Nine people are seeking three seats in a hotly contested Board of Education race in the Eastport South Manor School District.
As part of the race, two incumbents, Karen Kesnig and Marie Brown, are hoping to keep their seats on the seven-member board. At the same time, six-year member of the board Arthur Abbate has elected not to seek a third term.
Hoping to unseat the incumbents are newcomers Erik Lassen, John Squicciarini, Margot McGinniss, Stevenson Petit, Ken Colvin, Nicholas Vero, and Nicolette Krumholz. They are all seeking a three-year term.
In addition to casting their ballots in the election on May 21, residents are also asked to vote on the district’s proposed $91.2 million spending plan for the 2013-14 year. The budget does not pierce the state’s tax levy cap and requires only a majority vote. Polls will open at 6 a.m. and remain open until 9 p.m. at the Board of Education room at the junior-senior high school on Moriches-Middle Island Road in Manorville.
Ms. Kesnig, 53, is seeking her sixth three-year term in office, and has been on the board for 15 years. A mother of four—Arielle, 24, Charlie, 22, Shane, 19, and Laura, 15—Ms. Kesnig said she still thinks she has positive things to offer to the board.
“I think the district is moving in a very positive direction and things are good,” she said this week. “Our scores are up, our curriculum has improved, and I would like to see it keep moving in the direction the district is moving in.”
A graduate of the State University of New York at Albany and St. John’s Law School, Ms. Kesnig is a practicing attorney with a firm in Manorville. She is also the president of the Manorville Chamber of Commerce.
Ms. Brown, 50, is seeking her second term on the board. A mother of two children in the district, Jacqueline, 15, and Alexandra, 12, she said she has been working hard over the past few years to continually move the district forward.
Throughout her 15 years as a Manorville resident, Ms. Brown said she has served on as many community-based organizations as possible, including the Parent Teacher Organization, the Budget Advisory Committee and the Shared Decision Making Team, among others, while also volunteering to help local fundraisers.
She said this week one of her main goals is to help keep the district tax levy low, so the taxpayers can benefit from the budgets.
“I am seeking reelection so I can continue what I have been doing for the past few years,” she said, “moving the district forward and continuing to bring my issues and ideas to the table.”
Mr. Lassen is a 42-year-old father of two children in the district—Delaney, 9, and Chase, 6. He has lived in Manorville for the past 15 years with his wife, Barbara, and is making his first run for the board.
As a teacher and administrator for the Massapequa School District, Mr. Lassen says he understands the educational needs of students. His work as an educator has given him the tools to work efficiently on the board, while balancing the needs of both parents and the schools.
Mr. Lassen said that he hopes to be able to bring change to the district, noting that the district is not progressing at this time.
“Now that my kids are in the schools, I want to be involved a little more,” he said. “It’s due time for a change. We have had a few members on the board for a while now, and stuff is just not getting done. I think I can make a change.”
Mr. Squicciarini, 43, is a retired police officer with three kids in the district—Samantha, 14, Cameron, 11, and Sabrina, 9. He and his wife Christina moved to the Eastport South Manor School District in 2001.
With his kids in the district, Mr. Squicciarini said he is confident that he can handle the job on the Board of Education, saying that he has worked extensively in the community in the past. He volunteers on a regular basis, particularly with the Parent Teacher Organization, and is open to the challenge, he said.
“I have volunteered a lot in the past and it has opened my eyes to a lot of stuff that I can do,” he said. “I can do this job.”
Mr. Vero is a 55-year-old architect who has lived in Manorville for the past 23 years. Although he no longer has kids in the district, Mr. Vero said he is knowledgeable about the schools, and their individual issues, and can help move the district forward.
A graduate of the New York Institute of Technology, Mr. Vero said this week that one of his main goals is to make an impact on the alternative high school students who are being overlooked in the district. He said that these kids are being left behind because they either don’t associate with other students or are not interested in typical high school activities. He said the district can do more to find these kids and give them something they are interested in so they do not go home and play video games for hours on end.
