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board of ed elections

Board also addresses issues of racism in the district

By Mallie Kim

The Board of Education will welcome newcomers Karen Roughley and David McKinnon to the table in Three Village Central School District, alongside returning trustee Jeffrey Kerman. The school board announced and certified the results during a meeting on Tuesday night, May 16.

David McKinnon and Karen Roughley, above, along with incumbent Jeffrey Kerman, won seats on the board of education. Photo by Mallie Kim

Roughley and McKinnon are no strangers to the board room, as they often attend meetings to advocate for district issues they are passionate about. During a fraught two-week campaign, the two, who campaigned together, emphasized their status as independent candidates — that is, not endorsed or financially supported by any bargaining unit, something both candidates have said could be a conflict of interest.

“This was a good win for the community. We were community-backed,” said McKinnon, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at Stony Brook University, adding that his win comes after several years of building confidence within the community. McKinnon ran unsuccessfully for the board twice before, and during the campaign conveyed a strong interest in improving curriculum and instituting forward-looking financial planning. “I hope this paves the way for other independent candidates to run for the board.”

McKinnon received 2,101 votes, coming in second behind Roughley, who brought in 2,222 votes.

This was the second bid for Roughley, who has been a vocal advocate for the special education community over the years, and during the campaign she highlighted the budget and bullying as top issues she would want to address. She received the most votes, at 2,222.

“I’m very proud,” she said after the meeting. “I’m very honored to be representing all the community of Three Village.”

Rounding out the trio, Kerman, a dentist, received 1,777 votes and said he was very proud to have voter support again. “I have a lot of experience, and I can help the new [members],” said Kerman, referring to the fact that he has served 17 years on the board, including two years as board president. During the campaign, he expressed gratitude for all the district did to help his two children succeed. “This is pay back and pay forward,” he said. “I’m here to help the district and keep it good.”

The community also approved the 2023‒24 district budget with 2,332 yes votes over 1,559 no votes. The vast majority of registered voters in the district skipped the election, despite the fact that the district’s budget makes up a large portion of each resident’s tax bill. A total of 3,891 voters participated, out of 36,396 qualified voters in the district.

Assistant Superintendent Jeff Carlson congratulates incumbent Jeffrey Kerman on his win. Photo Mallie Kim

Superintendent addresses racism, district OKs book up for review

Also, during the May 16 meeting, Superintendent Kevin Scanlon presented a strongly worded message against incidents of racism in the district and said the administration has brought in consultants to help address it, including one member of the Little Rock Nine, the group of black students who desegregated their school in Arkansas in 1957.

Scanlon said he would soon share with district families more details about a specific incident under investigation, and he compared racism in schools to drugs and alcohol. “If anyone in a school district tells you that they don’t have an alcohol and drug problem, they’re lying,” he said. “Every district in this country has an alcohol and drug program, and we are no exception to that rule.”

The district has curriculum and counseling staff to specifically address alcohol and drugs, and Scanlon said the same needs to happen to quash racism and bigotry. He pointed to the work of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committees, but said the entire community also needs to act.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “We have to address this not only in our schools, but in our homes and throughout our community every single day. That’s the only way to stop it.”

The board also heard the results of a recent instructional materials review triggered by a parent complaint.

According to Assistant Superintendent Brian Biscari, the book “All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color,” by Katie Kissinger, is used in second grade health classes districtwide. A concerned parent emailed a complaint, Biscari said, calling the material in the book “damaging and racist.”

A committee made up of an administrator, a second-grade teacher, a library media specialist and a parent convened and reviewed the book’s subject, themes and appropriateness for the age level. No committee members had objections to the book. “The content of the book was related to the science of skin color, including melanin, ancestors and family and exposure to the sun,” Biscari read from the committee’s recommendation to keep the book in the curriculum. “The themes represented in this book are appropriate topics for students in the second-grade health classes.”

Comsewogue High School

On May 18, the Comsewogue Board of Education will elect three members to the board for a three-year term — commencing July 1 of this year.

