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Rocky Point Board of Education Trustee Sean Callahan, left, is running for re-election, while Comsewogue High School Principal Joseph Coniglione, right, is running for trustee Melissa Brown’s soon-to-be vacant seat, as she’s choosing not to run again. Photos from Rocky Point school district

Rocky Point has two candidates, an incumbent and a newcomer, vying for two open board of education seats.

With trustee Melissa Brown choosing not to run again, trustee Sean Callahan seeks re-election while Joseph Coniglione, Comsewogue High School principal, is putting his name in the hat.

Sean Callahan

Callahan, a 41-year resident and graduate of the Rocky Point school district, was first elected to the board three years ago. He has worked as an external auditor specializing in auditing school districts, is a certified New York State School Business Official and currently serves as an employment and labor attorney, well versed in bond and civil service issues and other aspects of education and school law.

If elected, he said he wants to continue the communication among all stakeholders that has started to come back to the district.

“When I first ran, there was a breakdown between the administration, the existing board and teachers,” Callahan said. “I believe the board has since made an earnest effort to really talk to the community and teachers to hear their concerns. I’m trying to continue the dialogue — I talk to the custodians, teachers, everybody in the district. That’s what I hope to continue.”

As a member of the board, Callahan has seen a tightening of academic eligibility policies, where students are required to perform well in the classroom before they can take part in any extracurricular activity.

Outside of the board, Callahan has been involved in the North Shore Little League for more than nine years and coaches CYO basketball and soccer for St. Anthony’s Church in Rocky Point. He and his wife have three sons — aged 18, 17 and 15 — enrolled in the high school.

Joseph Coniglione

Coniglione, an educator for 22 years and  principal of Comsewogue High School, has decided to make a run for a seat on Rocky Point’s board of education.

“I want to make sure there’s an open line of communication among parents, teachers and students,” Coniglione said. “The goal should always be to make sound decisions in the best interest of the student’s academic, social and emotional needs. I’m always looking to do a better job [in Comsewogue] and have had great success in this area. It’s really all about the kids. I want what’s best for them.”

Looking to be part of the team, the 15-year Rocky Point resident, and father of two students in the district, grew up in Holbrook and graduated from Sachem High School before earning his master’s degree in reading and elementary education from Dowling College. He taught special education in the Brentwood school district for 10 years, before becoming assistant principal and ultimately principal at Comsewogue. He’s served the Comsewogue district now for the past 12 years.

At Comsewogue, Coniglione said he’s implemented parent and student committees, as well as surveys throughout the school, to gauge a wide variety of perspectives on how to improve the district. He wants to bring more transparency to Rocky Point and encourages the board to open up its books and ask the public what they think needs to change.

In the past, Coniglione said he had been concerned about balancing his role as principal and board member, which is why he never ran previously. But in speaking with administration in both the Comsewogue and Rocky Point districts, he realized there would be no issue.

“There seems to be no conflicts at all — everything is spread out and the meetings I need to be at, I can book around,” he said. “The Comsewogue administration is very supportive of my run and the board told me it wouldn’t be an issue.”

The school budget and board of education vote is on May 16 at the Rocky Point High School gym from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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.”

Shoreham-Wading River school board member Michael Fucito, at center with a commemorative dedication statue, was congratulated by the board on his retirement. Photo by Kevin Redding

At the end of last week’s Shoreham-Wading River school board meeting, it bid farewell to its “rock of reason” — a member who’s devoted 27 years to bettering the district and the lives of its students.

In announcing the retirement and resignation of Michael Fucito, 79, who first joined the school board in 1977, board president John Zukowski said Fucito had an incredible commitment to the community and had always been prepared for every meeting, leaving the job with the same dedication he started with.

Michael Fucito, on right, who was a member of the Shoreham-Wading River Board of Education for 27 years, is congratulated on his retirement by his peers. Photo by Kevin Redding

“When we get this job, we’re all sent out for this training [in Albany] and they tell you how to be a board member,” Zukowski said. “What they ought to do [instead] is say, ‘go follow Mike Fucito around for a couple days’ … he’s always applied his common sense and his logic and he kept everybody on track.”

Fucito, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Wading River, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 until 1959 working on radio systems and learning about electronics before becoming an electrical engineer at Northrup Grumman Corporation in Calverton, where he worked for 34 years. He married his wife Joan in 1960 and together they had three daughters, all of whom went through the school district.

Fucito decided to join the board, and served for two terms from 1977 until 1993 and then from 2006 until last week, because he felt it was his responsibility to give back to the community and improve the district as best he could.

