Tags Posts tagged with "School Board Elections"

School Board Elections

Pixabay photo.
Three Village 

Budget vote: 

Yes: 2,140
No: 1,140 

Board of education election: elect three, third highest gets one-year term.

Shaorui Li – 1,976

Susan Rosenzweig – 1,970

Stanley Bak – 1,688

Amitava Das – 1,683


Port Jefferson 

Budget vote:

Yes: 640

No: 148

Trustee election: To elect three board of education trustees for a three-year term, July 1, to June 30, 2027. 

Tracy Zamek – 598

Traci Donnelly – 574

Michael Weaver – 563



Budget vote:

Yes: 540

No:  204

Trustee election. Incumbents ran unopposed:

Margaret Mitchell – 593

Richard Rennard – 543

Corey Prinz – 508             


Shoreham-Wading River

Budget vote:

Yes: 526

No:  125

 Board of education election, vote for two:

Jim Lauckhardt – 537

James Smith – 487


Miller Place 

Budget vote: 

Yes: 565

No:  170

Board of education trustee election, elect one:
Bryan Makarius – 584 
Votes for other candidates –  43     


Rocky Point        

Budget vote:

Yes: 846 

No:  289 

Board trustee election, vote for two: 

Michael Lisa – 599 

Stacey Lasurdo – 482

Elizabeth Diesa – 367

Shelita Watkis – 361                

Michael Sanchez – 289

Capital Reserve Fund vote:

Yes: 919 

No:  217  

Hallock Homestead Museum vote:

Yes:  787

No:   352


Mount Sinai 

Budget vote:

Yes: 802

No:  212

The terms are three years. Vote for two, elected at-large. 

Paul Staudt (incumbent) and Joseph Randazzo ran unopposed 



Budget vote:

Yes: 584

No:  278 

Board of education, two terms (three years): 

Catherine Collins – 583

Brian Michels – 574


Kings Park

Budget vote:

Yes: 1,046

No:     533

Board of education election: 

Kevin Johnston (incumbent) and James Lovastik ran unopposed



Budget vote:

Yes: 4,569

No:  1,722

Board of education, vote for two:

Dana Fritch (3,614) defeated Stacy Murphy (2,664) (incumbent)

Emily Cianci (3,605) defeated Karen Wontrobski-Ricciardi (incumbent) (2,669)



Budget vote:

Yes: 1,701

No: 400

Board of education, vote for one:

Dana Schultz – 1,047

Gus Hueber – 997


Middle Country 

Budget vote:

Yes: 1,578 

No: 569

Board of education, vote for three: 

John DeBenedetto – 1,568

Denise Haggerty – 1,531

Arlene Barresi – 1,501



Budget vote:

Yes: 1,227 

No: 279 

2015 Capital Reserve Fund:

Yes: 1,217 

No:     254

Board of education’s three open seats, currently held by incumbents Susan Broderick, Eve Meltzer-Krief and Suzie Lustig (not seeking reelection):

Susan Broderick – 1,124 

Rachael Risinger – 1,053 

Eve Meltzer-Krief – 1,044

David Balistreri – 396 

Freda Manuel – 316 



Budget vote:

Yes: 652 

No:  287

To expend $500,000 in capital reserve for districtwide security enhancements and purchase of district wide maintenance and grounds vehicles.

Yes: 714

No:  213

For the board of education’s two open seats, currently held by incumbent members James Tomeo and Heather Mammolito (not seeking reelection):

James Tomeo – 717 

Walter Edwards – 620


Cold Spring Harbor 

Budget vote: 

Yes: 657                            

No: 186                            

Board trustees, two elected at large:

Heather Morante Young (incumbent) – 555

Mark Attalienti – 484

Scott Kaufman – 414


Northport-East Northport 

Budget vote:

Yes: 2,202

No:  1,536

Board of education election:

Terms are three years. Voters select two candidates among four who are running: 

Carol Taylor (incumbent) – 1,984

Michael Cleary – 1,860

Paul Darrigo – 1,601

Victoria Bento – 1,328



Budget vote:

Yes: 1,059         

No:     206

Board of education, vote for three:

Theresa Sullivan (incumbent) – 882

Thomas Galvin (incumbent) – 856 

Annie Michaelian – 812

Sara Baliber – 656

Pixabay photo

It’s easy to overlook the impact that local school boards have on our community. 

Yet, the decisions made by these boards directly influence the quality of education our children receive, shaping not just their future, but the future of our communities. As we approach another election season, we must recognize the importance of voting for local school board members, for the sake of our children, pillars of our collective future.

