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The Miller Place board of education incumbent Keith Frank is running unopposed to maintain the position he’s held for the last three years.

The trustee has been a Miller Place resident since 2003, and currently works as a labor and employment attorney for the Silverman Acampora law firm based in Jericho. He moved to Miller Place to raise his kids in what he saw as a good school district and kid-friendly area.

Keith Frank is running for his second term. File photo

Two of his three kids are currently enrolled in the district. His oldest child graduated from last year. While his kids matured he coached North Shore Little League soccer, softball and baseball.

When Frank ran in 2015 he said he wanted to meet the needs of his own children as well as the rest of the students in the district.

“I got a lot of fulfillment and satisfaction working on the board,” Frank said. “I want to continue that with the great team we have here.”

He said he believes that the main focus of the board should be offering programs for all students with different interests.

“We’re trying to balance the needs and the wishes of everyone, whether it’s arts, athletics or music — whatever the kids want to do,” Frank said. “Not all kids have the same interests. For example, with my kids, one’s athletic, one is interested in the arts. It’s about making sure we can properly fund those and support any of those activities.”

Frank said that technology, science and math focused courses should be a staple in the school’s curriculum to deal with a developing world.

“Kids should be able to go out and properly tackle the world,” he said.

Board president Johanna Testa said she was happy to see Frank put in an application for a second term.

“We’re looking forward to the next couple of years with him here,” she said. “What I find with our current board is we may not all agree with each other all the time, but we work well together and we work toward the common good of the district. [Keith Frank] is an attorney and he’s had experience dealing with contract negotiations and things of that nature. That’s been a benefit to us and the district.”

Last March Miller Place School District hired one armed security guard for each of the four school buildings in the district.

Frank would not go into detail on continuing those services or putting more effort and funds in new security upgrades, but he said options will be reviewed again going into the next school year.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” Frank said. “We have approved [the security guards] through the end of this year, then we will take up that issue and review it again.”

Board elections will take place with the budget vote Tuesday, May 15 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the North Country Road Middle School gym, at 191 North Country Rd. in Miller Place.

This version was updated to correctly identify at what time and where the budget and trustee vote will take place.

Trustee Michael Yanucci not seeking a second term

Shoreham-Wading River board of education president Robert Rose, on left, and second-time candidate James Smith, are running for two open trustee seats. File photos

By Kyle Barr

Two trustee seats are up for grabs on Shoreham-Wading River’s board of education, and running for them are a veteran and a newcomer.

Current board President Robert Rose is seeking another term and second-time candidate James Smith is  seeking election to the board following the stepping down of current trustee Michael Yannucci.
Both candidates are running unopposed.

Yannucci said he decided to not run for re-election so he can spend more time with his young children.

“Despite the fact that we have an uncontested board election this year, residents should continue to stay engaged and attend board meetings,” Yannucci said. His advice to the rest of the board upon leaving is that they should look to engage and communicate with district residents. “Even if they don’t have kids in school, their taxes are still affected by our decisions.”

Rose is running for his third three-year term on the board.

“I decided to run for re-election because I think I add a lot to the board with my experience,” Rose said. “I also really enjoy giving back to my community.”

“Despite the fact that we have an uncontested board election this year, residents should continue to stay engaged and attend board meetings.”

— Michael Yanucci

The board president said he knows his way around schools with his more-than 20 years of experience as an educator. He’s been the assistant principal at Smithtown High School East for the past 12.

“I would like to continue to play a role in making Shoreham-Wading River an outstanding district by working collaboratively with the administration and teachers to develop policies and programs that support student learning and help our students become career and college ready,” Rose said.

Smith, who ran last year unsuccessfully, has been a Shoreham resident for the past six years and in that time has not hesitated to get involved in the community. The father of four enrolled in the district, joined the PTA and became its vice president. He has worked with kids as a coach through Sound Beach Soccer Club and Father Joe’s Soccer. Smith said he wants to push for greater psychological and emotional resources for students.

“I just wanted to have greater input in the district,” he said. “I think the district has made great strides over the last couple [of] years, but I definitely want to see more resources dedicated, especially now in
today’s environment, toward the mental and physical well-being of our students.”

Shoreham Wading-River is including a provision in its adopted budget for hiring an additional psychologist to help with the current workload. There is presently one at the high school, one at the middle school and three shared between the two elementary school buildings. 

Smith said he believes there need to be even more psychologists and social workers engaged with students in school.

“I definitely feel the district needs to shift more toward emotional intelligence,” Smith said. “We’re stretched very thin. We need this emphasis on mental health, especially with all the school shootings we’ve seen over the past few years.”

Board elections will take place with the budget vote Tuesday, May 15 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Shoreham-Wading River High School auxiliary gym, located at 250A Route 25A in Shoreham.

This version corrects how many psychologists there are presently at the elementary schools. 

Mother urges a switch back to elementary school

Mount Sinai parents have been asking to move fifth-graders from the middle school back to the elementary school. File photo by Erika Karp

Students in Mount Sinai are expected to grow up a little faster than those in other districts. While a majority of neighboring towns keep their fifth-graders in the elementary school, Mount Sinai, since the early 1990s, moves its 10- and 11-year-olds up to the middle school.

A mother challenged the concept during an Aug. 23 board of education meeting when she asked administrators to consider making fifth grade part of the elementary school again in the future.

The conversation has been ongoing ever since.

Renee Massari, a mother of two elementary school students, proposed the idea last month, saying she didn’t see the academic or social benefit of having fifth-graders learn under the same roof as eighth-graders. In fact, she believed the drastically different environment negatively affected the young students — who occupy their own wing on the second floor of the building.

“I’ve seen it through many of my friends’ children here — many of them don’t excel.”

