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Mount Sinai Union Free School District

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Residents of the Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River school districts are gearing up for this year’s school elections on Tuesday, May 16.

Miller Place Union Free School District

Voters in Miller Place will consider the district’s proposed 2023‒24 annual budget. With total expenditures at approximately $80.4 million, the budget increased by 3.47%, with a 2.34% tax levy increase and staying under the tax cap.

According to school officials, the increases will enable the district to accommodate new elective course offerings; continued funding for co-curricular activities, clubs and athletics; and universal prekindergarten. 

Residents will also pick two of the three candidates running for the district’s Board of Education. Three-term incumbent trustee and BOE president Lisa Reitan will defend her seat against challengers John Galligan and Jenna Stingo, both of whom ran for the school board in 2022.

The three candidates squared off during a Meeting the Candidates forum on Tuesday, May 2. The full video from this meeting can be accessed from the district website’s homepage.

Voting will occur from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at North Country Road Middle School.

Mount Sinai Union Free School District

Mount Sinai residents will consider a proposed 2023‒24 annual budget totaling $66.8 million, which stays under the tax cap with a tax levy increase of 4.65%. 

Three additional propositions are on the Mount Sinai ballot, including Proposition II, the district’s $1.8 million library budget. 

Proposition III would authorize the district to use $1.5 million from its capital reserves to renovate and/or replace science classrooms with proposed renovations of library, technology and guidance facilities at Mount Sinai High School. Proposition IV calls to amend the district’s capital reserve, increasing its ceiling to $20 million. District officials maintain these capital improvements will not affect the tax levy.

For this year’s Board of Education election, voters will select three candidates to serve three-year terms. In a crowded field, incumbent BOE president Peter Van Middelem and trustee Edward Law will defend their seats against Nicholas DeVito, Christy Barbera and Charles Carron. Incumbent trustee Robert Sweeney is not seeking reelection.

The budget and BOE votes at MSSD will take place from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mount Sinai Elementary School.

Rocky Point Union Free School District

The proposed 2023‒24 annual budget for the Rocky Point Union Free School District increased to $93.9 million, up from $88 million last year. The proposed budget carries a tax levy increase of 3.23% that stays under the tax cap.

According to the district newsletter, the budget increases would enable Rocky Point schools to maintain existing programs and services; implement a nine-period program at the middle and high schools; expand elective opportunities; and build upon safety and security efforts.

This district’s current capital reserve fund expires this month. Consequently, voters will also weigh in on a ballot measure, Proposition II, creating a new 10-year capital reserve fund, with no funds allocated to this reserve in this year’s budget. This reserve would enable the district “to set aside funds for future capital building maintenance and improvement projects,” according to the newsletter.

Rocky Point residents will also select two candidates to serve three-year terms on the district Board of Education. Incumbent BOE president Jessica Ward and trustee Erin Walsh will defend their seats against challenger Nicole Kelly, who ran for the school board in 2022.

Voting will be held in the gymnasium at Rocky Point High School from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District proposes an $84.8 million annual budget for the 2023‒24 school year, up 2.2% from the previous year and carrying a 1.61% tax levy increase that stays under the tax cap.

According to the district newsletter, the proposed budget would maintain existing programs and class sizes, support facilities maintenance, enhance safety and security standards and lower the use of reserves.

Three incumbents are up for reelection in this year’s Board of Education contest, all of whom are running unopposed. BOE president Katie Andersen, vice president Henry Perez and trustee Michael Lewis have each declared bids for reelection.

To read their candidate profiles, visit the district website, selecting the “Meet the BOE Candidates 2023” tab on the homepage.

Voting at SWRCSD will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the main gym at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

By Chris Mellides

Shoreham-Wading River Central School District

Shoreham-Wading River High School will serve as the polling site for this year’s school budget and board of education election. File photo

The proposed budget to be voted on is $83 million, an increase of 2.87% and a tax levy hike of 1.70%, within the district’s limit. There will also be a Proposition No. 2 on capital projects of $2,898,040 with no tax levy increase.

Incumbents Thomas Sheridan and Meghan Tepfenhardt are running unopposed for reelection as trustee candidates.