Local school boards wield significant power in determining educational policies, budgets and curriculum standards. They are responsible for hiring superintendents, setting district priorities and ensuring that our schools are safe and conducive to learning. The individuals we elect to these boards will make decisions that affect the daily lives of our children, from the quality of their teachers to the resources available in their classrooms.

When we vote for school board members, we are not just casting a ballot — we are making a commitment to our children’s education and well-being. A strong, well-funded and innovative school system can provide our children with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. 

Conversely, neglecting to participate in these elections can lead to underfunded schools, outdated curriculums and a lack of necessary support for both students and teachers.

By voting for dedicated and knowledgeable school board members, we ensure that our children are given the best possible start in life, equipping them with the tools they need to build a brighter future for all of us.

Moreover, active participation in school board elections fosters a sense of community and civic responsibility. It sends a powerful message to our children about the value of democracy and the importance of being engaged in local governance. When they see us prioritizing their education and future, they learn the importance of advocacy and the impact of collective action.

In addition to voting, it is crucial that we hold school board members accountable. Attend board meetings, stay informed about the issues at hand and communicate with board members to ensure they are meeting the needs of our students. A well-informed and engaged community can make a significant difference in the quality of education provided.

Not nearly enough residents vote in school board elections. Please learn about the candidates and the issues by referring to the relevant TBR stories or by going to your district’s website, then get out and vote your choice next Tuesday, May 21. 

Just as importantly, voters will be asked to approve school budgets for the upcoming year, 2024-25.

Your vote counts. 

School Board Elections. METRO photo

Board of education elections should be a time for the community to reflect on how their hard-earned tax dollars are serving a district’s children. Topics such as school security, class sizes, AP classes, sports, the arts, special education services and electives should all be considered when casting your ballot.

Yet, due to the hyperpartisanship of some district boards of education, these items can easily become the furthest thing from voters’ minds.

It’s important to remember that school board members are volunteers. It’s commendable for anyone to put their hat in the ring, subjecting themselves and their families to campaigning and controversies without compensation.

Civility goes a long way. Education of our local children, and decisions relating to what is best for them at school should not be taken lightly. However, there is a way to advocate for and fight for the candidate we think will pursue our children’s best interest without engaging in personal attacks.

It’s important for constituents and candidates alike to remember that the local school board, first and foremost, represents students. In most districts, students frequently attend meetings to receive awards or simply as part of their educational experience. When we go to vote, think about the example of leadership, civil dialogue and intellect the candidates would present during board meetings, and if they are the example we would want our children to see. We should take similar consideration when evaluating campaign tactics.

Our nation has become incredibly divisive. When passionate about issues, it’s easy to want to translate them into all aspects of life, including BOE elections, by voting for the candidate who openly aligns with your politics.

The local coverage of boards of education in the last few years should indicate that the nationalization of school politics only leads to infighting and disruption. Over time, this hostile culture can lead to less and less results for the students, whose interests should be paramount.

This Tuesday, consider the candidates that will keep our kids and tax dollars at the forefront at the top of their plate. You will find candidate profiles in all TBR News Media editions. There will be another day for politics.

Pixabay photo

School board elections are a rare chance to make a positive change in the lives of schoolchildren throughout our community.

Too young to vote, these children depend on us to make responsible decisions on their behalf. It is our duty to help them find direction and we must take this responsibility seriously. 

For centuries, school boards on this continent have served a vital role, promoting health, prosperity and civility throughout communities across America. Our school boards prepare our youth for the challenges of life, serving as a vehicle for their coming of age.

On Tuesday, voters will decide who will serve on these school boards and, while they are often overlooked, these elections have enormous consequences. Unlike other elected officials who spend much of their time away in some remote capitol, school board members are here on the ground with their students and constituents. 

Among many other obligations, school boards hire district superintendents, approve budgets, design curricula and organize districtwide calendars. These individuals will chart the course of our students’ lives from kindergarten through high school. Behind the scenes, their decisions will shape how these children learn and grow, and how they develop into responsible citizens prepared to contribute to our community.

Americans generally believe that our greatest days still lie ahead of us. Even in this moment of partisanship and polarization, we can all agree that our future requires an educated youth. These young souls will soon be leaders among us, which is why our decisions matter today.

We must take greater interest in the education of our youth. We must study our ballots, familiarizing ourselves not only with the names of the candidates but also the person, platform and character behind the name. Does this candidate have integrity? Can this candidate be entrusted with the moral and intellectual development of our children? These are the critical questions we must ask ourselves before entering the voting booth.

