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Long IslandEducation

Center Moriches


7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Clayton Huey Elementary School.


The district is proposing a $42,127,133 budget for 2017-18, a 2.17 percent increase from the current $41,232,733. The tax levy would rise by 2.31 percent, from $22,141,324 to $22,653,881.

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

School taxes on an average single-family house would increase by 2.31 percent, from $266.65 per $100 of assessed valuation to $272.83.

The proposed budget calls for a 1.5 percent raise for teachers and variable step increases. It also includes several additional Advanced Placement and Excelsior electives, clubs and additional academic support for math at the primary level, along with a second middle school volleyball team, middle school intramurals, and assistant coaches at the high school level for boys and girls varsity lacrosse.


Incumbents Joshua P. Foster and Loriann Patanjo and candidates Marcus Babzien, Danielle Dench and George Maxwell are running for two at-large seats. Terms are three years. Foster and Patanjo are running as a team.

Marcus Babzien

BACKGROUND: Babzien, 49, is a laser engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory and has two children in district schools. He has a bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in instrumentation in physics from Stony Brook University. He has served on the school board’s facilities advisory committee and its technology committee since 2014, and also has served on hiring committees.

ISSUES: Babzien said the most important issue facing the district is how to improve academic rigor and outcomes within the district’s financial constraints. He said the district should take advantage of enrichment programs in STEM, sports and the arts offered by local institutions at low cost; work toward a more rapid rollout of curriculum enhancements such as International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Program and primary school foreign language classes; and consider programs that foster a strong environment for student learning, behavior and personal growth. “You don’t always have to spend a lot of money to get improved educational results,” he said. He suggested the district also should investigate establishing a capital reserve fund to help pay for maintenance projects.

Danielle Dench

BACKGROUND: Dench, 42, works as a field director recruitment specialist for the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County and as a coordinator of early intervention for a physical therapy company. She earned a bachelor’s degree at SUNY Oneonta. Dench’s PTA activities include serving as vice president for the past two years, working on the curriculum, legislative and facilities committees and as PTA fundraising chair. She’s also served as a catechist for St. John the Evangelist from 2011 to this year. Her children attend or attended district schools.

ISSUES: The district needs to re-evaluate how it spends money and see if it can do better, Dench said. The board needs to reach out to people in the community and be more transparent in its agenda and operations. Community members already donate a lot to help fill funding gaps, she said, and the district needs to become more creative in seeking funding through grants or other programs. “People rally together, but they’re tapped out. We have to make sure to maintain quality to help attract tuition dollars and keep building programs to remain strong,” she said.

Joshua P. Foster

BACKGROUND: Foster, 40, is an attorney. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University and his law degree from St. John’s University. He has two children in district schools, and another will start pre-K in the fall. He is a board member of Red Devils Youth Hardball League, an officer of Moriches Bay Little League, and is board of education president.

ISSUES: Funding that will enable the district to grow is the most important issue, Foster said. The district needs to continue its “laser focus on student achievement and growth” and keep working on the educational, maintenance and program goals in its five-year plan, he said. Continuing the budget forecast out over five years will help senior citizens know how much of their income to allocate to taxes, he said, and seeking grants and touting the district’s strong special education programs to attract tuition-paying students are revenue possibilities. “And we have to keep to our goal of allocating a half-percent of the 2 percent cap for programmatic gains,” he said.

George Maxwell

BACKGROUND: Maxwell, 47, is a teacher in the Hicksville district. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Scranton, his master’s degree in elementary education at Dowling College, and a school district administration certificate at Stony Brook University. He has three children in district schools. He is on the board of the Moriches Youth Organization Lacrosse and is a member of the Booster Club and Seahawks Youth Football. He is a union delegate in the district where he teaches, and a volunteer boys lacrosse coach at the high school.

ISSUES: Financial constraints under the tax cap are the most important issue facing the district, Maxwell said. “Prudent decisions need to be made to ensure that any increase in funds be allocated in a way that will provide the greatest benefit to students,” he said. In an increasingly digital world, students need to have more integration of technology into the classroom, which he said he can help with through his experience with iPads and implementing Google Apps for Education where he teaches. In addition, clear lines of communication will strengthen the school community, he said.

Loriann Patanjo

BACKGROUND: Patanjo, 42, works as a patient access registrar at Peconic Bay Medical Center. She has a child attending a district school and studied business administration at Suffolk County Community College. Her sister works in the Sayville school district. She is web director for Moriches Football, on the watering brigade for Center Moriches Beautification Committee, and is cookie campaign manager for Girl Scouts Troop 928.

ISSUES: Patanjo said the most important issue facing the district is a lack of resources as it continues to focus on student achievement and growth. The district’s five-year plan is helping students achieve their potential, she said, so the district needs to continue to carefully study how it allocates resources, focus on providing a high-quality education and understand “even incremental growth moves us forward.” She will continue writing articles highlighting programs for the district newsletter to keep residents up to date on progress, Patanjo said, and make sure district security policies are up to date.

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