TODAY'S PAPER
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Long IslandEducation

Brentwood school district

VOTING

8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Hemlock Park, Laurel Park, Loretta Park, North, Northeast, Oak Park, Pine Park, Frank J. Cannon Southeast and Southwest elementary schools.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $406,789,163 budget for 2018-19, a 3.36 percent increase from the current $393,553,824. The tax levy would rise 3.99 percent, from $103,601,818 to $107,737,688.

This increase is equal to the district’s tax-cap limit of 3.99 percent, so a simple majority will be required to approve the budget.

School taxes on the average single-family home would rise 3.99 percent, from $4,621.24 to $4,805.72 on an average assessment of $35,000, assuming assessed values and adjusted base proportions remain unchanged from this year.

The district said that state aid is not keeping up with enrollment growth and the system has had to use a significant amount of reserve funds or trim programs and staff.

The proposed budget funds teacher salary increases of 1.25 percent, with step increases ranging from 1.4 percent to 5 percent in the third year of a five-year contract. The district plans to reduce personnel by two teachers and 9.5 positions for support staff through attrition, as retirements are expected.

Voters will decide a proposition that would put in place a system of at-large elections for school board trustees, replacing seat-specific voting for future elections. According to the ballot measure, at-large elections would mean “school board candidates with the highest vote totals will be elected to the available vacancies.”

District website:

bufsd.org

THE CANDIDATES

Three seats are open in specific races. Incumbent Julia Burgos is being challenged by William King Moss III; incumbent Eileen Felix, is vying against Bryan Greaves; and Cynthia Ciferri and Camille Serrano are competing for the seat vacated by Daniel Calderon, who is not seeking reelection. Burgos, Ciferri and Felix are running as a slate, as are Greaves, Moss and Serrano. Terms are three years.

Julia Burgos

BACKGROUND: Burgos, 61, an adjunct professor at the Adelphi University School of Social Work, has lived in Brentwood for 51 years. She was a social worker in the Brentwood schools for 28 years until retiring in 2015. A Brentwood High School graduate, Burgos earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social welfare from Stony Brook University. Her daughter and two sons, now adults, attended Brentwood schools, and her grandson is in second grade in the district. She is second vice-president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association and secretary of the Special Education PTA. She has been a school board trustee since May 2017, winning an election to complete the remainder of a term.

ISSUES: Burgos said the district struggles to obtain sufficient funding to educate a growing student population. She said she would continue to fight for more state support while reducing expenses “in other than instructional areas.” The district could use those funds for more classes, technology upgrades and remedial services. The goal, Burgos said, is to ensure that “the money is being spent in a manner that is going to benefit the students . . . We are trying to be progressive in addressing the needs not just as they come, but thinking about the future as well.”

Cynthia Ciferri

BACKGROUND: Ciferri, 56, a Brentwood resident for 44 years, retired after more than 30 years as a waitress. She is a 1980 graduate of Brentwood High School. She waitressed at various dining establishments in Westchester County, New York City and on Long Island, most notably for 20 years at a diner in Commack. She reared five sons, including outgoing board member Daniel Calderon, whose seat she is seeking. She said she has been involved as a parent advocate in the schools and through the years has taken struggling youths into her home to try to steer them through high school. She has volunteered with the Brentwood Developmental League, the Brentwood Wrestling Parents Association and the PTA.

ISSUES: Ciferri said the Brentwood schools can be better with more involvement from parents and the rest of the community, and she has seen the impact of her role in her children’s lives, both as a parent and a volunteer for the wrestling team, as many have gone on to college and careers. She would seek to be a voice for students. “If you want an education in Brentwood, you can get it. These kids need to be told and realize that they can do anything they want and they can be anyone they want,” Ciferri said. “Sometimes that little push from an adult is all you need.”

Eileen Felix

BACKGROUND: Felix, 43, is a marketing specialist for an insurance company in Manhattan. She is a 17-year Brentwood resident and has four children — two daughters and a son who are Brentwood graduates and a son in the 10th grade. Felix earned her bachelor’s degree in legal studies from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2008. She previously worked in finance, managing asset portfolios. Felix is a past board member of the Brentwood Youth Activities community group and a member of the Green Machine Parents Association, and has been active with the schools’ PTA groups. She has been a board member since 2015.

ISSUES: Felix said the district has been shortchanged by the state in the amount of aid it receives to fund the education of its children. “The only thing we can do is to continue to lobby” for more funds, Felix said. “I think that we have been successful over the past two-and-a-half years in encouraging parent participation, providing key workshops to our community to inform them on issues regarding state aid and how it impacts the Brentwood school district.” She would like to see technology upgrades and an expansion of a work-study program for students to gain real-life experience and academic credit.

Bryan Greaves

BACKGROUND: Greaves, 29, works as dialysis technician at a Long Island hospital and serves as associate pastor at the Holy Church of Christ in Central Islip. The Brentwood High School graduate has lived in the district for 15 years. He attended the Vaughn College of Aeronautic Engineering, Aviation and Technology in Queens and obtained an associate degree in liberal arts from Suffolk County Community College in 2016. He is working toward a pastoral counseling degree from the Texas-based Christian Bible Institute & Seminary. Greaves volunteers as chair of programs for millennials with the NAACP’s Islip Town Branch. He has a 5-year-old son in prekindergarten and a 1-year-old girl. He ran for the school board in 2017.

ISSUES: Greaves said that he would like to see the district update its learning materials and hire more qualified staff, because he doesn’t think resources have been well-allocated. “I want to ensure that our dollars are used to purchase state-of-the-art technology, upgrading our books, having less kids overcrowded in classroom,” Greaves said. “I want to upgrade our calculators, our computer systems. There is no reason why our students can’t have smart tablets and computers.”

William King Moss III

BACKGROUND: Moss, 41, a teacher and school administrator, works as director of academic affairs at Lawrence High School. A Brentwood graduate and lifelong resident, he earned his bachelor’s degree in math education and child development from Harvard College and his master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is a certified math teacher, school district administrator, school business administrator and bilingual educator. He taught math for eight years at Brentwood High School and three years at North Middle School until 2011. Moss is president of the NAACP’s Islip Town Branch. He has four daughters — a 20-year-old in the Air Force, an 18-year-old senior at Brentwood High School and 9-month-old twins.

ISSUES: Moss said he would like to pursue improvements in school safety, enrichment programs and the hiring process. “All three are so important,” Moss said. He wants to hire security guards who have experience as peace officers and to make sure guards are posted at every school. He also would like to make sure that enrichment programs are available “during the day and after school.” He said hiring needs to be “100 percent transparent” and provide “access to all jobs for Brentwood residents.”

Camille Serrano

BACKGROUND: Serrano, 55, is a teaching assistant in Brentwood, retired from the correction department in New York City. A Brentwood resident for about 22 years, she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan before training at the correction academy, and went on to work for a total of 21 years as a correction officer at the Rikers Island jail complex in Queens and as a senior investigator. She was supervisor of campus safety at Dowling College from 2011 to 2014. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in education and public policy in 2013 from Ashford University and earned a master’s in education from that school in 2014. Serrano has four adult sons, three of whom are Brentwood graduates. She is a former president of Brentwood’s PTSA Council. Serrano said that, if elected, she would leave her Brentwood job to avoid conflict and seek more work as a behavioral intervention contractor.

ISSUES: Serrano said more resources should be devoted to the classroom and to technology upgrades “so that our kids would be on par with other kids in New York.” Every student should be given a Chromebook, she said. “Brentwood spends almost nothing on our kids for technology, and I don’t see how we are going to be able to keep up with other districts, if we don’t do that,” Serrano said.

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