To the readers of TBR News Media, take a moment to research the candidates for your district’s board of education. Be prepared before you pull the lever, including studying the proposed 2022-23 school budget.

While we so often hear people tell us their votes don’t count, we are here to tell you that this one does. The enlightenment of our children, the health of our community and the future of our nation are in your hands. Make your voice heard and get out to vote this coming Tuesday. 

File photo

The Port Jefferson Board of Education will hold its vote on May 18 to elect three members to the board for a three-year term — commencing July 1 of this year, expiring on June 30, 2024. Four local residents are looking to take those spots. 

Shannon Handley

Shannon Handley has lived with her family in Port Jefferson for 22 years. 

With two children currently attending school in the district ¬— Port Jefferson Middle and Edna Louise Spear Elementary schools — she has become determined to maintain the success of the local schools.

An educator herself, Handley has been a high school English teacher at Bay Shore High School for the last two decades, previously working for three years in New York City’s public schools. 

“I have a passion for education,” she said in an email. “My unique position — as both a parent and a lifelong educator — would enable me to bring valuable input and insight to the board, as I will bring my parenting experience and high school teaching experience to the complex decisions necessary for continued educational excellence in Port Jefferson schools.”

Handley said that if she is elected, she plans to help maintain a strong organizational structure for the district while working closely with the public. 

“I believe I can help to contribute to a climate in keeping with our district’s mission, one that will promote integrity and mutual respect, allow our district administrators to manage the schools, that will allow the teachers to effectively teach, and will foster an environment in which the students can be supported and develop into responsible, independent, adaptable, lifelong learners,” she said.

“Because of my background, I understand how essential it is to serve the diverse values and needs of our community during these unprecedented times while promoting equity and inclusivity for our students,” she said. “My passion for improving public schools, my knowledge of public schools, my commitment to public education and to serving the students of Port Jefferson makes me an excellent candidate for our board of education.”

Rene Tidwell

Rene Tidwell has been a Port Jefferson resident for 20 years.

A mom to a high schooler, and a special education aide in another local district, she said her husband has been a big volunteer within the district.

The incumbent candidate said she is seeking reelection for her second term because the last three years had been “fulfilling.”

“I want to utilize my first term’s experience to help us move forward as we face some challenges,” she said. 

Her concerns, she said, are the declining enrollment and shifting demographics and how those could impact the district’s instructional programs. 

Secondly,  Tidwell mentioned the LIPA glide path. 

“From a budget perspective, ensuring that we maintain a conservative approach as our revenue from LIPA decreases over the nine-year glide path that we have with them,” she said. 

While these two issues are large and concerning, COVID-19 is also thrown into the mix. Moving forward, she said, she wants to continue to face the mandated safety and security protocols for students. 

“There’s so much uncertainty around it,” she said. “There are so many different changing guidelines coming quickly.”

She said she wants to make sure the district stays on top of everything and makes sure there is a safe and secure environment for students, teachers and staff.

Tidwell also has been pushing since before the pandemic for more resources to meet the social and emotional needs of students. 

“I want to make sure we have enough psychologists to support the students in our schools, making sure we have sufficient professional development for our teachers and, again, just making sure that we’ve got programs in place in all three of our schools to make sure that we are identifying and addressing any social emotional needs our students have, particularly now that we’re hopefully moving into more of a recovery period from COVID,” she said. “I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now. I think the impact is going to continue to play out over many years to come.”

Ryan Walker

Ryan Walker is running for reelection with the board.

A father of two, one who graduated from the high school in 2018 and another who is graduating this year, he and his wife moved to Port Jefferson in 2010.

“My wife actually grew up in Port Jeff, and graduated in 1986,” he said. “So, we live in the house she grew up in.”

Originally from Syracuse, Walker is a retired New York State trooper, who is currently working as a physical therapist assistant at Peconic Bay Medical Center. 

Three years ago, he was elected to the school board and he said this run is to continue his unfinished business.

“We’ve done so much,” he said. “We hired a new superintendent, we mitigated the COVID crisis we had the LIPA glide path in our way. The past three years, we’re managing all that, and we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.”

Walker said he wants to tackle the LIPA glide path issue and its impact on local residents and businesses. He also is concerned about declining enrollment, and its impact on the schools’ staffing. 

“We have an award-winning [high] school,” he said. “So, we want to make sure we maintain that.”

He added that in continuation with the COVID-19 crisis, he wants to see it through the 2021-22 school year and keep families safe.

“The last three years while I’ve been there, I’ve been really pleased with how we’ve been able to get through the tough times so far and I’m confident moving forward we’ll be able to get through all of our challenges ahead,” he said. “I’ve been very active in the community and I’ve really grown to embrace Port Jeff as my home.”

