8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Hemlock Park, Laurel Park, Loretta Park, North, Northeast, Oak Park, Pine Park, Southeast and Southwest elementary schools.
The district proposes a $393,553,824 budget for 2017-18, a 3.09 percent increase from the current $381,757,188. The tax levy would rise 1.93 percent, from $101,640,824 to $103,601,818.
This increase is equal to the state’s tax-cap limit, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget. School taxes on the average home would rise 1.93 percent, from $4,580.68 to $4,669.05, assuming the assessed value and adjusted base proportions are unchanged from this year.
The proposed budget includes a contractual 1 percent increase in teacher salaries and step increases ranging from 1.4 percent to 5 percent.
It funds additional positions for two elementary school assistant principals, 14 bilingual and English as Second Language teachers, 12 teachers, five special education teachers, one assistant coordinator for bilingual education, two guidance counselors, two psychologists, one social worker and one nurse.
A proposition asks voters for authorization to establish a capital reserve fund not to exceed $25 million, for use — once funded — for repairs, maintenance and reconstruction of facilities. The district said there is no plan to fund it now and approval would not have an effect on taxes.
- District website:
Three board seats are open — two for three-year terms and one, left vacant by trustee Gail Kirkham’s death in January, for a one-year term. Maria Gonzalez-Prescod and Bryan Greaves are running for one seat. Andrew Como, Joseph Fritz and Simone Holder-Daniel are running for a second seat. Julia Burgos, Robert S. Mickens and Joseph Walsh are running for the one-year term.
Burgos, Gonzalez-Prescod and Holder-Daniel are running as a slate, and Fritz, Greaves and Mickens are running as a slate.
BACKGROUND: Burgos, 60, is an adjunct professor at the Adelphi University School of Social Work who has lived in Brentwood for five decades. She worked as a social worker in the school district for 28 years before her retirement in June 2015. A 1974 graduate of Brentwood High School, she received her bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University and a master’s degree in social welfare, also from Stony Brook. She also took classes in linguistics and teaching English as a Second Language at Stony Brook. She is second vice president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association and secretary of the Brentwood Special Education Parent Teacher Association. Her three children attended and graduated from Brentwood schools and she has a grandchild who lives in the district.
ISSUES: Burgos’ main concern is what she described as the lack of social-emotional support for the students, after budget cuts since 2008 that decimated the staff of social workers, psychologists and guidance counselors. She said it’s inadequate for a district of nearly 20,000 students to have six social workers spread across 17 buildings. The district must seek funds to provide those services, she said, while ensuring that “the maximum amount of money is going directly toward funding education” and related services. “Many of our students are facing extraordinary pressures and difficulties outside of school that inevitably must be dealt with, in order to ensure that there is an environment within the school that is conducive to learning,” Burgos said.
BACKGROUND: Como, 68, a Brentwood High School graduate, is a certified physical education teacher for prekindergarten through sixth grade. A district resident for 60 years, he was the owner of Century Twenty One real estate and the prior owner of Realty Executives. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a bachelor’s degree from John F. Kennedy College in Nebraska. His two children graduated from district schools and now are teaching in Florida. He is a past president of the Brentwood Civic Association, Brentwood Chamber of Commerce, Brentwood Youth Association and Brentwood travel baseball, a past vice president of the Brentwood Rotary Club and a past member of the PTAs at North Elementary School and North Middle School. He also has been a member of the Brentwood Touchdown Club, Brentwood Soccer Club and Brentwood Booster Club. A past member of the school board, Como is a member of the school planning committee and safety committee and the Parent Teacher Student Association. He said he has attended every school board meeting and budget meeting for at least the past two years.
ISSUES: Como said overcrowding is among the greatest issues facing the district. “We don’t have room for any more kids,” he said. “Other school districts around us are closing schools, and the county and state and federal government keep dumping these kids here and we don’t know what to do.” He said the state-imposed tax cap has limited resources for Brentwood. “It is just a cycle and someone has to get in there to break the cycle and to lead the district in challenging our local officials to do something,” he said.
BACKGROUND: Fritz, 72, is an attorney who has lived in the district for 50 years. A Brentwood High School graduate, he holds an associate degree from Suffolk County Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University and a law degree from Howard University. He has served on the Town of Islip’s Zoning Board of Appeals. He has two grown children. He served on the board from 2005 to 2008.
ISSUES: Fritz said that gang violence is the most important issue facing the school district and awareness of the root causes of the violence must be raised. “It is not an educational issue but a social one,” he said. “But to ignore it, we jeopardize the ability of our school system to succeed in its mission of educating students.” He also said that Brentwood must be aggressive in obtaining funding from the federal and state governments to pay for the “most expensive unfunded mandate — providing an education for every student who enters our school.” Noting the district is required by law to educate every student, including those who come from other countries, he said, “This program is expensive and we must have their [governments’] support so we can maintain vigorous educational programs and programs for the new students from a foreign country,” he said. Without monetary aid, Brentwood’s educational process will be compromised, he said.