During his tenure, he was a mover and shaker when it came to building maintenance, budget and overall safety for the students, serving on the main board of liaisons on the safety committee formed in the late 70s and 80s, when the much-opposed Shoreham nuclear power plant stood in East Shoreham.

The safety committee, consisting of concerned residents, board members and teachers, was formed to discuss the district’s evacuation plans in the event of a serious nuclear accident at the plant, in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident.

“Mike is the epitome of what a trustee should strive to be. He’s always prepared … he’s always willing to serve, go the extra mile, sit through the ardor of every different committee and always comes out with his same smile.”

—William McGrath

“He was always an incredibly conscientious, hardworking, reflective guy and that’s what you want in a board member,” said Ed Weiss, a former board member and Fucito’s longtime friend. “You’re there to help kids and that’s the way he worked.”

He didn’t anticipate his early March resignation. He planned on finishing out the school year before retiring, moving from Wading River to his summer home in Wells, Vermont, but his house ended up selling in just three days.

Board trustee William McGrath, who’s worked alongside Fucito on the board for nine years, said his friend’s early resignation is New York’s loss and Vermont’s gain.

“Mike is the epitome of what a trustee should strive to be,” McGrath said. “He’s always prepared … he’s always willing to serve, go the extra mile, sit through the ardor of every different committee and always comes out with his same smile … He has been the glue that has held this district together for an awful long time.”

Upon receiving a plaque presented by the board, Fucito humbly stated his accomplishments weren’t a one-person effort, and said it takes a whole board to work to get something done.

“It has been my pleasure to serve the community all these years and I also have a great deal of respect for each of the members I’ve served with,” he said. “I wasn’t on the board to try to be a superhero or anything, I just tried to work with the staff and see how we could improve the situation for the students.”

Student representative Brandon Cea discusses Ward Melville's graduation gown controversy during a board meeting. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

To some, tradition is at stake. To others, the issue is about inclusion and sensitivity. Yet another group wonders, why the fuss about a graduation gown?

And, that sums up the furor that continues following an announcement of a new, gender-neutral, green gown and gold stole for Ward Melville High School seniors. Proposed as a symbol of inclusion and sensitivity, the decision has instead ignited division. 

Board President William Connors weighs in on Ward Melville’s graduation gown controversy at a board meeting. Photo by Andrea Paldy

Two weeks ago, the news that female graduates would no longer march in gold and their male counterparts green, produced a flurry of activity on social media, petitions and protests.

Last week’s school board meeting offered yet another venue for people to express opposition and support about the topic, bringing out speaker after speaker.

“I could not care less what color gown my daughter wears,” said parent Christine Gacovino, whose daughter graduates in June.

The mother said she was most upset by what she saw as the underlying sentiment of those opposed to the change. The reaction indicated “that we have a serious problem with sensitivity in this district,” she said.“Sensitivity and acceptance are so important.” Senior Robert Brando said that for a decision that was meant to unite and include, he feels “anything but included.”

It is “more than just the color of the cloth,” said Brandon Cea, a senior and student representative to the board.

“The issue has come to represent tradition, the rights of the LGTBQ community and the perceived lack of communication between students and administration,” Cea said in a prepared statement.

Ward Melville High School principal Alan Baum, who was in attendance at the meeting, laid out his rationale for the change in a March 2 letter: “In addition to creating a unified senior class, it is our hope that creating a unifying color scheme will eliminate the anxiety that is caused by forcing a young adult to wear a gown that labels them differently from how they identify.”

The prevailing sentiment of parents and students speaking against the new gowns was that they were not “anti-anything.” They simply wanted to honor tradition and democracy, they said. As well, there should have been more discussion with students and the community about the change, they said.

In the wake of the protests, Cea told the school board that the student leadership had met to “establish a new tradition, a tradition where we are Patriots.” Ward Melville students, he said, are proposing the establishment of a student council and a schedule of town hall meetings, so students can express opinions and ask questions about school policy.

“Together, we need to understand the issues on both sides and not allow meaningful conversation to be lost.”

— Brandon Cea

“Together, we need to understand the issues on both sides and not allow meaningful conversation to be lost,” Cea said.

Speaking on behalf of the school board, President William Connors acknowledged that while Baum’s intentions were good, his “rollout” could have been improved through better communication and community involvement.

“The process for these types of decisions will be addressed and solidified to assure that this type of incident does not occur again,” Connors said.

