has lived in the community for more than 15 years and has served Shoreham-Wading River and other school districts as a professional engineer, working with teachers, parents and administrators to help develop K-12 educational facilities that foster better learning environments for students.

He believes his 23 years of professional experience in design and construction, and position as chairman of the district’s space and facilities committee, will enhance the board of education.

“I think the environment the children are learning in is just as important as what they’re actually learning — classrooms should align with curriculum,” Perez said. “A board is a collaboration of people, so there should be a good balance of people with different backgrounds and I don’t think there are engineers in administration or on the board. I can help provide some guidance when it comes time to making decisions on how to plan things out.”

James Smith

James Smith

Smith, a father of four, said the school district has provided a great education, and he values his small community that comes together when needed.

Aside from serving as a coach for the Sound Beach Soccer Club and North Shore Little League, Smith was a former vice president of the Briarcliff PTA, where he set up events like the fall festival, book fairs and parent-children dances.

“When I first came into the district, I wanted to become actively involved and get a better sense of what it had to offer my children,” Smith said. “I have a vested interest in seeing our schools and community succeed.”

In a letter to the district, Smith said one of the most important issues facing the district is transparency between the district and community stakeholders.

“I envision a district where communication is a top priority,” he said. “We must promote programs that are focused on the future, are educationally sound, and are fiscally responsible. To that end, we must create a district focused on 21st century skills enabling our students to be productive and successful members of the 21st century-society.”

Michael Yannucci

Michael Yannucci

The Shoreham-Wading River graduate serves as an assistant principal in the Plainview Old-Bethpage school district and is an adjunct professor of teacher preparation at Concordia College in Bronxville. He served on the Shoreham board as a trustee from 2005 to 2008, where he was involved in getting state aid and installing solar panels within the district.

Yannucci said he’s running again to bring more passion to the board. If elected, he wants to have an open-door policy and talk with any member of the community, as long they’d like, on any given issue.

“As a trustee, my contribution will be a commitment to the community to respectfully listen, be honest, be reflective and be responsive,” Yannucci said. “I’ve sat at board meetings where I too often saw reactionary responses with sometimes rude feedback to our neighbors. I believe to foster a strong community of pride, we should listen to and respect each other.”

If elected, he said he wants to implement more technology into the district to share ideas and communicate with residents and even have live broadcasts of meetings so parents unable to attend them can still stay informed.

The Shoreham-Wading River school district’s school budget and board of education vote will be May 16 from 7 a.m to 9 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

Mothers angry over lack of administrative action, response

Rocky Point mother Robin Siefert is upset nothing was done after her 9-year-old daughter found a note on her desk containing several expletives (which have been removed from the photo), a swastika and Adolf Hitler’s name. Photo from Robin Siefert

By Kevin Redding

A Rocky Point mother took the school district to task at a board meeting last week after, she said, nothing was done about a hateful, anti-Semitic note left on her 9-year-old daughter’s desk last month.

Last month, Robin Siefert’s daughter — who is the only Jewish student in her fourth-grade class at Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School — sat down at her desk to find her “luck of the Irish” Post-It note had three obscenities, a swastika and Adolf Hitler’s name scribbled on it.

Rocky Point mother Robin Siefert is upset nothing was done after her 9-year-old daughter found a note on her desk containing hate speech. Photo by Kevin Redding

The original note, handed out to each student in the class, made her daughter feel lucky and happy, her mother said. She told the board her daughter is now a changed kid.

“Where before she was always outgoing and happy, my daughter now cries on and off all day, she doesn’t sleep through the night, she’s developed anxiety and constantly says no one likes her,” Siefert said. “Why weren’t the students asked to give a handwriting sample? As soon as this happened, an assembly about tolerance should’ve been scheduled. Very little has been done.”

The mother said her daughter felt uncomfortable returning to her class.

“She is now forced every day to sit in the classroom knowing that someone in the room feels animosity toward her while having no idea who that person may be,” she continued telling the board. “And since [the student] has gotten away with this, who knows what they will do next?”

In response, board trustee Sean Callahan, who expressed sympathy and shock, said the administration is not going to turn their backs on this.

