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Neil Lederer

Returning board member Michael Yannucci and newcomers Katie Anderson, Erin Hunt and Henry Perez, will replace two incumbents. Photo by Kevin Redding

Shoreham-Wading River voters may have passed the school budget Tuesday night, but residents made it clear they want change.

Katie Anderson

The district’s $74,842,792 budget for 2017-2018 was supported by residents with 1,112 for and 992 against, as was a second proposition to establish a 10-year, $7.5 million capital reserve fund with 1,282 voters in support and 813 in opposition.

With the capital reserve fund secured, the district will be able to fund complete facility renovations across its four schools, such as Americans with Disabilities Act features, upgrading athletic fields, bleachers, auditoriums, computers, energy management systems and gymnasiums, among other projects.

“It’s a great relief,” Neil Lederer, the district’s interim superintendent, said of the budget and capital reserve fund passing. “I’m very appreciative of the community … mistakes were made in the past, [and] we’ve corrected them for the future with this budget they voted on. The individuals who benefit the most from this are our students — we’ve got some very nice programs put in place next year.”

Henry Perez

It was out with the old and in with the new when it came to the seven candidates who ran for four seats on the board of education.

Two incumbents, board president John Zukowski and trustee Jack Costas, were ousted with 524 and 563 votes, respectively, in favor of three school board newcomers — Katie Anderson (1,318), Henry Perez (1,303) and Erin Hunt (1,279) — who will each serve a three-year term.

Michael Yannucci, a former trustee from 2005 to 2008, received the fourth highest number of votes with 1,087, so he will occupy the vacant seat that belonged to longtime trustee Michael Fucito, who resigned in March before his term was up. He will serve a one-year term and was sworn in immediately after the vote.

Candidate James Smith missed the mark with 1,015 votes. Zukowski, who’s served on the board for six years, said he does not intend to run for the board again. Costas, who was up for his fourth term, also won’t run again.

“I did nine years, the community doesn’t want me, that’s it — I’m done,” Costas said. “I get the message. I’m glad the budget passed and I give the best of luck to the new board.”

Smith, however, expressed interest in running for Yannucci’s seat after the one-year term is up next year.

“There’s a very good possibility,” Smith said. “I’m disappointed, but I wish all the candidates well and hope they make the best decisions for the students and district and community.”

The board’s new crop of trustees, who were all smiles after the results came in, said they were excited to help guide the district.

“I’m on a high,” said Perez, a professional engineer. “I’m thankful that people have faith that I can hopefully provide further vision toward taking the school district to the next level. I’m hoping to work collaboratively with everybody.”

Michael Yannucci

Hunt, a former secondary education teacher, echoed Perez’s call for collaboration.

“I think we have a diverse board and I’m thrilled to work with everybody,” Hunt said. “The main thing we can do is change the narrative in the district to a positive one. Shoreham-Wading River is a really great community and I think we can move forward by focusing on building on all the positive we have here. We can also do more to connect our communities.”

Yannucci said there’s a lot of work to be done to be a more transparent district.

“In my run, I think we had a strong message of bringing the community into the process and engaging a lot of people who were not engaged prior to the election,” he said. “There’s been a loss of faith over the last few years and I’m excited to be able to restore the faith and give the community a sense of pride in terms of the decisions and direction of the district.”

Anderson, a mother of two students in the district, is determined to get to work as soon as possible.

“I’m so thankful to the voters for how the vote went,” Anderson said. “I’m ready to serve.”


A student voice

By Kevin Redding

Jack Tressler wanted to try something new at the start of the academic year — so he threw his hat in the ring to be the student member of the Shoreham-Wading River board of education.

Tressler, a senior, was officially sworn in April 18 to sit in on board meetings and represent the student body by weighing in on district-related matters and discussions.

“I’ve learned a lot about how people conduct themselves and how things at the school are done and how people present their ideas,” Tressler said. “I don’t think a lot of people, especially students, know how these things work and now I have some idea. I’ve been able to present myself in front of professionals and act cordially and it’s helped me out in terms of public speaking, [something] I’ve always been weak with.”

Jack Tressler gets sworn in. Photo from Shoreham-Wading River school district

But at his first board meeting, when a group of engineers proposed their plans to renovate the high school’s parking lot, Tressler was quick to speak up.

“They wanted to renovate the lot and most of their renditions would make for less parking spots, and being a student myself, the parking’s already a bad situation — there aren’t always enough spots.”

With just another month as a board member, Tressler, an AP physics and AP environmental science student, said he’d like to implement some change in regards to the school’s environmental standards, like switching to glass bottles in the district.

“In his role as a student board of education member, Jack has proved to be invaluable,” interim Superintendent of Schools Neil Lederer said. “He has provided the board with a unique student perspective that is important to consider when making decisions. I have also been impressed with Jack’s willingness to contribute and self-confidence.”

Tressler will serve on the board until the end of June, when he’ll pass the torch to a new student representative. In the fall, he will be studying physics and engineering at James Madison University in Virginia.

