VOTING

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Eastport-South Manor Jr. Sr. High School.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $92,472,268 budget for 2015-16, a 0.16 percent decrease from the current $92,624,590. The local tax levy would increase 2.28 percent, from $49,832,414 to $50,968,930.

The increase equals the state's tax-cap limit of 2.28 percent, so a simple majority vote is required to pass the budget. School taxes on the average single-family home would rise 2.28 percent, from $8,500 to $8,694.

The budget covers a combined average increase of 3.2 percent for teacher salaries -- a 2.7 percent step increase and a 0.5 percent contract raise.

It would cut 9.4 teaching positions, four teacher assistants and 12 teacher aides. The cuts are largely due to continuing declines in elementary enrollment. This $2 million in staff savings would be offset by $163,000 for 2.2 teaching positions to satisfy new state mandates on ESL classes.

Spending in the district, which united two school systems in 2004, would cover more than 20 new electives and extracurricular activities, including accounting, U.S. presidents, website development, science clubs, an orchestra with fifth- to seventh-graders and more varsity sports.

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District website:

esmonline.org

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbents Kenneth Cooke and Kevin Gleason and challenger Virginia Churchin are running for two at-large seats. Gleason and Cooke are running as a team. Terms are three years.

Virginia Churchin

BACKGROUND: Churchin, 47, left her job as a Bank of America vice president 13 years ago to start focusing on family, turning into a soccer and track mom to her sixth-grade and seventh-grade daughters. As a PTA member, she has raised funds, volunteered at events and served as treasurer. She was an arts major at Farmingdale State College for a year but when federal aid to students was cut, she went to work as a bank teller, launching a 15-year finance career. She has lived in the district three years.

ISSUES: She wants to scrap the practice of deducting aid from each district to help close the state budget gap, stop Common Core and curtail federal powers over education. But after seeing audiences of 10 or so at board meetings, Churchin set her first goal: boosting interest via board e-newsletters and efforts to find out what residents want before votes. "It seems as if the board is just running on its own, not that I'm saying they're making all bad decisions -- they're not," she said. "If they're not hearing what the community wants, they're not serving the community." Churchin said she will fill a gap in board representation -- the current members don't have any children in grade school or middle school. She has spent $250 on signs and fliers to publicize her goals and candidacy.

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Kenneth Cooke

BACKGROUND: Cooke, 61, the board president, is running for a third term. He retired in 2009 after 34 years as a teacher in the William Floyd school district, where his wife still teaches grade school. Of their three children, only a ninth-grader remains in the school system. He has a bachelor's in education from Long Island University in 1975 and master's in education from Dowling College in 1979. He has lived in the district 20 years.

ISSUES: He wants to persuade lawmakers to overturn the state plan tying Common Core tests to teacher evaluations and school funding. Cooke calls it "ridiculous," sapping instructors' confidence and jeopardizing students' education. Out of the district's test-eligible students, more than 65 percent opted out of English and more than 57 percent out of math. "You can't have an evaluation based upon something that's almost nonexistent," he said. Cooke prides himself on bringing stability to a district that had been a revolving door for superintendents -- four in less than three years. The board recently persuaded Superintendent Mark Nocero to stay with a two-year extension of his contract and a raise. "Stability is extremely important to move forward," Cooke said. "If you keep changing, so does the direction." He would look into funding more sports programs, a popular demand from parents.

Kevin Gleason

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BACKGROUND: Gleason, 49, negotiates union contracts for Local 342 United Marine Division of the International Longshoremen's Association. He has been a delegate and legislative director at labor conferences. He graduated from the William Floyd school district, where his wife works. Of their three children, only one remains in the district, a high school junior. A former board president, he is running for a third term. He has lived in the district 26 years.

ISSUES: The incoming school board will have to negotiate all the major contracts, and Gleason said his job experience gives him the knack for it. By bargaining terms that are fair for workers, students and the budget, he said, "we can all get along." But Common Core has tested Gleason's patience, because no one in the school system will see individual test results and use them to help each student. "What do you learn as a parent?" he said. Gleason would like to tip the 99 percent graduation rate to 100 percent. He also wants to make sure the district is well rounded, from students doing community services to classes for auto repair, cosmetology, culinary arts and other trades because not everyone is college bound.