“This is intolerable, and I’m not hearing that a person who reportedly did it was identified, and that is a concern,” Callahan said. “That’s what we need to find out.”

Siefert sent an email to the board April 5 explaining the situation, and nothing has been done to date.

She said the district’s failure to ensure her daughter’s safety and well-being in the aftermath of what she considers a targeted incident forced her to take matters into her own hands — she filed a report to officers at the 7th Precinct, who immediately recognized it as a hate crime.

“My daughter now cries on and off all day, she doesn’t sleep through the night, she’s developed anxiety and constantly says no one likes her.”

— Robin Siefert

The police told her they would contact the school and instruct administrators that measures should be taken to find the student who wrote the note. According to the mother, requests to take handwriting samples have been refused.

Siefert did commend her daughter’s teacher, however, who sent a letter to parents alerting them of what happened, and asked them to watch a video with their children.

“He should be recognized for his actions,” Siefert said, “but that letter should’ve been written by an administrator and should have gone home to every parent in the district.”

Siefert said during her meeting with Courtney Herbert, the school’s assistant principal, she was told counselors were sent to speak with students in the classroom — but not specifically her daughter.

“This kid is doodling these things at home the way my kid doodles hearts and rainbows,” she said. “They don’t seem to care about what must be going through her mind at school every day.”

Herbert, the mother said, explained that the school actually has no consequence policy in regards to this type of event,

Siefert said despite calling Michael Ring, the superintendent, March 24, she has not received a response.

“I realized [quickly] they don’t know what to do,” Siefert said. “I don’t think it’s a situation where they don’t want to do anything, but I really felt like these people have no clue what they are supposed to do. They were not thinking about my daughter and how this was going to affect her, at all.”

Two mothers are upset over hate crimes against their children that occurred at Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School, above, and claim administration has done little to address the issue. Photo from Syntax

The Rocky Point mother is not the only one dealing with this sort of situation. According to an Anti-Defamation League report Monday, “the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country was 86 percent higher than the same period last year” with about 541 attacks and threats between January and March.

Siefert demanded the school be better prepared to handle situations like this in the future — inspiring a fellow mother to speak out about the school’s mishandling of recent incidents of bullying and discrimination among students.

Alana Rodriguez, the mother of a fourth-grader at the school with a Puerto Rican and Italian background, addressed two racial incidents involving her 10-year-old son.

In November, after President Donald Trump (R) was elected, a classmate of her son’s told him: “I can’t wait for your kind to leave this country,” referring to the wall Trump proposed building at the Mexican border. In February, another student called her son the N-word because he was doing well in a game of basketball against other kids.

“With both incidents, I was never notified by the school — and that’s not okay,” said Rodriguez, who heard about the incidents from her other son. “The child is still in recess with my son — nothing happened to him. He even went up to my son after and said, ‘See, you told on me and I didn’t get in trouble.’”

When Rodriguez met with the assistant principal, she said she was told her son didn’t seem upset by what happened.

“This is intolerable, and I’m not hearing that a person who reportedly did it was identified, and that is a concern. That’s what we need to find out.”

— Sean Callahan

“It’s sad that, at 10, my son can’t count on grown-ups or administration to feel protected,” she said. “There has to be some form of communication from school to home. There should be assemblies throughout the year that teaches kindness and tolerance, and how to treat others.”

In an email response to questions regarding the incidents, Ring made clear the school district doesn’t take matters involving student safety and security lightly.

“[The district] investigates all acts of bullying and harassment immediately upon notification,” Ring wrote. “Any incidents found in violation of our code of conduct or anti-bullying policy are met with proper disciplinary actions and parental involvement when necessary. Additionally, the district’s strong character education program proactively promotes the ideals of acceptance and tolerance of all individuals regardless of their race, gender or religious affiliations … [the administration] remains vigilant in its efforts to keep an open-door communication policy…”

To those like Siefert’s family friend Lisa Malinowski, who joined her when she went to speak with the assistant principal, administration needs to wake up in order to solve problems.

“They have to realize we don’t live in Mayberry,” Malinowski said. “Rocky Point isn’t really the quaint little town they think it is. They really need to wake up and know that the reality of the world today is scary.”

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