BACKGROUND: Gonzalez-Prescod, 37, is a stay-at-home mom and community advocate who has lived in the district for 13 years. She grew up in Lackawanna, south of Buffalo, and graduated among top students in her high school there, although she had started as an English-language learner from Puerto Rico. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo, a bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University and a master of business administration from the University of Phoenix. She is vice president of the Southwest Elementary PTA and a member of the Brentwood schools’ policy committee. She has two children enrolled in the district.
ISSUES: The main challenge the district faces, Gonzalez-Prescod said, is a lack of sufficient funds to serve a growing population. She has been lobbying in Albany for an increase in aid and intends to continue to do so. One critical need is for more guidance counselors who could help students stay focused and avoid trouble, she said, adding that students have to wait in line to see a counselor. “They say we have gangs in our schools,” Gonzalez-Prescod said. “We need to reach out to those children and basically uplift them, offer them after-school and enrichment programs and access to social workers, because many children have issues that are not being addressed, from not having enough food in their homes to being the victims of abuse,” she said.
BACKGROUND: Greaves, 28, a 2007 graduate of the district, is pastor of Christ Central Church of Holy Church of Christ in Bay Shore. He is working toward a degree in pastoral counseling from Christian Bible Institute & Seminary in Texas. He serves as the millennial chairman of the Islip Town Branch NAACP. He is running on a slate with Fritz and Mickens.
ISSUES: Greaves said that the district’s two main priorities are providing better safety for the schools and improving the education offerings. He and the two candidates with whom he is running would like to implement more after-school programs districtwide. “We want to try to create a safe environment and . . . target substance abuse and guide our children away from alcohol and gang activity,” Greaves said. “Between education and safety, that is our main priority.”
BACKGROUND: Holder-Daniel, 39, a licensed social worker, works as program director for developmental disability services at the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk, a nonprofit. A Brentwood resident for 30 years, she is a 1994 graduate of Brentwood High School. She has an associate degree from Suffolk County Community College. She received a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Empire State College and a master’s in social work from Stony Brook University. For more than a decade, she volunteered with Brentwood Youth Activities, serving on the group’s board from 2014 to 2016. Her son attends the seventh grade and her grandson attends kindergarten in Brentwood. An older son graduated from Central Islip in 2012 and two stepsons graduated from the Brentwood district.
ISSUES: The district doesn’t have sufficient funds to serve its student body, Holder-Daniel said, and “our student population is exponentially increasing and the district cannot meet the demands.” She said board members need to lobby for the appropriate amount of funding to restore social workers and teaching positions and to offer enrichment programs after school, as well as to decrease overcrowding. “We need these services for children who are economically disadvantaged and they come up with these issues that are not being addressed,” Holder-Daniel said.
Robert S. Mickens
BACKGROUND: Mickens, 39, a nurse’s aide, helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as part of the staff at Family Residences and Essential Enterprises Inc. in Hauppauge. He has been in that line of work for 19 years. A resident of Brentwood for 18 years, he graduated from North Babylon High School and obtained his nurse’s aide certificate from Western Suffolk BOCES in Amityville. In the course of his job, he has received training on managing medication for patients and worked in supervisory roles. He has been volunteering for several months with the boys basketball team at East Middle School. Mickens said he was inspired to become involved in the community after the death of his daughter, Nisa Mickens, an 11th-grader who was about to turn 16 when she was killed by alleged gang members in September 2016. He has two older stepchildren, a boy and a girl, who graduated from the Brentwood schools.
ISSUES: Mickens said there’s one main issue on his mind: saving as many children as possible from gangs. Students need more recreational and volunteering programs “to keep them occupied” and out of trouble, he said. School should be a safe and enjoyable environment, he said, and volunteers could be recruited to create alternatives for students. “As long as we create programs that they like and they join them, they can do positive things,” Mickens said. As examples of possible extracurricular activities that wouldn’t cost much, he suggested that the schools host dancing and songwriting contests and that students visit assisted-living facilities to interact with residents. Residents “should vote for me not because I’m a father of a victim, but because I want to see a difference in this community,” Mickens said.
BACKGROUND: Walsh, 58, is a retired Brentwood schools security guard and now drives a bus for Suffolk Transportation. A Brentwood resident for 27 years, he attended Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in East Elmhurst, Queens. He supports the Brentwood High School “Green Machine” Marching Band. He has two grandchildren who attend district schools.
ISSUES: Walsh said the greatest challenge facing the district is the gang issue. “We need to get security to have better training and what to look for,” he said. He also noted that the district needs to be more transparent. “We need team players. We need unity. We can’t have members on the board with personal agendas,” Walsh said. He said he would seek outside help from different agencies to “to see what we can do to clean up the streets.” More after-school activities at every grade level are needed, he said.