Baum has arranged for female students to retake their senior pictures in the green gowns they will wear for graduation. The photography company has agreed to do the pictures without charging the students or the district.

Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich was conciliatory.

“It disheartens me to see our school district divided,” she said. “I never want to see that. Our students are precious to us. They are so incredibly valued.

“I’m sorry that the students didn’t have a voice. They should have, absolutely, but now is the time for this district to move forward. I’m imploring you to come together and move forward, because that’s what we need to do.”

This version corrects a previously inaccurate statement. Ward Melville High School Principal Alan Baum did attend the meeting.

Part of the funds will go toward a new wireless network

Rocky Point High School. File photo by Desirée Keegan

By Kevin Redding

More than two years after New York State voters passed the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014, Rocky Point school district is moving forward on its preliminary investment plan to fund improvements in educational technology and infrastructure for K-12 students.

At a school board meeting last week, Susan Wilson, executive director for educational services at the district, gave a presentation to the public about how grant money from the state, totaling $2.45 million, will be utilized.

“This is really to provide improved learning and educational opportunities for students in Rocky Point,” Wilson said. “Through the act, every school is getting a different amount of money and the state wants us to develop new and exciting things for school technology.”

If approved by the board of education in a March 20 vote, the district’s preliminary plan will be brought to the state and, from there, funds will kick in for the eventual installation of a high-speed wireless network throughout the school, which would require a full update of the current network.

“It’s a big deal for us because it gives us the ability to expand on our educational programs and allow us to start engaging with online testing.”

— Michael Ring

Of the $2.45 million grant, $525,000 of it will go toward the installation of the networks, while $510,000 will go toward upgrading infrastructure, leaving about $1.4 million left.

Wilson said she and the Technology Committee — the group that’s been working on the preliminary plan for over a year — are considering to use the leftover funds for classroom lab equipment upgrades or tablets or laptops. A technology meeting will be held Jan. 26 in the district office where public input is encouraged.

In fact, the district is offering a 30-day comment period for community members to weigh in on how the extra money should be spent, which started Jan. 9 and will continue through Feb. 9.

“It’s a thorough process that requires a lot of input from various stakeholders,” Wilson said.

Among the major stakeholders are teachers, students, parents, BOE members, higher education and district tech support.

According to Wilson, the turnaround to see the preliminary plan in action is completely dependent on the state and its approvals, but she hopes phase one, the installation of the wireless networks, will happen between September 2017 and September 2018.

The executive director said the initiation of the Smart Schools Bond Act partly served as a jumping-off point toward online testing in the future. New York has indicated that by 2022, all regents and state assessment exams must be taken online.

Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said he’s excited for the upgrades and what it could do for the district.

“Once we have Wi-Fi we can go from having a handful of active wireless users who are on hot spots to thousands with access,” Ring said. “It’s a big deal for us because it gives us the ability to expand on our educational programs and allow us to start engaging with online testing. It’s a long process, but it’s worth it in the end.”

If you have any questions or comments regarding the preliminary plan, contact Susan Wilson at swilson@rpufsd.org. The technology meeting on Jan. 26 in the district office is open to the public.

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Rocky Point Board of Education members announce the results for the bond. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After much anticipation, the Rocky Point Board of Education members revealed the results for the school district’s $20.4 million maintenance bond after voting took place on Monday, and the results were less than impressive.

The bond’s $17,478,513 Proposition 1 received 396 votes in opposition and 320 votes in favor. Proposition 2 was also defeated, 465 to 233 votes.

The bond aimed to target repairs and renovations to the facilities, as well as health and safety projects. Proposition 1 focused on major projects, like bathroom repairs, upkeep, or additions, like outdoor bathrooms; fixing boilers; lighting ceilings; air conditioning; and locker room renovations, among other projects. Proposition 2 dealt with what some residents perceived as minor projects. This included funding items like artificial grass.

Less than 1,000 residents went to the Rocky Point High School gymnasium and voted on the bond. Wendy Guthy, of Rocky Point, whose third child recently graduated from the high school, was one of many residents who voted against the bond.

“There are things that the community doesn’t feel is necessary based on what [the Board of Education] told us two years ago,” Guthy said.

She said the board informed residents that the institution was in good standing in 2013. Guthy also added her thoughts on some renovations she found unnecessary, like repairs to the turf on the athletic field. Other residents shared Guthy’s same opinion regarding the bond’s minor projects. Rocky Point resident Judy Stringer said the bond’s propositions had “too much fluff and too many wants…instead of needs.”