Walker added he’d like to address the district’s aging infrastructure and find funding for repairs that can no longer be ignored. 

“I like to think our board is made up of a community with diversity,” he said. “So, what I bring is my background in law enforcement and security, along with health care. Everyone on the board, they bring in a little something else to it. And that’s the way boards were meant to be — sort of a cross section of our community.”

Tracy Zamek

Tracy Zamek is seeking a third term as a trustee on the Port Jefferson school board. 

A mom of two Port Jeff high school students — a senior and sophomore — she has been a resident for 25 years. Her husband grew up in the district.

For the past 22 years, Tracy Zamek has been an elementary school teacher in the Hauppauge school district. 

“My experience as a classroom teacher is paramount when it comes to making decisions about what’s best for a student’s education,” she said in an email.

Zamek has been a school board member for six years — two years as vice president — where she said she has gained significant knowledge about the district’s students, curriculum, facilities and finances. 

“I am running for the school board for the same reasons I ran six years ago,” she said. “The first reason being to stand up for the students of Port Jefferson, and the second reason being we need to make smart, responsible decisions when creating our annual budget, especially with the LIPA challenges we are currently faced with.”

Zamek said she has always been an advocate for public education. 

“At community forums I have spoken out against the privatization of public education,” she said. “I don’t believe big corporations should be making the decisions about what’s best for our students. Local school boards should be making these decisions. There is no one size fits all in education.”

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, Zamek said she believes the school board should stay focused during these turbulent times, and that all students should be in-person full time next year.

“We need to do what’s best for the students in Port Jefferson,” she said. “We need to preserve our programs and continue to provide a stellar education.”

Current school boards of Port Jefferson, top, and Comsewogue, bottom. Photos from school districts

It very well could be a challenging next few years for school districts all across Long Island, let alone the North Shore. Districts await with bated breath any announcement from New York State regarding any new mandates, let alone the announcement for when schools could potentially let students back into buildings. Not to mention, the potential drastic cuts in state aid due to major state budget shortfalls. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set up committees headed by billionaire Bill Gates and others to look at “reimagining” education, though what that will mean down the line could have major impacts on school district operations.

With that, only two of four local school districts have contested elections, but all still face similar issues. Given these challenges, The Port Times Record has given all board candidates the chance to say what challenges they see ahead for their districts.

For more information about districts’ 2020-21 budgets, visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com/tag/school-budgets


With two seats up on the Comsewogue School District board of education, two incumbents were the only ones to throw their names in the race. 

Alexandra Gordon

Alexandra Gordon was first elected in 2011 and has served three terms on the board. A caseworker for the Suffolk County Office for the Aging, she said her knowledge of issues facing the elderly helps frame board decisions in a wider community lens. She currently serves as the boards vice president.

“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for a long time,” she said. “I anticipate significant challenges in state funding, which will result in the need for creative planning and perhaps difficult decisions.”

With three children having already graduated from the district, and one rising senior at Comsewogue High School, she said despite having to create distance learning programs on the fly, the district has seen a 90 percent participation rate, “which I believe speaks volumes,” she added. 

“Nothing can ever replace the connection between teachers and students in person — but our teachers are trying very hard to stay connected,” Gordon said.

The board VP said she anticipates significant challenges with state funding, with which the district will need to plan creatively and perhaps make difficult decisions. With New York potentially slashing funding by 20 percent across the board, she said it would be “devastating” to Comsewogue. The governor also has the ability to modify funding at different points throughout the school year. 

“This poses its own challenge — we plan a budget based on funding the state tells us we will receive,” Gordon said. “Changes to that number mid-year could present problems.”

She said she is working as the chair of the Legislative Advocacy Committee to contact federal legislators about giving aid to the state in its time of need. She added the district will need to vociferously advocate for funding at the state level from state legislators.

“We cannot be passive when faced with these challenges,” Gordon said. 

James Sanchez

A 27-year resident of the district, James Sanchez is running again for his seat on the board. He was first elected in 2011 and works as a dockmaster for the Port Jefferson ferry.

Sanchez did not respond to requests to answer a set of emailed questions by press time.

Port Jefferson

Port Jefferson has two seats open, with one incumbent and one newcomer running for the open spots. Current trustee Ryan Biedenkapp will not be running again to retain his seat.

David Keegan

Two-term trustee David Keegan is again running for school board, having originally been elected to the position in 2017.

