Change is in the air at Northport-East Northport schools.
School board Trustee Andrew Rapiejko, a five-year incumbent who served as vice president, was sworn in as the board’s president at its reorganizational meeting on Wednesday, following a nomination by departing president, Julia Binger, and an 8-1 vote. Trustee Regina Pisacani was the lone vote against the appointment.
Newly re-elected Trustee David Badanes was nominated and voted vice president of the board — but not without an unsuccessful attempt by Pisacani to nominate newcomer Trustee David Stein to the slot. Her motion to do so failed to gain support, and Badanes was unanimously appointed.
The July 1 meeting was the district’s first with new Superintendent Robert Banzer at the helm. Banzer, along with Stein, recently re-elected Trustee Tammie Topel, Badanes, District Clerk Beth Nystrom and new audit committee member Edward Kevorkian were all officially sworn in.
In his remarks to the community, Rapiejko called it a “critical year” for the district, and pointedly addressed what he called a divide on the board.
“The elephant in the room is this split on the board,” he said
While the board typically votes unanimously on most items, Rapiejko said in a Thursday phone interview that the community perceives a divide on the school board. Those differences among board members have given rise to tensions that began under the administration of former Superintendent Marylou McDermott, he said.
“The former superintendent is out of the equation now,” he said in his speech on Wednesday. “And I’m looking forward and to move on. I think we have to move forward and it’s critical we do that.”
He urged the school community to respect each other and said it is the board’s responsibility to set that tone of respect. In a phone interview, he said he was heartened that his appointment earned almost unanimous support, which hasn’t been the norm at reorganizational meetings in recent years past.
“We can disagree, we can have very strong opinions, but there’s a way to do it and a way to do it respectfully,” he said.