“All those extra bathrooms and turf is not needed,” Stringer said in a phone interview. “Things that should be taken care of [are] the high school bathrooms and the Frank J. Carasiti bathrooms. Those things are important and necessary for the children.”

While Guthy said no to the renovations, it is not because she wants to deprive students of the renovations, but thinks about the pressure it would put on parents’ wallets.

“It’s difficult to say, ‘No,’ to the kids,” Guthy said. “But you have to be budget-minded too.”

According to the board’s newsletter regarding the bond, the state would have funded the majority of the bond, which requires taxpayer dollars. Despite this, the board’s newsletter claimed that Rocky Point taxpayers would pay less than $8 monthly to fund the propositions. Residents would have experienced a total tax impact of $92.35 if the bond was passed. Even if Proposition 2 passed, the approval of the entire bond would depend on whether the first proposition passed.

One resident, who did not want to give her name directly after voting, said she felt bad voting in opposition of the bond but she “wanted to send a message, that [the Rocky Point Board of Education]…shouldn’t tack on those extra things.” While this resident admitted that a new heating system was in order among other necessities, she said minor projects deterred her from voting for the bill. At the time, she believed the bond would pass.

During the Aug. 31 Board of Education meeting, some individuals from the New York State United Teachers School Related Professionals Association gathered to voice their opinions regarding teaching assistants versus teaching aides, and added that they would not vote in favor of the bond if the board were to eliminate teaching aide positions. Jessica Ward’s position as a teaching aide was eliminated during that meeting.

Many of these individuals attended the Monday meeting.

Rocky Point BOE President Susan Sullivan said the board tried to address the needs of the school and was disappointed with Monday night’s results on the bond.

“As elected representatives of our community, the Board of Education worked to present a bond that struck a balance between the infrastructural needs of our buildings and repairs that would preserve the integrity of our schools in a financially responsible manner,” Sullivan said in an email. “It is disappointing that the proposal presented did not garner the support of our community. We are committed to continuing to provide our students and staff with a safe and secure learning environment and will work together with our community to discuss ways to properly support our educational facilities.”

Despite the results, Superintendent of Schools for Rocky Point school district, Michael Ring, still appreciated residents’ participation with the bond.

“The district thanks the public for their participation in the bond vote,” Ring said in an email. “Moving forward, the district will continue to review its facilities’ needs in order to determine actions that may be necessary to sustain the integrity and maintenance of our buildings and grounds.”

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Superintendent James Grossane file photo

The Dignity for All Students Act coordinators for the 2015-16 school year were renewed on Tuesday at Smithtown’s Board of Education meeting.

The Dignity Act is a New York State law that was put into effect in July 2012. It amended section 801-a of state education law regarding instruction in civility, citizenship and character education by expanding the concepts of tolerance, respect for others and dignity.

It is mostly focused on elementary and secondary school students and creates an anti-bully zone at school, school buses and all school functions.

This act is meant to raise awareness and sensitivity in human relations including different weights, race, national origins, religion, ethnic groups, mental and physical abilities, and gender and sexual identification.

This act requires all New York State boards of education to include language addressing the Dignity Act in their codes of conduct. Schools are also responsible for collecting and reporting data regarding material incidents of harassment and discrimination.

“It’s basically an anti-bullying law,” Superintendent James Grossane said after the meeting. “It’s to help with students who are feeling harassed or excluded.”

Coordinators for this act are usually the principals of every school building, according to Grossane.

Jennifer Thompson, center, with her family, husband Brent, son Sterling and daughter Lauren. Photo from Thompson

After serving for more than six years as a trustee on the Northport-East Northport school board, Jennifer Thompson has set her sights on a bigger role.

Thompson, 44, wants to be the Huntington Town Board’s next councilwoman, and she is seeking election to one of two seats up for grabs on Nov. 3. She’s running alongside incumbent Councilman Gene Cook (I), both of whom are endorsed by the Huntington Town Republican Committee.

Last Friday, the Northport mother-of-two sat down for an interview at Book Revue in Huntington to talk about her campaign. She had just gotten back from a boat trip to Connecticut to celebrate her birthday on her family’s 27-foot sailboat, with her husband Brent and their children, Sterling and Lauren.

A passion for education was instilled in Thompson at a young age — through her parents who emigrated to the U.S. from eastern India — and it seems fitting that Thompson’s first role as a public servant was on the school board, where she felt a responsibility to be engaged in the community.

“Both of my parents had a strong sense to live differently, and the main reason they immigrated was for a better education,” Thompson said.

