Three candidates seeking Three Village school board seats

Three candidates seeking Three Village school board seats

Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Three Village school board.

Incumbent Jonathan Kornreich, who has been on the board since 2008, will try to hold on to one of the at-large seats. Newcomer Angelique Ragolia, 46, and Andrea Fusco-Winslow, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 2012, are joining Kornreich in a bid for the two, 3-year positions.

Jonathan Kornreich Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

A handful of residents showed up at Ward Melville High School Monday for the PTA-sponsored Meet the Candidates Night, at which the candidates for board trustees fielded prepared questions from the audience. Pitching their strengths, each highlighted qualities they said make them uniquely suited for the board.

Fusco-Winslow, an anesthesiologist with ProHEALTH Care Associates, said that, as a former business owner, she understands budgets and the importance of the bottom line. As a “fresh face” to the board, “I may see things differently,” she said, which could help the board ask the right questions and “change things that need to be changed.”

“I want to do the best for the community that has taken such good care of me,” said Fusco-Winslow, a 1988 Ward Melville High School graduate.

Kornreich, 46, chair of the board’s audit committee and a member of its legislative committee, said his background in investment management and as a legal consultant gives him a good sense of what tomorrow’s businesses want. That makes him an effective advocate for programs that will give Three Village students the right skills.

“There are certain very special things about this school district that make it desirable,” Kornreich said. “The size of our district allows us to run a wide variety of programs and allows every child to find that special thing about school that they really enjoy.”

He added that he has demonstrated a commitment “to the kids of our community and the community at large.”

Angelique Ragolia file photo
Angelique Ragolia file photo

“I would love to be someone who advocates for all of our children,” said Ragolia, who taught speech for seven years in Brooklyn before moving to East Setauket more than a decade ago. She works as a positive behavior intervention specialist with people suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

Now at the end of her second year as president of the Three Village Council of PTAs, Ragolia said she has a good working relationship with district administration and the board.

Asked about the district’s greatest weakness, the former Minnesauke Elementary PTA president answered that there wasn’t one. She praised the school board for restoring several student programs while presenting a “fiscally responsible” budget within the cap.

“I see all good,” Ragolia said. “I see room for growth always, but that’s with everybody, everywhere.”

Fusco-Winslow, 46, said she’s pleased with the education her daughters are receiving at Nassakeag Elementary and P.J. Gelinas Junior High, but sees areas that can be improved.

The 13-year East Setauket resident touched on the need to increase technology and student safety. Specifically, Fusco-Winslow said she wants to move voting, like the April 19 primary, out of the district’s schools. In addition, she wants to ensure that student athletes have the most appropriate safety equipment — particularly for sports such as football and lacrosse, and that the additional $6 million from the state goes toward student programs like art and music.

“There are things that need to be improved, and we have the money to do it,” she said.

Andrea_Fusco_wKornreich mentioned the restoration of high school business classes, the expansion of secondary level computer science and the elementary STEM program as examples of the current board’s budget priorities.

Not only is next year’s budget below the cap, he said, “It enhances programs to the maximum extent possible for our kids.”

The district’s greatest weakness, he said, is the loss of local control.

“No one knows better than us how we want to educate our students,” he said. Kornreich added that being “force-fed” state assessments infringes on the district’s ability to “control parts of our own destiny.”

Both Ragolia, who spoke at the 2013 Ward Melville forum with then Education Commissioner John King, and Fusco-Winslow, whose platform includes opting out of state tests, believe the standardized tests are developmentally inappropriate. In interviews before Monday’s event, each said the tests were not helpful to students, teachers or parents in determining how well students are doing.

The vote for school board trustees and the budget will take place on Tuesday, May 17, at the elementary schools. Those who usually vote at W.S. Mount Elementary will vote at R.C. Murphy Junior High, and Arrowhead Elementary voters will go to Ward Melville High School. The order on the ballot, determined by a drawing required by law, will be Kornreich, Ragolia and Fusco.

The candidate with the most votes will complete Susanne Mendelson’s term, which ends on June 30.