By Chris Cumella
The Hauppauge school district board of education election and budget vote is set to take place on Tuesday, May 18. It will feature four candidates vying for two places hoping to represent the best of the hamlet and its educational values. The three-year term starts July 1 and ends June 30, 2024.
With BOE trustee Stacey Weisberg deciding not to run for reelection, the candidates are as follows:
Megan Asseng works as an assistant vice president for Northwell Health. She moved to Hauppauge with her husband a decade ago and happily settled into the small-town atmosphere.
“It was a very tight-knit community and thought it would be the best place for our children’s education,” Asseng said. “I have a vested interest in assuring that Hauppauge’s school district succeeds because my children will be there too.”
COVID-19 had forced many traditionally in-person meeting formats to be on remote collaborations, and schools have been no exception. Asseng believes that because of COVID, there will be a rocky transition back into even more full classrooms from online ones. Her platform revolves around creating effective plans for children to adapt once again to face-to-face learning environments.
By working collaboratively with the school administration, teachers, parents and students alike, Asseng is hoping to incorporate diverse ideas from her community and rehabilitate a sense of communication that she says the school district needs.
“I am a firm believer that education is the key to our children’s success,” she said. “The board of education is where those decisions will start to set our children up for that success.”
With her husband and four sons, Colleen Capece has lived in Hauppauge for over 15 years. She’s special projects coordinator with Suffolk County and has worked for a Wall Street law firm.
Envisioning success in the youth of Hauppauge is a pedestal of Capece’s campaign as she upholds a need to strengthen the means of communication between the board and the school administrations.
“There’s a little bit of a frustration from people because they feel as though their voices are not being heard,” Capece said. “We want to have a community where you can be able to voice your concerns and always find answers.”
Additionally, she has proposed a partnership with local organizations and corporations, allowing leniency for internships or mentorships with rising high school seniors as an incentive to “provide an avenue for graduation.” She emphasized the importance of a student heading out into the workforce today and how their real-world experiences will demonstrate their abilities and growth.
Shifting her experience from that of a parent to an advocate of all children is a specialty that Capece says she can utilize if elected. Doing so would allow her to give back to the community that she says has provided so much for all children in the district.
“I listen, I empathize, I want to listen to problems and work through them with others,” she said. “We must give all of our children the opportunities that they need to be successful.”
For Gemma Salvia, being the principal of Seneca Middle School in Sachem school district has been a rewarding and enriching experience that she loves to do every day.
“This is part of who I am,” she said. “It’s what I know, and it is what I love.”
Spending some 25 years in Hauppauge with her husband and two children has allowed Salvia to identify the educational system in the district and pinpoint what seems in need of improvement.
In her platform, Salvia explains that being a community member allows her to see issues through multiple lenses, as a parent and an educator. She attributes both perspectives being in the best interests of the district’s students. Having spoken to many students in her time, she recognizes that it is difficult to see students’ struggles accurately unless there is an open and friendly dialogue between staff and students.
Salvia credits being transparent and accountable as assets when it comes to potentially becoming a board member. Bringing multiple views to new developments is an active step toward a more progressive and successful outcome for those attending or working in the school district.
Six-year BOE incumbent Michael Buscarino could not be reached for comment before press time. He has lived with his wife in the area since 2005 and they have five children. After a brief career with NYPD, he joined Suffolk police and is now a sergeant with the county police academy.
Residents of the school district can cast their votes on May 18 at Whiporwil School at 495 Hoffman Lane in Hauppauge between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.