Only Sheridan responded to a request for interview. He has been serving on the board of education for the past three years. His dedication to the district comes from a determined perspective to help ensure that his school district continues to build on its accomplishments and to better enable it to be recognized and celebrated for its points of pride. Sheridan said that the biggest challenge facing Shoreham-Wading River is the commitment from New York State to continue its funding for the district’s schools.  

The budget vote and board of education elections will be held Tuesday, May 17, at gym from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Mount Sinai Union Free School District 

The proposed budget of $63.8 million with a 2.02% increased tax rate, does not exceed the tax cap. District funds are being earmarked for renovations, replacements and upgrading infrastructure. 

Mount Sinai Elementary School will serve as the polling site. File photo

Voters will be asked to vote for any two of the four candidates on the ballot, who are Alice Samantha Dreyer, Alexis Fliller, John Hnat and Anthony Mangione. Incumbents AnneMarie Henninger and Lisa Pfeffer (incumbent) are not seeking reelection. Only Dreyer and Mangione responded to requests for interviews. 

Alice Samantha Dreyer

Dreyer is a first-time candidate running for a seat on the board of education. A doctor of psychology, Dreyer’s focus if elected will be on mental health, as it relates to the rise of depression, anxiety and suicidality among students nationwide. Dreyer sees the importance in recognizing the needs of her district’s students and believes in inclusivity when it comes to students of all ability levels. She said that the biggest challenge facing her district stems from the COVID-19 pandemic and its ill effects on students’ learning and anxiety levels. Dreyer hopes to see her district continue to provide a broad-based, foundational education for all its students. 

Anthony Mangione

Mangione has never sat on the Mount Sinai board of education. The first-timer said that a large group of local residents take to social media to and ask why their voices aren’t being heard. This is the driving force behind what made Mangione run. His goal is to reverse the loss of learning that school students experienced while learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Mangione promises to fight to end or prevent unfunded or underfunded mandates. 

The budget vote and board of education elections will be held Tuesday, May 17, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mount Sinai Elementary School.

Rocky Point Union Free School District

The proposed budget to be voted on totals $88 million, an increase of 2.72%. Voters will also be asked to elect two trustees. The candidate receiving the highest number of votes will fill the seat for three years and the second seat will fill the seat immediately following the election, expiring June 30, 2023. 

The following candidate information was obtained from the district’s website.

Nick Contes

Contes has been a Rocky Point resident for the past 15 years, has two daughters in the school district and is risk and insurance manager at Henry Schein. Contes and his family have contributed to an array of local youth programs, including soccer, tee-ball and cheerleading. He has openly spoken at many BOE meetings and is an advocate for parental choice, improved school lunches and highlighting areas of cost savings for the district. 

Nicole Kelly 

Kelly is a Rocky Point resident and mother of a child attending Rocky Point High School. As a senior administrator at Brookhaven National Laboratory, her work experience includes project management, contract administration and compliance on the state and federal levels. She’s been critical in implementing various interactive events within the district to enhance learning and opportunity for students of all ages. If elected, Kelly plans to include increased strategic planning, safety and security for increased community communication. 

Jason Ford 

Ford has been a community member for 10 years and a father of three children who attend Rocky Point schools. Ford serves full time in hospitality management and volunteers his time throughout the community. He is an active PTA member as well as being a baseball coach for St. Anthony’s CYO and is a volunteer for both North Shore Little League and Rocky Point Youth Soccer Club. Ford would like to work collaboratively with fellow board members, teachers and administrators to provide the best education for the district’s students and be a voice for the community during these challenging times. His goal is to help bridge the gap between parents and educators. 

Susan Sullivan 

Incumbent trustee Sullivan has been a resident of Rocky Point for 37 years and retired from the district after serving as a teacher and administrator for a total of 40 years. She holds a B.A. in education, a master’s in liberal studies and a master’s in education. Sullivan said that it has been an honor to serve on the board for the past nine years. She looks forward to continuing as a trustee, representing the entire community, keeping in mind that she serves as one of a team. Sullivan will work together with her fellow trustees to offer an educational program that supports the needs of all students and is mindful of the fiscal responsibility to the community. 

