This year, Mount Sinai will have five candidates running for three open trustee seats. Board member AnneMarie Henninger’s seat will come up for vote again after she replaced trustee Michael Riggio, who vacated his position in August. Board member Lynn Jordan will be vying for re-election. Challengers this year are Lisa Pfeffer, Chris Quartarone and Robert Pignatello. Mount Sinai will host its budget vote and trustee elections May 21 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the elementary school back gym.
The challenger has lived in Mount Sinai since 1998, and had moved into the district from Centereach with her husband Robert to be closer to family and for the excellent standards. In the past, she has served as president and vice president at a local cooperative preschool and volunteers for school and community organizations. She became a Mount Sinai civic board member in 2014 and currently serves as the civics’ recording secretary.
“I want to make sure all students are represented and that we are providing them with skills that they can take to college and that they can use in their careers,” Pfeffer said.
Pfeffer said she is passionate about community service and, as her youngest child is attending the district, she wanted to see if she could have a voice on the board.
One of the areas she mentioned she liked to see the district improve on is offering more STEM-based and robotics programs for students.
“There are over 50 school districts on Long Island, including many of our surrounding districts, that are competing in robotics and in national scientific research competitions, such as Regeneron,” she said. “Mount Sinai is not one of them.”
Pfeffer has recently been working with the superintendent and the district’s director of STEM, on finding ways that they can introduce and implement programs that will support students that are interested in learning computer coding and robotics.
“These are fundamental programs that are necessary for our students to be competitive academically and globally,” the Mount Sinai resident said. “They open up scholarship and internship opportunities for students who are preparing for higher education and for future careers in STEM, more specifically in computer science and engineering.”
Pfeffer said they have some of the best teachers on Long Island and for being a small school district they continue to offer many academic programs.
“I would like to find creative ways in which we can hold on to such programs and even implement new ones,” she said. “Some solutions might be, relying more on funding through BOCES, and through our parent organizations, as well as outside community members and donors. Also, I would like to work closely with elected representatives to try and secure more funding for the school district.”
Pfeffer said she understands the dynamic of the community after living there for so long. She has the unique experience of working with the community as a civic board member and by volunteering in school organizations and in community fundraising events.
The incumbent has been a Mount Sinai resident for the past 22 years, and she has two children in the high school currently. She is seeking re-election after serving on the board since replacing trustee Michael Riggio, who vacated his position in August 2018.
“I am running for the board because I feel like I bring a unique perspective as a parent and someone working in education/special education,” she said. “I am used to working collaboratively with a team to achieve goals. I think that the ability to work respectably as a group is vital.”
Henninger said she wants to make sure every student in the district reaches their fullest potential and that as a whole, the board is listening to the community.
“Communication is vital — if we don’t know what is not working or how the community feels, we can’t help so that’s an area where the board has set up,” she said.
Henninger has learned a lot from being on the board this school year. She said it has been a great experience and would like to continue to serve the district.
“I think that I bring a long history of volunteering and giving back to our school and our community. I am dedicated and will work hard to communicate to the community achievements, progress and challenges we are facing as a district,” she said.
The incumbent has lived in the Mount Sinai community for 44 years and has served as a trustee on the board of education since 2007. She was elected vice president of the board for the 2018-2019 school year.
The Mount Sinai resident has dedicated a majority of time over years to volunteering. She has participated in various PTA groups, was a founding president of the Mount Sinai Friends of Art and is a volunteer first aid instructor for American Red Cross on Long Island.
Jordan said she brings a lot of experience and dedication to the position, has a strong interest in the community, past participation in the community/school programs and activities as well as a good record of attending board meetings and voting on budgets.
When it comes to the strength of the district, the veteran board member believes Mount Sinai has strong principals, goals and a board that isn’t afraid to ask questions.
“We constantly review data relating to classes, accomplishments and outcomes. We are not afraid to makes changes if necessary,” Jordan said. “Our graduation rate is very strong — more and more of our students are being accepted in highly ranked colleges and universities.”
She pointed to infrastructure as an area of weakness for the district.
“For too many years the infrastructure of the district has been fixed with Band-Aids; we worked to correct this via a bond issue, but it was voted down,” she said. “We will now do as much of the work as possible via capital projects, which need voter approval each year.”
Jordan said she loves this work and wants to continue to contribute to the school district.
The challenger has lived in Mount Sinai with his wife and three sons for the past 10 years. He and his wife were drawn to the town because of the small town feel of the community. He has led a sales team for Johnson & Johnson for almost 13 years.
Quartarone said the decision to run for board came pretty quickly.
“Parents from a few different circles have encouraged me to run because of my involvement in the community, the ideas I have and the affable approach I have to life,” he said. “Being a father is the proudest moment of my life. I want to be certain every child in our district is considered.”
The Mount Sinai resident wants to expand the level of communication between the board and the community. He said social media is a good platform, but he thinks more face-to-face meetings and community involvement will have a greater impact.
“Meetings with the civic association, PTO and other well-established organizations will help create a true shared vision,” said Quartarone. “As far as issues, voter turnout is a major concern. We need to get more involved.”
He believes winning begets winning, and a few small wins like more votes will create excitement and will lead to a greater impact on everyone in the community.
The trustee candidate believes the district should continue to play to its strengths. He said Mount Sinai has a strong history and because of the size of the district and community they can make things happen quickly.
“Economies of scale may not be on our side like other districts, but if we play to our strengths we will maintain and expand on the history we have established,” Quartarone said. “Mount Sinai is an amazing place that will only get better.”
The Mount Sinai resident said he is not afraid to speak up and as someone who is new to the board, would bring fresh set of ideas and look out for every child in the district.
“I always maintain a positive attitude and most importantly I will always be honest,” he said. “The community can expect a common voice. I will make myself available.”
The challenger moved with his family to Mount Sinai more than six years ago and was looking for a place to establish roots. One of the reasons he chose Mount Sinai was the blue ribbon quality of the school district and he’d like to help the district return to that level. The Mount Sinai resident has three children in the district.
Pignatello is a former small business owner who has spent the last 24 years as a chief steward union representative for the Communications Workers of America, Local 1101. He said in a Facebook post on Mount Sinai Resident’s Open Forum that his natural preference is to find common ground through honesty, transparency and cooperation. He believes he can apply his skills and experience of representing 500 workers to the district and community.
Pignatello said he would use his experience representing a union to go out and engage the community.
“The most important thing is to make sure people are informed,” he said. “You want someone to go out and engage with parents and educators who is personable and has a personality.”