Keegan’s day job is as a vice president of sales for Presidio Networked Solutions, a technology services and consulting firm. He said he decided to run again because, “I believe public education is critical and fundamental to enabling the success of our people and our nation.” “Port Jefferson has a rich history of success and it is gratifying to help continue and enhance that, particularly in these times, with both the unprecedented virus and the implications of the LIPA settlement.”

Both those issues are weighing heavily on board members and administrators’ minds. The current budget has had to account with the loss of property tax revenue from the LIPA-owned Port Jefferson Power Station, as well as potential significant reductions in state aid. 

Keegan said the pandemic has forced the district to reconsider everything about how Port Jefferson delivers services.  

“We will continue to be creative, leverage the myriad resources and examples that exist from our peers, and we remain focused on delivering the high-quality education that we expect and deserve for our children,” he said. “I am confident we can do that, but there remains much to do as things evolve.”

Depsite the consistent and expected drops in LIPA revenue, he said the district “could not likely be better positioned to weather this process at this time.” With the question of state aid losses hanging over every New York school, Port Jefferson is in a better position than most, Keegan said. Still, it could mean having to evaluate potential scenarios and seek community engagement if and when alterations to our programs become necessary.

In terms of distance learning, the trustee said there is always room for improvement. 

“Children are clearly being robbed of some special milestone experiences, and a less than optimal educational experience today,” he said. “But we have no choice but to adapt, and I am proud to be able to help this community do so in a way that best serves our students.”

Ravi Singh

Ravi Singh, a 10-year resident of the district from the Belle Terre area, is coming onto the board at a very interesting and anxiety-filled time, yet he said he feels it’s his time to give back “to the place that’s helped raise my children.”

Singh, a gastroenterologist who works in the Patchogue area, has two children in the district, both at the high school level. Though he’s new to much of the financial happenings within the district, he said he’s ready to get in there and start processing it. He understands the potential loss in state aid revenue could have a major impact on programming. 

“We have to look at some innovative ways to deal with it, and what are our options on the revenue side,” he said. “That will be one of the first I look at when I get in.”

In terms of distance learning, he has watched his two sons make the transition, and said he thought the district has done “a decent job, considering how it fell into their laps,” though there is easily room for improvement. He appreciates the fact the program has some structure beyond having students simply complete coursework on their own time, but he said the district should look to making the program more interactive with both their work and with teachers. 

“I’m looking forward to getting started,” he said. 

Voting booths at Rocky Point High School. File photo by Kyle Barr

It very well could be a challenging next few years for school districts all across Long Island, let alone the North Shore. Districts await with bated breath any announcement from New York State regarding any new mandates, let alone the announcement for when schools could potentially let students back into buildings. Not to mention, the potential drastic cuts in state aid due to major state budget shortfalls. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set up committees headed by billionaire Bill Gates and others to look at “reimagining” education, though what that will mean down the line could have major impacts on school district operations.

With that, only two of four local school districts have contested elections, but all still face similar issues. Given these challenges, The Village Beacon Record has given all board candidates the chance to say what challenges they see ahead for their districts.

For more information about districts’ 2020-21 budgets, visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com/tag/school-budgets.

Shoreham-Wading River

Three incumbents are looking to return to their seats at the SWR school board, and no challengers have presented themselves to contest those positions this year. Each seat is for a three-year term. 

Michael Lewis

Current board president Michael Lewis has been on the board for four years, and with two children in the district, he said that while the position is stressful, “It is very rewarding to see the board’s impact when students attend our meetings and display their accolades, achievements and success.”

Lewis, a senior project manager for an architectural firm on Long Island, said the biggest concerns for the future are the potential for state aid cuts and for what he called “unfunded mandates” caused by new physical distancing regulations.

What may help the district into the future is what Lewis called their “very healthy” capital reserves, which may allow for more flexibility in uncertain and potentially lean times. 

“Having a very supportive community which has consistently approved our annual budget, a four-year average growth of only 1.52%, is a huge advantage as well.” he said.

Lewis said he is hopeful for full student attendance of buildings come the start of fall, but still the district has purchased Chromebooks for all elementary students, with secondary school students already having them. 

“Our administrators have offered multiple professional development opportunities which a majority of our teaching staff has taken advantage of,” he said. ”There is always room for improvement in everything we do as a district.”

Katie Andersen

Katie Andersen, who is finishing her first term as trustee on the SWR BOE, said difficulties the district will face in the coming years will be issues of mental health and gaps in student knowledge from distance learning.

Andersen, who is vice president of the board, said she has several children in the district, including a seventh-grader, fourth-grader, first-grader, and a brother who is a junior in high school. She is a member of several committees and is involved with the PTA and SEPTA. Outside of work on the board, she is a marketing consultant.