Photo by Kevin Redding Shoreham-Wading River’s new superintendent, Gerard Poole, speaks during an April 18 board of education meeting. Photo by Kevin Redding

After a grueling months-long search, Shoreham-Wading River school district has finally found a new superintendent.

Gerard Poole, who has served as Freeport School District’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction since 2013, was officially appointed at the top of Shoreham-Wading River’s April 18 board of education meeting.

He will be the district’s full-time superintendent, taking over for interim Neil Lederer, effective July 1.

An educator for more than 20 years, Poole, 50, started out as an elementary school teacher and instructional coach in the Riverhead Central School District and eventually landed an administrative position in Valley Stream school district before transferring to Freeport.

“It’s truly a privilege and an honor to have the chance to collaborate and build upon the successes of the school district.”

—Gerard Poole

Although Poole has been a lifelong resident of Mattituck, where he lives with his wife and two sons, he said it was an easy decision to apply for the Shoreham-Wading River position. He said he believes it’s one of the best districts on Long Island.

“It’s truly a privilege and an honor to have the chance to collaborate and build upon the successes of the school district,” Poole said during the meeting. “I’ve met many parents, teachers and administrators and [got] a warm welcome and sense of community from everyone.”

When he was interviewed back in February, he said it was clear he and the district saw eye to eye.

“I thought it was a great fit,” Poole said.

There are some key things for every superintendent to be successful, he explained.

“[The most important thing] is to be really open, accessible, forthright, collaborate with the community — to really find out exactly where we want to head, figure out the programs and what the student needs to really reach their full potential,” he said. “It’s not just really important for me to look at documents or student outcomes, but to really listen and hear from parents, staff and students, and work with the board to continue to come up with the great work that’s already in place here in Shoreham.”

Poole’s outlook falls directly in line with what parents in the district asked for.

Bob Freier and Joann Kaplan of District Wise Search Consultants were hired by the district in November not just to find a new superintendent, but to gauge the community on what kind of characteristics they should seek in finding a permanent replacement for previous full-time superintendent Steven Cohen, who retired last summer after holding the position for five years.

Kaplan said the group interviewed more than 30 prospective candidates and narrowed it down to Poole.

“One of the things that stood out for me was how do we become one of those special districts on Long Island? One way is to pick a leader that has a vision. For me, he had that vision.”

—John Zukowski

“It was very important for the superintendent to be a face in the community and be a part of the fiber of the school — not just somebody in the office but somebody who would become a part of the culture of Shoreham-Wading River,” Kaplan said. “We actively recruited [Poole] because he’s brought so many incredible things to Freeport. He met our goals and excelled.”

During his four years in Freeport, Poole focused on providing world-class opportunities for his students, believing that all of them should receive core foundational skills before graduating.

He partnered with local universities to implement a challenging curriculum to prepare students for college, which included elementary-level introduction to technology, advanced science research and expanding college credit opportunities.

Board president John Zukowski said Poole stood out above the rest of the candidates.

“He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the district — he knows the culture here,” Zukowski said. “He has a lot of enthusiasm and incredible ideas. One of the things that stood out for me was how do we become one of those special districts on Long Island? One way is to pick a leader that has a vision. For me, he had that vision.”

Zukowski ended the meeting by referring to Michelangelo, the Italian Renaissance artist, who for three straight years slaved away at a massive piece of marble deemed too defective by other sculptors to create something out of. Michelangelo eventually sculpted his renowned David statue out of that rock. When asked how he did it, the artist said, “I see the angels in the marble, and I carve until I set them free.”

“On those days in this job when you feel you are just pounding rocks,” Zukowski said to Poole, “I’m going to ask you to keep carving because we definitely have angels here that you can set free. On behalf of the board, welcome aboard … we look forward to working with you so we can develop the potential of every kid in this district.”

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

Shoreham-Wading River school district officials took action Thursday night following a threat to one of their schools.

On March 16, an anonymous text message to a student in the early morning threatened that “something might occur” at the high school March 17. The student who received the text reported it to district administrators,  who put in place procedures, which entailed searching lockers and school bags in addition to adding overnight security, upon hearing the news of the threat.

“We had a good plan in place to ensure the safety of our students,” superintendent Neil Lederer said. “Fortunately, we didn’t have to implement it because we identified the individual late last night.”

The student who sent the text will receive “appropriate consequences.”

“At this point there is no threat and the situation has been successfully resolved,” Lederer said in a letter on the school district’s website. “We take very seriously the potential threat to the safety of our schools and immediately notified the Suffolk County Police Department. The health, safety and welfare of our students and staff are always out main priority. Please know that every precaution is taken on a daily basis to protect the safety of our students and staff and to provide a secure learning environment for all.”

Back in January, the high school was also informed of an Instagram threat. The student was immediately identified and disciplinary measures were also administered in that case. Authorities were also notified and involved in the investigation in that case. It is unclear whether the two incidents are at all related.

Lederer did not respond to questions for comment.

The Suffolk County Police Department has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Updates will follow when more information is available.

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