Mr. Vero is proposing a program where these students can be matched with local business owners in a field they are interested in. The program would allow them to spend time with these businessmen and women on a weekly basis and develop an interest.
“My goal is to keep the board on track,” he said. “To date, with the cuts, the district has done a wonderful job and I think we have a terrific school district.”
Ms. Krumholz is a 49-year-old mother of three, two of which are still in the district—Leo, 21, Maria, 17, and Gina, 11. A South Manor resident, she said this week she is hoping to be able to get more involved in the district, and feels that she can be a good parent representative on the board.
A graduate of Marin College in California, she said her top priorities for the district are safety and a well-rounded education for all students. As a long-time resident and member of the district since 1996, Ms. Krumholz said she is hopeful she can help further erase the disconnect between community members from before the school districts combined more than a decade ago. She said that the board has done a good job in bringing the community together, but more can be done.
Ms. Krumholz also said she thinks it is important for parents from all over the district to be heard. She added that she has a good working relationship with several members of the board, and believes she will be able to effectively work with the other board members to move the district in a positive direction.
“I just want what is best for the community,” she said. “I want safety for our children, and the best education they can get, as well as a budget that is something the people in this community can live with.”
Ms. McGinniss is a 52-year-old mother of two—Joshua and Michael. An active member of the community, she is running for the first time. For the race, Ms. McGinnis has chosen two running mates, Stevenson Petit and Ken Colvin.
According to Ms. McGinniss, she is running to have more of a voice with the board, and has attended most meetings over the past two years.
“I felt that I would have more of an input and a voice if I am on the board rather than sitting in the audience,” she said. “I want to sit on the board.”
According to a biography written on a website intended to share information from herself and her two running mates, esmboe.org, she said she decided to run because her children’s education was suffering due to budget cuts.
She is also a strong advocate for greater transparency between board members and parents. In the past, she complained that decisions were being made and then parents were informed. Parents should instead be kept in the loop throughout the entire decision-making process, she said.
“After attending meetings for as long as I have, I had decided it was time to not sit in the ‘audience’ trying to make a difference,” she wrote on the page. “But instead channel my time, energy and knowledge as a BOE member.”
Mr. Petit, who has lived in Manorville since 2007, is also an advocate for transparency with the board of education. Mr. Petit, who has three children in the district—Joshua, 13, Jeremiah, 8, and Abigail, 5—is making his second attempt at making the board after being narrowly defeated last year.
Mr. Petit, who is a guidance counselor and teacher at Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, has a lot of experience with the New York State Education Department that can be an asset to the board, he said.
On the esmboe.org website, Mr. Petit explains that he wants to strengthen the relationship between the board and the community, saying that the current model is not productive.
“I want to ensure that the community is empowered,” he said on the website. “Working together will prove to be in everyone’s best interest. Board members must be making wise financial and educational decisions to enable teachers to teach, by giving teachers better tools and resources to do their job. Furthermore, my goal is to make sure the students are given the opportunity to learn and be prepared for the 21st century.”
Mr. Colvin is a 49-year-old father of three children in the district—Quincy, 17, Penelope, 16, and Julianna, 14. As a Manorville resident and school community member, Mr. Colvin has been advocating for parent rights for the past two years. His goal is to work in the best interest of the community.
“I am running for the board so every parent/resident has the best opportunity to be informed and involved with the decisions the board and administration makes regarding our students’ education,” he said on the website. “While attending a majority of board meetings over the past couple of years, I have noticed sometimes important information was not presented to parents/residents, which resulted in parents/residents not being able to help make informed and involved changes for the students.”
Mr. Colvin also wants to curb spending in the district, noting that although the district tax levy increase is the lowest it has been in five years, the budget-to-budget increase is the highest.
Mr. Colvin also believes that programs for children should not face being cut, rather salary increases should not be granted until all programs are saved. Other ideas he has for curbing spending and keeping community members informed at the same time include polling the community, creating intramural sports, and reallocating resources for more equal education standards in each of the district schools.