“I’m deeply committed to serving our community in this role,” she said. “In spite of the challenges and extensive donation of time, I do enjoy it.”

Though she said the most significant issue is students’ emotional well-being, she added the district will also be facing issues from complying with new unfunded state mandates, such as having to provide distance learning on the fly, that will be a challenge “while becoming increasingly creative at stretching every dollar so that we can continue to enhance our programming and move forward with the maintenance projects for our buildings,” she added.

While Andersen said the district will continue to improve upon lessons taught by rolling out distance learning, she felt the district did everything it could with what it had.

“The resources provided to students and parents, the ongoing professional development provided to teachers, and the tireless efforts of our administration and staff has been nothing less than remarkable,” she said. “Our district will continue to provide for the needs of our students, staff and families as creatively as possible under these less than ideal circumstances … A growth mindset isn’t just something we teach our children — it’s at the heart of everything we do here in SWR.”

Henry Perez

With his third year on the board under his belt, Henry Perez, a mechanical engineer for a national architectural/engineering firm and near 20-year Shoreham resident, said the district is trying to be fiscally responsible despite the current hardships.

“The current pandemic will impact New York State’s financial ability to support local education,” Perez said. “I expect reduced funding from Albany in the next few years.”

He added the pandemic will likely change how students are taught in the future, and with the fear of additional unfunded mandates, it will mean a greater challenge to the district as it attempts to continue its current levels of education. 

“Shoreham-Wading River is already positioned to continue providing this level of education,” he said. “However, going forward requires careful planning to navigate these changing times. Listening to the community and receiving timely feedback in this time of social distancing is extremely important.”

Perez, who has two children in the district, said distance learning remains a complicated topic. The biggest issue is despite current efforts that he and others in the district are proud of, “it requires months of planning and feedback to develop and fine-tune a distance learning platform.”

However, the district has made major strides with its virtual classroom through its Chromebook initiative. Rolling out the distance learning structure in “a matter of days” showed the district’s quick response time, and feedback helped fine-tune the services. 

“I am confident we will only see improvements,” he said. “It seems in this day and age many expect things to be perfect from day one, myself included. However, it’s this expectation that results in change. It is change that brings opportunity.”

Rocky Point

The Rocky Point Union Free School District has three candidates running for two at-large seats for the 2020-21 school year. Each seat is for a three-year term. This year two incumbents and one newcomer are looking for the public’s nod.

Sean Callahan

Sean Callahan, the current board vice president, has sat on the BOE for six years. Himself a labor lawyer specializing in education and school issues, he said he and the board have spent the past years “transforming” the district by hiring people in central office and in principal positions, adding the board has worked to maintain balanced budgets and improve communication between the board, administration, staff and community.

“I am running once again to continue the transformation into the next generation,” he said.

Callahan, a Rocky Point resident since 1975 and father of three sons, two graduates and one in middle school, said he has experience in school auditing districts. He added he is also a certified school business official. On the local side, he has been a member of the Rocky Point civic, PTA and was a 10-year member of the North Shore Little League board of trustees.

As for upcoming issues due to the pandemic, the longtime resident said the board has already worked, even prior to schools closing, to tighten the belt. This year with a tax levy cap set at 0.08 percent and having prepaid part of their bonds of over a million dollars, which meant little had to be changed due to the pandemic with no loss of educational programming. While there is a chance state aid can be cut down the line, he said his day job offers him insight others may not have. 

“During this pandemic through my employment I am privy to many internal discussions from the governor’s office as well as having access to many other school districts,” he said. “This enables our district to learn from others’ mistakes and borrow their ideas.”

Jessica Ward

Trustee Jessica Ward has been on the board for one year, having run last year to finish the term of another trustee who had resigned.

She works at the William Floyd School District as an office assistant at William Floyd High School, which she said gives her insight into the ground-level view of what districts are having to do during this unfortunate time. She has four children who attend Rocky Point schools at every level from elementary to high school.

She sees the issues that districts all across the island will face in the near future as maintaining programming despite potential drastic cuts in state aid, following the guidelines for and ensuring the health and safety of staff and students in the aid of social distancing and trying to create a balanced budget to facilitate all that. Districts also face the challenge of ensuring equal access to technology for all students in the event that distance learning becomes more cemented in the future.

“We need to make sure that we are using our resources wisely, examining existing contracts to ensure fiscal responsibility, thinking outside the box in terms of schedules and extra-curricular activities, researching grant opportunities for technology needs, and partnering with other districts and Eastern Suffolk BOCES for staff training and curriculum needs,” Ward said.