Erin Walsh

A veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, catechist, PTA volunteer and legal secretary, Walsh has recently completed her paralegal qualifications to bolster her advocacy and knowledge in law. Walsh, a 14-year Rocky Point resident and mother of two, looks forward to serving the students and families of the district through transparency and communication along with parental involvement in the schools. She focuses on making certain that every dollar in the budget delivers enthusiastic learning along with smaller class sizes, while eliminating administrative waste in her district. 

Susan Wilson 

Wilson is a retired teacher and administrator who has been part of the Rocky Point community since the 1960s. She is a married mother of two local Point graduates. She holds a B.A. in accounting, an M.A. in liberal studies/technology and an advanced degree certificate in educational leadership. She has served on the boards of the PTA, Rocky Point Civic Association and the North Shore Beach Property Owners Association. Wilson’s goals will be to continue being an advocate for a nine-period day, while also supporting districtwide improvements with a focus on increasing the graduation rate. She also seeks out perspectives on the issues helping in her consideration of the financial impacts of the budget on the taxpayer. She supports decisions that have the interests of the school community at heart.  

Rocky Point High School will serve as the polling site. File photo

The budget vote and board of education elections will be held Tuesday, May 17, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Rocky Point High School. 

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Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Mount Sinai Union Free School District recently changed its phase two reopening plan, tasking some teachers to work directly with remote students and by easing in-person students back into its halls. 

As of Oct. 19, grades K-4 added Wednesdays back into an in-person, weekly schedule making attendance at school five days a week. 

In a letter to the community posted on the school district’s website, Rob Catlin, principal of Mount Sinai Elementary, said this change will help make things more normal. 

“This is a win-win for all of our students, both in-person and remote, as we are able to ensure all of our students get the maximum amount of instruction we are able to offer,” he wrote. 

Catlin wrote in-person students will not have much of a change on a daily basis, except for the possibility of a different P.E., art or music teacher adjust with the schedule. The district added two teachers to help support its remote students, and who will be working solely as remote teachers. Starting Monday, teachers Emily Bellacera (for K-2) and Kaylee Foley (for 3-4) will be teaching live every day for at least one hour with remote students through Google Classroom.

“Each teacher will provide at least 60 minutes a day of live instruction for our students working remotely,” he said. “This will also allow the remote kids to have a true classroom of friends and classmates. Currently each teacher was working with 1-to-3 students at a time on Wednesdays. I felt this was isolating for our remote kids who need socialization more than ever being at home.”

With the new remote program, remote students will have live Google Meet sessions with seven to 15 other kids. 

Catlin noted though switching to a new teacher is not ideal, current teachers will be in contact with the remote teachers to ensure a smooth transition for everyone involved. 

“While switching teachers is not an ideal plan the end result will be a better experience and more enriching academic program for all,” he said. 

The website stated middle school students were going to experience a similar change. Remote learners in grades 5 and 6 started with their new remote instructors on Oct. 19. In-person fifth and sixth graders started attending school all five days. 

Students in grades 7 and 8 will have remote instructional day through Google Classroom every Wednesday starting Oct. 21 and will follow their period buy period schedule. Attendance will be taken in the homeroom and first period class for the day. 

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said the district initially anticipated that grades 7-12 would be back to school five days a week on a rotating schedule, but last week he and they decided to halt the reopening plan until Nov. 18.

“We knew it was going to change as we went along,” he said. “After speaking to a dozen superintendents in our area, everyone is evolving and adjusting.”

He stated the reasons to delay are so they can closely watch and see if the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase, and that the middle and high school buildings don’t have as much room to repurpose. 

“If you had all the kids in, and divided the class in half, then for social distancing you would need almost double the class space,” he said. 

So, they decided to wait until the end of
the quarter.

Currently Wednesday provides a break between the two cohorts, and an additional day for cleaning and sanitation.

To accommodate a transition, remote learning will be available to all students, not just ones deemed as remote, and attendance is required.

As of Oct. 19, two teachers and zero students in the high school tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Overall, a combined five individuals have tested positive in the district since the start of schools in September.