Four vie for two Mount Sinai school board seats
V.P. Donna Compagnone not seeking re-election
After 12 years, Mount Sinai school board Vice President Donna Compagnone decided her fourth term on the board would be her last.
In a phone interview on Monday, Compagnone reflected on her tenure fondly, describing the experience as “heartwarming and fun” and an “honor.”
“Most of all I got to see the kids, so many of them go from kindergarten to graduation.”
As both of her children have graduated from the district, Compagnone said it was just time.
But her seat won’t stay empty, as four candidates, including incumbent Lynn Capobianco, submitted petitions to run for two open seats on the board. Also running are newcomers Michael Riggio, John DeBlasio and Joanne Rentz.
Running for her second term, Capobianco, 65, said three years serving on the board doesn’t feel like a very long time.
“Lots of exciting things have started and I wanted to continue the momentum that has begun,” she said in a recent phone interview.
One of the exciting items is full-day kindergarten. Capobianco, who is a retired school librarian, said that as an early childhood educator she was happy to be part of the full-day kindergarten forums and felt it was important to discuss the program, which is included in the district’s proposed 2015-16 school year budget.
Having worked in the Mount Sinai school district, Capobianco said she is very familiar with the schools and staff, which is an advantage.
Looking toward the future, Capobianco said she wants to continue to watch Mount Sinai grow and evolve, while remaining fiscally sound.
“I would like to see our high school bring back some of the clubs,” she said.
She has her sights set on adding an in-house robotics club. Her dream would be to have a science research program at the high school.
Capobianco has lived in the district for 25 years with her husband, Kerry, and their three boys — two attending Mount Sinai schools and one who graduated.
After retiring from the New York City Police Department last year, Riggio, who was second in command of the department’s counterterrorism unit, is making his first run for the school board. The 42-year-old father of a Mount Sinai fourth-grader said he is running for a number of reasons, but his focus is on students’ safety.
“There are some serious security concerns and this is what I used to do for a living,” Riggio said in a phone interview.
In addition, Riggio said he would use his background and experience managing $150 million worth of programs that kept New York City safe to make sure the district remains fiscally sound.
“We want more for our school,” Riggio said. “So how do you work on paying for that?”
One solution would be to reach beyond the immediate community and look for other funding opportunities, such as grants, and continue to advocate for his district at the state level. As a department head, Riggio said he worked with local congressmen to help get things done.
“We need to work with them,” he said.
Riggio and his wife, Eileen, have lived in Mount Sinai since 2006. He currently serves as coach for his daughters Infant Jesus basketball team and the Mount Sinai lacrosse team.
As a father to triplets in Mount Sinai schools, DeBlasio said he understands the demands the district is facing when it comes to educational changes and staying fiscally healthy.
“I want to be part of the process to help shape the budget,” DeBlasio, 54, said in a phone interview.
Finances are the Ronkonkoma-based attorney’s main focus in his run for school board. He said that the issue isn’t “black and white,” as districts struggle to budget without state aid numbers and try to project for the future. However, he said that he believes the district has to try to work within budgetary constraints.
“It’s just trying to become more efficient with the money you do have while maintaining school programs,” he said.
As an attorney, DeBlasio said his experiences would help him as a trustee, especially during budget season and when the district is negotiating contracts.
DeBlasio, husband to Kim, has lived in the district for 14 years. He serves as a coach for Mount Sinai lacrosse. He also has two stepsons.
At the end of the day, DeBlasio has just one request for his fellow residents.
“I would hope people would come out and vote.”
Understanding the huge commitment of what it takes to be a school board trustee, Rentz is ready and excited to take on the job.
“We are a small community and a large family-based community,” Rentz, 51, said. “A lot of how we interact and how we relate to one another is through our kids and through the school.”
Rentz said she feels like she would add a good perspective to the board, as she has experience in sales management as a small business owner and in education. Currently, Rentz, who has a fourth-grade son in the district, works as a brand director for a media publishing company. In the past, she owned a FasTracKids center, which provided enrichment programs to young learners.
The programs aim to challenge students while also strengthening their problem-solving skills and making them lifelong learners, she said. The goal may sound similar to that of the Common Core Learning Standards, and Rentz said she supports that idea. However, she questioned how developmentally appropriate the standards are and how they were implemented.
“I think it is a great idea,” she said. “I think that the implementation of the program in its entirety needs to be reexamined.”
If elected, Rentz said she wants to work to see a curriculum that supports the district’s competitive edge and enables students to be successful after graduation, whether they go off to college or start a career right away.
Rentz has lived in the district for six years with her husband, Larry, and their fourth-grade son. She also has four grown stepchildren.