With that, she added she feels Rocky Point has done an “excellent job” in rolling out distance learning. The district identified students in need of electronic devices in their homes, and the English as a Second Language department “ensured non-English-speaking students received the help and support they needed.

Some teachers in the district have been presenting audio and video lessons, and the guidance department, she said, has been reaching out to students who need additional assistance.

“There is always room for improvement though, and in the future, I would like to see every student at Rocky Point receive a Chromebook or device to assist in distance learning should we need to continue this in the 2020-21 school year,” she said. “I would also like to see all of our teachers doing some form of live interaction with our students via Google Meet or another platform in the future.”

Kellyann Imeidopf

A 10 and a quarter-year resident in the Rocky Point school district, Kellyann Imeidopf said her two main jobs are as a real estate salesperson and as a mother. She has four students in the district, with one in kindergarten, with the others in first, eighth and 10th grade. She said she decided to run because, “I ultimately have the children’s interest at heart. I want to be part of the team that shapes how our children get ready to become productive and active community members themselves. I want to create a shared vision for the future of education.”

She said the main challenges the district will face in the coming years will be regarding the mental health of both children and staff, and how they will “maintain social distance, but not emotional distance.” 

She said there will be setbacks from online learning, adding there needs to be a look at how to adapt the physical classroom to a virtual environment that can both engage children without leaning on parents. She said she has other ideas for how to prepare seniors heading off for college, even though seniors don’t have the same access to guidance departments they had when students were in school buildings.

In terms of distance learning, she said the district is working with the resources it had on hand, and both teachers and parents are “all dealing with this transition in not only professional ways, but personal, social-emotional and economic ways. I believe every staff member has our children’s best intentions at heart.”

She added the district can come together as a team to develop ways to ease the burdens on parents.

Miller Place 

The Miller Place School District has two seats up for election, and two incumbents are looking to fill them. Trustees Richard Panico and Lisa Reitan are the only candidates asked to be put on the ballot.

Both could not be reached before press time. The two candidates will be included in a follow up article if they respond before the June 4 issue of the Village Beacon Record.

Mount Sinai

This year, Mount Sinai voters will be asked to cast ballots for three at-large board seats with a total of four candidates running. Three incumbents and one newcomer are looking to fill the at-large seats for the next three years.

Edward Law

Ed Law, also a nine-year member of the Mount Sinai BOE, said he has decided to run again because with the district facing unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the district will need to navigate the pandemic and continue offering the same level of education. That, he said, will need experienced hands. 

“During my time on the board of education, we’ve been able to improve on the objective metrics of success for our district as well as providing for the specific needs of students who have developmental delays and disabilities,” he said. “Our track record of success of our students earning admission to competitive colleges and universities has been improving year over year while our district has expanded choices and options for those who choose career over college. We need to continue to improve on these.”

Law, who works full time as a management consultant, said the biggest challenge for the district will be in potential loss in state aid. The ongoing crisis might also result in other unfunded mandates, but he called those “nothing new.”

He added that the district has crafted its 2020-21 budget with consideration toward potential state aid cuts, while still keeping the tax levy increase minimal.

“As a district, we have evaluated every line item of our operating budget to ensure that we can provide continuity of our program,” he said. “This current scenario has been reflected in our proposed budget.”

In terms of the future of education at Mount Sinai, Law, who has one child in the middle school and two recent graduates, said that the district has tried to address concerns with how the district is doing distance learning. Though it’s hard to tell what may be in the future, the district must plan for everything.

“We have had a few issues raised by parents and we have it addressed directly by the teacher and principal,” he said. “Since we don’t know yet whether in person instruction will be able to be provided in the fall as per Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] guidelines and the governor’s directives, we need to continue to improve on how instruction is being provided, and have a plan for remote/distance learning in the new school year, whether through existing technology solutions or alternate technology platforms.”

Peter Van Middelem 

With six years already on the job, trustee Peter Van Middlem said the district must try to maintain its high standards of academics and other programming while facing potential financial challenges from the pandemic.

Van Middelem is a retired New York City Fire Department member and current financial auditor in various Suffolk school districts. Among his three children, his son, Jacob, is a junior at the high school.

“As a lifelong resident who attended Mount Sinai Schools and a 35-year volunteer of the Mount Sinai Fire Department, service to this community is my guiding force,” he said. 

