Five candidates, including a pair of incumbents, are seeking the three open seats on the Riverhead Board of Education this Tuesday, May 20.
Incumbents Gregory Meyer and Kimberly Ligon must fend off challengers from two newcomers—Gregory John Fischer and Laurie Downs—and one former board president, Lori Hulse, to serve another three years on the seven-member board.
District taxpayers can cast their ballots at the Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside, as well as at Riverhead High School, and the Aquebogue and Riley Avenue elementary schools, between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Gregory John Fischer, 58, a first-time candidate for the board, has two children attending the Riley Avenue Elementary School. If elected, he said he will bring his experience as a business consultant to the school district.
As a board member, the self-employed Mr. Fischer said he would focus his efforts on financial sustainability and increasing the quality of education for students. He prides himself on his financial knowledge and said he would consider projects that would benefit the district in the long-term, including rehiring grant writers in order to secure more money for the district and fostering partnerships with companies to generate additional streams of revenue.
He would also like to see the schedule changed at the high school so students attend nine periods a day instead of eight, without extending the length of the school day.
Mr. Fisher also thinks that the language gap between Spanish- and English-speaking students should be closed as much as possible, namely by separating the students into different classes.
Gregory Meyer, 45, a medical technician at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton and the father of three adult children, is seeking his third term on the board. He is also a volunteer football coach at Riverhead High School.
Over the past six years, Mr. Meyer said he has contributed to improving relationships between board members and the community. “We truly are a team,” he said of the board.
If elected to another three-year term, Mr. Meyer said he would like to continue to improve on the district’s financial practices and find a balance between budgeting and creating strong programs for students, while still adapting to the new Common Core curriculum.
Lori Hulse, 47, who sat on the board from 2000 until 2006, wants another chance to serve her community. She explained that she did not seek reelection in 2006 because, at that time, her children were in elementary school and she wanted to free up her time to volunteer for various school events.
The former board president boasts plenty of volunteer work within the district, assisting with various booster clubs. She has two children, Cole, 14 and Regan, 13, now attending Riverhead schools.
When she served as board president from 2002 until 2006, Ms. Hulse, an attorney, said she worked with State Senator Kenneth LaValle to increase state aid for Riverhead schools and started the drug and gang awareness programs that are still offered at the district.
The Riverhead High School graduate noted that while many things have changed since 2006, her prior experience can still benefit the board. “I would like to take on that challenge of dealing with those issues,” she said, referring to the state-mandated tax cap and the rolling out of the new Common Core standards. “I think I would be useful in opening the line of communication with parents.”
Laurie Downs, 58, a mother of two, is making her first run for the board. When her children, now 24 and 26, were in school, she served as PTO president at the high school and also sat on the executive council.
“I feel that I can bring commonsense solutions to the table,” said Ms. Downs, a self-employed internet marketer who represents two different entertainment companies.
She noted that, if elected, she wants to respond to emails from parents personally, instead of through the general board’s email. One of her main goals is to lobby for combining busing for special education students from different districts if they are going to the same school.
She said her other goals include “working to identify additional funding while fostering relationships that will help impact student achievements,” and keeping financial responsibility, which she sees as a strong point in the district, a priority.
Kimberly Ligon, 47, a recreational therapist at the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead for the past quarter century, is seeking reelection for the first time after first winning election in 2011.
The mother of two children—Kimberlyn, 13 and Michaela, 9—who attend Riverhead schools, Ms. Ligon said her first term was a learning experience. She noted that she is eager to continue serving and increase her involvement with students.
She said that one of her goals is to attend every school event in order to get to know the students and their parents. She would also like to continue serving on the district’s Health and Safety Committee. Administrators presented Ms. Ligon with the School Board Service Award for 2013, recognizing her dedication and commitment to the district. “I want to be there for the students,” she said.
As for the new Common Core standards, Ms. Logan said that everyone is still adapting to them. “Once everyone gets all the information, it will smooth out,” she said. “We need to give each student, parent and teacher support.”
If reelected, Ms. Ligon said she would continue working to stabilize the budget so that more teachers and guidance counselors can be hired.