Although she was born in Queens, she lived in California for most of her life, moving there when she was four years old. Thompson received her undergraduate degree from The Master’s College, and her graduate degree from California State University. After graduating, she worked as a special education teacher in California and then as an administrator.

In 2006, Thompson and her family moved to Northport. Her husband got a job at Suffolk County Community College. Just four years later, she was petitioning for her first term as a school board trustee.

If elected, Thompson would transition off the school board, and her seat would likely remain vacant until elections in May, although it would be up to the board to decide exactly how to proceed.

“She is very focused and approachable, and is 100 percent focused on whoever she is representing,” Tammie Topel, a fellow school board trustee, who has served four years with Thompson, said about her colleague. “She dedicates herself and is extremely reliable.”

At a recent Suffolk County Police Department 2nd Precinct community meeting, residents called for an increase in the police force following three shootings in July and August.

Thompson was at that meeting, and afterwards she researched whether adding staff is the best solution to solve the problem. “Sometimes it’s about your resources and seeing if you’re using them as effectively as possible.”

According to Thompson, the Town of Riverhead has specialized police forces, and she believes this contributes to the town thriving in the last five years. She said she believes the solution of more specialized forces would work in Huntington as well.

Residents have sounded off on overdevelopment in Huntington Town in the past few years. Thompson is clear that she is against overdevelopment, and that she would’ve voted against the zone change permitting the Seasons in Elwood, a 256-unit project for individuals 55 and older, to go through.

“That community did not want it in their community, and the fact that the town council disregarded that is, I think, heartbreaking,” she said. “They were elected by these people to be their voice and to not come alongside the very residents they represent. I think it is anti-democratic.”

She added that she feels that Huntington has the right balance of industrial and business areas and open land, something she doesn’t want to see compromised. “If we wanted to live in Queens, we would’ve bought a house in Queens.”

Recently, Eaton’s Neck residents have been urging the town board to allow for longbow hunting of deer. The residents claim deer have overpopulated the area and pose a public health risk, as the animals are linked to increases in tick-born illnesses like Lyme disease.

This issue literally came into Thompson’s backyard the night before, as she showed a photo of the deer by her fence she snapped from her bedroom window. While she is mindful of animal’s rights, she said she is more mindful of the risk to the public. “I’m always going to be more concerned with public safety.”

If elected, Thompson would like to introduce legislation governing town board term limits. Two terms would be her preference.

“If our highest elected official can’t go more than two terms, why should local officials go longer?”

Thompson confirmed that if not elected, this would be her last term as a school board member. She signed a petition brought to the board earlier this summer to reduce the size of the school board. The petition also suggested looking into term limits.

“I signed the petition because I think the community deserves the opportunity to vote on it,” she said. “Whatever the community decides, I will support that.”

Tim Farrell, a personal friend of Thompson’s for more than 10 years, believes Thompson will bring a powerful work ethic to the town board, if elected. He believes she will also bring a level of transparency and honesty.

“She never settles for anything, even small things, like planning a weekend for the kids,” he said. “She doesn’t generally fail; she won’t allow it.”

Newly elected Trustee Christine Biernacki takes her oath of office on Monday. Photo by Rohma Abbas

A new leader has taken the helm of the Huntington school board.

Trustee Tom DiGiacomo was unanimously voted the president of the school board at the board’s reorganizational meeting on Monday evening. Trustee Xavier Palacios nominated him for the position, and Trustee Bari Fehrs seconded his nomination.

Trustee Jennifer Hebert maintained her position as vice president of the board.

Newly appointed school board President Tom DiGiacomo is sworn in. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Newly appointed school board President Tom DiGiacomo is sworn in. Photo by Rohma Abbas

DiGiacomo succeeds incumbent President Emily Rogan, a nine-year member of the board, who has held the leadership role for four years.

After his appointment as president, DiGiacomo publicly thanked Rogan for her leadership, noting she’d “done an excellent job in helping our district improve.” He noted, at one point, that he had “big shoes” to fill.

When reached by phone on Wednesday, Rogan said she supported DiGiacomo.

“I think he will do a terrific job,” she said. “Tom has my support 100 percent. Did I still want to be president? I would have gladly been president. There were trustees on the board who wanted a change.”

In an interview after the meeting, DiGiacomo spoke briefly about his appointment.

“I’m honored and privileged that my fellow trustees have nominated me and made me president.”

Newly elected Trustee Christine Biernacki also took an oath of office at Monday night’s meeting, along with several other school officials, including Superintendent Jim Polansky and District Clerk Joanne Miranda.

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