He cited the district’s efforts already with hiring a teacher for the school’s robotics program, a new special education director and the new elementary school principal he described as a “literacy expert,” along with the implementation of Columbia Teacher College Reading and Writing programs for middle and elementary schools. He cited his and other members ability to deal with crises, including new security efforts such as armed guards and perimeter fencing.

However, now with the ongoing pandemic, he said the district’s efforts to generate savings through the district’s retirement incentive program and use of the capital plan to make improvements to facilities are important. 

He said the district must also be there to support community members facing financial hardships in this time.

“Our students and their families potentially will experience financial difficulties and we will be there to help any way we can to support them,” he said.  

In terms of the future of learning at Mount Sinai, he said the district has done well with limited New York State guidance, and will continue to improve on distance learning.

“With basic at best guidance from New York State, our teachers and admin have had to create a new learning environment,” he said. “The vast majority of our staff have done a great job considering the circumstances. We can always do better and will strive for that goal.”

Karen Pitka

Karen Pitka, a Mount Sinai resident since 2011, works as a fourth-grade teacher and said she can bring that experience in education matters, especially at the youngest grade levels, to help Mount Sinai in these difficult times. 

Pitka said she has taught second and fifth grade as well. While she has considered running for school board before, she said the pandemic has made the choice all the more clear.

“My extensive experience in education allows me to be well versed in what our children need,” she said. “Our youngest children will suffer greatly from the closure of schools during this unprecedented time and I feel I will be an asset to the community and will be able to offer the proper guidance being that I am an elementary school teacher and mother of young children.” 

Having the proper protocol for distance learning is one of the most important issues districts will face. Pitka said districts need a “proper plan” for distance learning should students not return to school buildings in September. Plans, she said, need to adhere to the Free Appropriate Public Education. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which needs to take into account the type of technology students have at home or have at their disposal so all can have access. 

However, she said the district has done everything it could with the time it had to create a distance learning experience. Still, now that the district has had time to collect its bearings, she said Mount Sinai should look at programs that can offer a similar experience to all users.

“Moving forward, now that we know we need to be prepared for circumstances such as these, I feel it would behoove the district to look at their plan for 1:1 student devices and ensure that a developmentally appropriate online learning platform is put into place for distance learning,” she said.

She added the district will face the challenge of an academic gap caused by school closures, and Mount Sinai should look into a specific mental health program to assist students with coping with the “new normal.”

“More pull-out remediation services may need to be offered and class sizes will need to be smaller in order to provide direct remediation from the classroom teacher,” she said.

In terms of finances, Pitka said if state aid changes the district should look at “every single line in the budget and decide which areas are absolutely critical to the development of all Mount Sinai students from the elementary level through the high school level.”

Robert Sweeney

Robert Sweeney, the current BOE president, has been on the board for nine years. Himself the managing partner of a law firm, he said he has the longtime and intimate experience of the school district, from both the administration side and from the student’s perspective.

Sweeney, who currently has two children in the district plus one who’s graduated, said this year’s budget was modified in response to the pandemic. He said he advocated for the lower tax levy increase of just over 1 percent, a full percentage point below the tax cap, especially since many residents will be hard pressed financially in the coming months. He added that the board has helped negotiate teacher retirement plans that can reduce the budget in the future without making cuts. Knowing when people will be retiring and enrollment numbers, he said, allows them to know how to staff going from year to year.

“There’s a balancing act of keeping the programs and keeping teachers in place,” he said. “We really tried to focus on a point where it makes sense for the district but some people may have jobs lost, lost a second income or have seen payroll reductions …  We can’t just keep going on as if nothing’s happened.” 

He also cited use of the capital reserves to work on projects like refinishing the high school roof as another example of the district trying to maintain its infrastructure without laying the burden on taxpayers.

With the potential for state aid cuts looming somewhere later into the year, the board president said the budget was designed for some amount of flexibility. He added the district is dedicated to long-term strategic planning to think several years ahead.

“I don’t know of any school district that could survive, as is, with a 20 percent drop in state aid — that could be huge,” he said. “We’ve drawn a bit more out of fund balance — that’s what it’s there for — and that will take us to a position next year.”

Sweeney called the term distance learning “a misnomer,” adding that programs looked different mid-March into April and then into May. Schools will have to remain flexible, he said, in case months down the road they will have students in schools, then have to reduce attendance in schools should the state require it. Most importantly, though, is to regain the social and emotional interaction between students and teachers.  

“It is providing support to the students, I do not think of it as distance learning,” he said. “The classroom teacher is important not just because of the material and the textbook, but because of the social and important interaction that the teacher has with the students. We have to make sure that we have classroom teaching in some form. Going forward every building and grade will be different.”