Renee Massari

“I’ve seen it through many of my friends’ children here — many of them don’t excel,” Massari said during the meeting. “It’s almost like they feel deflated because it’s difficult for them to handle those responsibilities expected of our fifth-graders. Because [realistically], they aren’t middle schoolers.”

Massari explained to the board that, from her understanding, the fifth-graders’ premature graduation to the middle school was prompted solely by a lack of classroom space in the elementary school. She asked if an administrator could evaluate current classroom space, adding the school has seen a declining enrollment rate over the last few years.

“Ideally, I would love for the fifth-graders in this district to have the same transition that 99 percent of the districts on Long Island have,” Massari said. “We can house them in the elementary school, a building they’re familiar with, and keep the same program where they transition from classroom to classroom and get them exposed to that before going to a whole different building.”

Board Trustee Robert Sweeney agreed with Massari and said the decision decades ago to move the students into the next building had nothing to do with education and everything to do with space and misjudgment. He also urged the board to reevaluate the concept.

“It’s a fallacy to have elementary students up there,” Sweeney said. “I think we have to look at it because there’s no educational benefit [to it].”

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal, an admittedly “old school guy” who said he would even like to see the sixth grade in the elementary school, told Massari her proposal would be explored — but classroom space, or lack thereof, in the district’s smallest building remains an issue. He said it will take a lot more than one available classroom to bring back the fifth-graders to the elementary school and expansions on the building would be costly.

Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and Trustee Robert Sweeney listen to parents’ concerns at a board meeting. The two are in favor of moving fifth-graders back to the elementary school. File photo by Erika Karp

“But in the meantime, what we have to do is make sure the nurturing environment continues in the fifth grade,” Brosdal said.

Teachers, he said, know to treat their students with the same level of care and support elementary school students experience. And although the move up offers a completely new setting, with lockers and classroom changes and multiple teachers during the day, Brosdal sees it as a good transition opportunity.

“Plus, they’re kind of isolated and not mixing with the older grades when they don’t have to,” he said. “At the same time, I understand parents feel their kids are not ready to move up because of maturity and a lot of other reasons, and want them to remain in a nurturing environment.”

In the weeks following the meeting, Brosdal reached out to elementary school principal Rob Catlin, and together they projected six classrooms would be needed in the building to accommodate the roughly 175 students in the current fifth-grade class.

One would be hard-pressed to find three available classrooms, according to Catlin, who is currently in the process of meeting with parents about the issue.

“I’ve heard the same concerns from a couple different people now and I’m reaching out to some parents for some meetings to talk about it,” Catlin said. “As the year goes on, and if the topic continues, I’m more than happy to keep talking. But it’s in an early stage right now.”

Mount Sinai resident Beth Erdmann, whose children are in seventh and 10th grades, said every parent experiences panic in the midst of the elementary and middle school transition but soon realize it’s not a big deal.

“I’ve heard the same concerns from a couple different people now and I’m reaching out to some parents for some meetings to talk about it.”

Rob Catlin

“When it’s your first child, it seems too soon and scary, but they are in their own wing and it’s a nonissue,” Erdmann said. “There were no adverse effects to my children … fifth and sixth grade are still treated as elementary. The location is just in the middle school. I was worried and bothered at the time, [but] my kids were fine.”

Debra Wesolowski agreed, having gone through the transition multiple times with four children.

“Once they were there, I couldn’t imagine them in the elementary school,” Wesolowski said. “Kids are a lot more mature now than years ago … you see how mature and responsible the fourth-graders become as the year goes on [and] by the time they graduate from fourth grade they have outgrown the elementary school and need to advance to the next stage. The middle school does a great job transitioning them.”

But Jennifer Ruger Lazarou, an elementary school teacher, feels the kids are too young.

“I think keeping them in the elementary school one more year is a good idea, and will still make them just as prepared,” Lazarou said. “I teach in a K-through-six building and can’t even imagine the sixth-graders being exposed to middle school any earlier.”

Brosdal said district office and building administrators have begun the exploration of a move.

“It is too early in the process for the board to make a decision one way or another,” Brosdal said. “The expense of such a project would impact the district’s budget and bond proposal.”

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.”

By Desirée Keegan

Residents in the Middle Country school district chose to pass the $243,590,487 budget 1,658 to 418.

Doreen Feldmann

“We thank our community for its support,” Middle Country Superintendent Roberta Gerold said. “The budget will continue to provide the students of Middle Country with the highest quality educational experience while fulfilling our financial duty to maintain careful control of expenses on behalf of taxpayers.”

The district will look to expand upon its 22 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.

Board of education candidates Dina Phillips (1,523), a newcomer; Doreen Feldmann (1,512), an incumbent; and Ellie Estevez (1,380), also a newcomer won their uncontested races, with 17 write-in votes.

An active member of the PTA and a nine-year board member, Feldmann 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.

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

She’d 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.

“I feel very honored to be elected to represent the community,” Phillips said. “I was a little disappointed on the turn-out of how many people came out to vote. We are a big district and I was hoping to see more voters. They need to realize that it starts at the local level to make changes. I would like to bring parents, educators and lawmakers together and begin to find solutions for the benefit of all students. I’m excited to continue to advocate for the children.”

Ellie Estevez

Estevez, a three-year resident and a senior at Newfield High School, said she wants to continue to offer students opportunities for success and academic excellence.

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. She said she likes the unique student, soon-to-be graduate aspect she brings to the board.

“As the district looks ahead to the 2017-18 school year, we will continue to offer our wide-ranging educational programs aimed at preparing students for success, today, and long after their time at Middle Country has concluded,” Gerold said. “District-wide STEM programs, math literacy initiatives, music, arts and athletics programs — all aid in this mission to deliver an education that offers students a foundation to make positive contributions in the world.”

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 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.

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