Margaret Mitchell 

Margaret Mitchell worked in the Comsewogue School District for 47 years as a secretary before retiring. 

“I just feel that I can give back to the district now, and I’m hoping to make a difference,” she said. 

Mitchell retired last August, and she said she would still be working if it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The 73-year-old said she was concerned about the virus impacting her or her family so she decided it would be in her best interest to retire. 

“I didn’t want to retire,” she said. “I enjoyed working in this district. I know so many people, teachers, administrators, students. I developed a bond with a lot of people in the district and I just feel I want to give back.”

Mitchell’s late husband was on the board for 27 years, and all three of her children attended district schools from kindergarten through senior year. 

“Our whole life was centered around the district,” she said. “I miss it, I really miss it.” 

As a first-time candidate, she said that between raising a family and working at Comsewogue, she has been in the district for 50 years.  

“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” she said. “I’ve seen the good, I’ve seen the bad, and I think on the upswing, we’re at a good place right now. And I want to help to continue it.”

Mitchell said her main concern right now is the COVID-19 situation. 

“Our seniors missed out on so much last year,” she said. “I felt so sorry for those kids. And I think our administration has handled it beautifully. I think if we spoke to many of the parents in the community, they would agree. They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure that our students get what they need.”

She said she also wants to make sure all Comsewogue graduates have the best support possible to make sure they’re prepared for the real world upon graduation.

“I really think that our district is one of the best around and I want to continue that,” she said.

Margaret Mitchell did not provide a photo.

Corey Prinz

Although Corey Prinz grew up in Wantagh, he has been a resident of the Comsewogue community for over 15 years now. 

“I am still a new person around here,” he said. “Which is a great sign of the community, overall.”

Up for reelection, Prinz said most of his term has been emergency based.

“My whole focus has been, ‘Let’s protect the kids, let’s find a way to get them learning and move forward,’” he said. “This district has done a lot in the last 10 or 15 years, and I think we’ve gotten a little complacent.”

Prinz feels the district can continue to strive for greatness. 

“I’d like to see us continue to remember that we can do better, not because we’re doing badly, but because we can do better,” he said. “My caveat has always been we’re trying to create good humans here. Right? So, let’s make more of them.”

A commercial banker by day and father of two, Prinz has a wife who is a teacher in the district. His main goal is to get kids back to school safely and full time again, as well as providing more social and emotional support for students and staff. 

“COVID has affected a lot of people in different ways,” he said. “We have to help the kids through this, the kids who have lost their college opportunities because of this.”

But that all stems from his No. 1 goal of teaching students at Comsewogue to be of good character. 

“I think the most important thing is I want people to be good people,” he said. “And it starts with our kids. We need to be reminded to focus on our children to be better-rounded people. There’s opportunity here, we just have to decide to use it.”

Richard Rennard

Rick Rennard is seeking reelection for the Comsewogue Board of Education, after finishing his second full term as a trustee.

After being on the board for seven years, he said he wants to continue all the projects he and the board have worked on. 

“I think it’s important to continue the work that we’ve started, that I’ve been involved in over the last seven years,” he said. “From the commitment to our Middle States accreditation, to the creation of our project-based learning programs that are really starting to take off now,  I think that everything we’ve been doing has been really great.”

Rennard has been a resident in Comsewogue for 16 years, and is a married father of three children who all attend schools within the district. He is a social studies teacher in the Middle Country school district by day.

He said that facing the continuous challenges of the coronavirus and the shutdown last year, he wants to make sure the district’s buildings continue to stay safe. 

“I want to continue to serve our community and get us back to a hopefully full reopening this fall,” he said. “I plan on continuing my policy of making decisions that seem rooted in what’s best for the kids in our district, and just to continue to use that as my guideline for when we have to make decisions — what’s best for them and go forward with it.”

Rennard said his favorite thing about being a board member is seeing how much students within the district progress.

“That’s really the most rewarding part about it,” he said. “It’s to see that our kids turn around and give back to the community.”