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Long IslandEducation

Babylon school district


6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Babylon Memorial Grade School.


The district proposes a $50,172,183 budget for 2016-2017, a 1.92 percent increase from the current $49,227,164. The tax levy would increase 1.37 percent, from $38,558,225 to $39,085,906.

This increase is equal to the district’s tax-cap limit of 1.37 percent, so a simple majority is required to approve the budget. School taxes on the average single-family home would increase 1.36 percent, from $9,045 to $9,168.

The proposed budget includes an average 2 percent increase in teacher salaries. It also funds the launch of a new elective engineering curriculum and refurbishment of technology labs.

In addition, a proposition seeks authorization for the school board to establish a capital reserve fund to finance future building projects or infrastructure needs. The district said a previous capital reserve fund was fully funded.

  • District website:


Incumbents Elizabeth Altbacker and Dominic P. Bencivenga and candidates Dave Sonkin and Robert C. Verdi are running for two at-large seats. Altbacker and Sonkin are running as a team. Terms are three years.

Elizabeth Altbacker

BACKGROUND: Altbacker, 44, who teaches band to seventh- and eighth-graders in the Long Beach school district, has been on the school board since 2014 and serves on its policy committee. She has been a teacher for 22 years and has lived in the district for 19 years. Altbacker has a bachelor’s degree in music education from Ithaca College and a master’s in education from Hofstra University. She is a member of New York State United Teachers, the National Association of Music Educators and Nassau County Music Educators. Two of her three children attend district schools.

ISSUES: Altbacker said she is focused on keeping costs under control and ensuring students have the best education possible, which includes new technology offerings and low class sizes. “Any time I make a decision, the first question I ask is, ‘Is it what is best for the children?’ and the second is, ‘Is this fiscally responsible?’ ” she said. Altbacker also said the board’s job is to set policy and allow the district’s administrators to do their work. As a teacher, she believes she has extra insight to guide the district. “You need people involved who are hands-on in the field.”

Dominic P. Bencivenga

BACKGROUND: Bencivenga, 54, a communications executive with J.P. Morgan Chase, has been a board trustee since 2010 and has served as the panel’s vice president and president. He currently is chairman of the building and grounds committee, which is overseeing renovations made possible through a $26.6 million bond issue. Bencivenga has an associate degree from Nassau Community College, a bachelor’s in English literature from Hofstra University and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University. He was an organizer of Babylon Helps, a superstorm Sandy relief organization, and is a member of Boy Scout Troop 194. He also has coached soccer and football. He has lived in the district for 21 years and his three children attend or have attended district schools.

ISSUES: Bencivenga said he is the longest-serving member of the board and brings an independent view focused on curriculum and facility upgrades. “Our challenge is to ensure our curriculum and staff development dovetails with new facilities and technology to enhance the educational experience for all students,” he said. He noted that three of four candidates for the two board seats are teachers, and if teachers win, the board could have five of seven spots occupied by educators — a possible outcome that concerns him. “I think the board needs to have a balance,” Bencivenga said. “I think having a majority of board members being teachers when we go into contract negotiations is problematic.”

Dave Sonkin

BACKGROUND: Sonkin, 40, teaches history, math and English language arts to sixth-graders in the Brentwood school district. He has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in special education from Dowling College. Sonkin is a member of New York State United Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers. A district resident for 13 years, he is a youth lacrosse coach for Babylon Village Lacrosse Club and a basketball coach at West Babylon Community Youth Center. He also has coached basketball, lacrosse and football at Brentwood. Sonkin has three children, the eldest of whom is in kindergarten in the district.

ISSUES: Sonkin said he would work to build a positive relationship between the board, district and community. One reason he decided to run is that in September no member of the board would have children in kindergarten through sixth grade and he wants to represent that group. “If you’re going to have a board of education represent the entire district, you need to have a board that represents all the schools,” Sonkin said. He said he would work to ensure students with special needs have the most opportunities available to them. “As a parent and a teacher, I don’t want to see any child fall through the cracks,” he said. “Each of our students deserves the best Babylon has to offer.”

Robert C. Verdi

BACKGROUND: Verdi, 42, teaches government and politics to seniors at Bethpage High School and has been a teacher for 19 years. A U.S. Army Reserve veteran, he has a bachelor’s degree in social studies and secondary education from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania and a master’s in education administration from the College of New Rochelle. He is a union representative for the Bethpage Congress of Teachers. Verdi has lived in the district for 10 years and his four children attend or will attend district schools.

ISSUES: Verdi said he has extensive knowledge of contract negotiations and has worked with parents, faculty and administrators over the years to ensure high educational standards are met. “I would use my experience to help provide policies that help the community,” Verdi said. “I simply have a lot of experience dealing with the nuts and bolts of what makes a school district work.” He said he would help as the district moves to streamline transportation schedules to provide more efficient busing. He also said he would make sure policies are implemented properly.

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