7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Amityville Memorial High School and Northeast Elementary School.
The district proposes a budget of $88,420,651 for 2017-18, a 2.2 percent increase from the current $86,520,543. The tax levy would rise by 2.2 percent, from $55,572,109 to $56,797,151.
This increase is equal to what is allowed under the district’s tax-cap limit, so a simple majority will be required to approve the budget.
The proposed budget adds Advanced Placement courses and other electives. The district did not provide information about teacher salary increases.
- District website: amityvilleschools.org
There are three by-seat positions open. Incumbent Susan Benard-Handler is being challenged by Kimberly Bethea and Carolyn Chikazunga. Incumbent Carolyn Dodd is being challenged by Mercedes Daniels-Reed. Incumbent Lisa Johnson is being challenged by Allie McDonough. Terms are three years.
BACKGROUND: Benard-Handler, 68, has lived in the district for 49 years. She was appointed to the school board in September 2016. She holds a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Old Westbury and a master’s degree in library and information science from LIU Post and spent 18 years as a reference librarian in the Amityville Public Library before retiring to be a caregiver for her young grandchildren. Two of her three adult children are graduates of the district; one grandson attends a district school.
ISSUES: Benard-Handler said she has learned a lot in her eight months on the school board and would like to continue expanding external partnerships, such as a literacy program with Columbia University’s Teachers College and another that partners high schoolers with local businesses. She said she would also like to continue an effort to hire teachers from more diverse ethnic backgrounds. “I’m committed to educational excellence and the increased excellence of our district. I feel like we are headed in that direction. Education is the ticket to the future and a good education is the best gift you can give your children,” Benard-Handler said.
Kimberly D. Bethea
BACKGROUND: Bethea, 48, is a school bus driver and cosmetologist who currently serves as the treasurer of the Amityville Parent Teacher Council, where she has been a member for 13 years. A 15-year district resident, Bethea is the mother of five children, three of whom are district graduates. She has served as a class parent, recording secretary and a participant in the district’s capital project committee. She also is a deacon and a member of the Fountain of Life Church in Uniondale.
ISSUES: Bethea, who did not respond to requests for an interview, wrote on a candidate information form that she hopes to improve overall test scores and get more students to be proficient and at advanced levels, despite their economic challenges.
BACKGROUND: Chikazunga, 73, is an alumna of the district where she has lived for 67 years. She is the mother of four adult children who attended district schools. She served on the school board between 1986 and 2002. In 1989, she was the co-author of a state grant that provided the district with a teen pregnancy prevention program, and in 1998 she advocated for a $524,000 federal grant for high-risk middle school students. For nearly 20 years, she has run a Friday night basketball open gym for teenage boys and young adults at the middle school with volunteers from the community.
ISSUES: Chikazunga said she believes her previous experience on the school board would be valuable in helping to create a plan to better develop the school-home connection. She said the high economic and social needs of some families in the district mean more outreach is needed, such as the hiring of a full-time social worker. She also would like for school principals to publicly present their requests for funding during budget season. “We cannot afford to let social media and the streets educate our children. I believe that I can, again, make a difference as an advocate for accountability and change in the educational and working environment of our schools,” Chikazunga said.
BACKGROUND: Dodd, 70, a retired Amityville teacher, is seeking her second term on the school board. She has lived in the district for 45 years and has two adult children who attended district schools. Her daughter is an English teacher at the district’s Edmund W. Miles Middle School. Dodd is a past president of the Amityville Teachers Association, and current president of the cultural exchange group Amityville Le Bourget Alliance. She is a member of both the Art League of Long Island and the Huntington Art League.
ISSUES: Dodd said she is seeking re-election because she would like to continue and expand some of the programs implemented in the past three years, such as the Advanced Placement Capstone seminar and research diploma and the opportunities for independent science research projects in the middle school. She notes that during her term, the school board was able to better collaborate with the teachers union to offer retirement incentives and pass a bond referendum in March 2016 for renovations and expansions to keep pace with the growing student enrollment. “It is about rethinking our approach to service . . . so we can align ourselves in a way that is smarter, sharper and more effective,” Dodd said.
BACKGROUND: Daniels-Reed, 43, owns a realty brokerage in the village. She has lived in the district for 10 years and is a mother of five. Her eldest daughter graduated from the district, her older son attended the district up to middle school, and her three younger children are currently in or will be attending a district school. Daniels-Reed holds a diploma from Beach Channel High School in Rockaway Park.
ISSUES: Daniels-Reed, who is fluent in Spanish, said she would like to engage more Hispanic families in the school’s decision-making process. To do this, she said she hopes to continue translation services at board meetings and expand community outreach. As a business owner, real estate agent and parent, she believes she can bring various groups together. She would also like to increase federal, state and private grants and programs and to help families become more connected to the school. “It’s really a blending of the home setting and the school community. I’d like to create unity,” she said.
Lisa M. Johnson
BACKGROUND: Johnson, 56, is director of clinical education and a clinical assistant professor of the respiratory care program at Stony Brook University. She was born and raised in Amityville and graduated from district schools. She has two adult children, one of whom graduated from the high school and the other who attended through middle school. She has been a member of the school board since 2008 and was an advocate of the $70 million bond referendum that passed in March 2016.
ISSUES: Johnson said, if re-elected, she would closely monitor the construction projects that were funded by the bond measure and the process of securing bids for them. She said she would like to continue more status updates on the projects for the community, and encourage board members to do periodic walk-throughs during various points of the construction to gain a better understanding of how the money is being spent. She said she would like to continue to improve academic rigor with Advanced Placement courses. “Everyone needs to be ready for college. We need to set the bar high. Even if you don’t go to college, but are prepared for it, then you are better off for entering a career or military or wherever you want to go,” Johnson said.
BACKGROUND: McDonough, 22, is a lifelong district resident who attended the district’s schools since prekindergarten. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Old Westbury and currently works as a research program assistant. She will begin a master’s degree program in social research at Hunter College in the fall.
ISSUES: McDonough said she was motivated to run for a seat on the school board after she had helped advocate for the passage of the district’s $70 million bond referendum in March 2016. She believes she has a fresh perspective on student issues and wants to be sure the upgrades to the district’s schools help expand the science research program and encourage athletics and more academic involvement for student athletes. “It’s the place I grew up and really shaped me as the person I am now,” she said. “I can only imagine what some of the students will accomplish when they have the necessary tools to move them forward.”