6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School.
The district proposes a budget of $92,922,780 for 2017-18, a 2.59 percent increase from the current $90,575,950. The tax levy would increase 3.39 percent, from $51,471,991 to $53,217,393.
This increase is equal to the district’s tax-cap limit, so a simple majority is needed to approve the budget. School taxes on the average single-family home would rise 3.39 percent, from $8,778 to $9,075.35.
The proposed budget would fund step increases of 2.5 percent for teachers. It calls for the elimination of one full-time library media specialist and three part-time English as a New Language positions. Three elementary teachers and one special education teacher positions will be reduced through attrition.
The district plans to add new secondary electives through existing staff, including Chinese, journalism, sports and literature, and advanced topics in psychology classes. The proposed budget also adds Advanced Placement computer science, choreography, staged combat and orchestra classes.
The district proposes increases in elementary class sizes in kindergarten, to 24 or 25 students, and in third grade, to 26 or 27 students.
- District website: esmonline.org
Incumbents Patricia Harran and Donna Moeller and candidates George Cermak, Jeffrey Goldhammer, Cheryl Hack and Brian Rocha are running for two at-large seats. Terms are three years.
BACKGROUND: Cermak, 48, is the owner of Atlantic Auto Glass in Center Moriches and Islandwide Auto Glass of Roslyn and Center Moriches. He graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School. One of his three children attends a district school. Newsday anonymously was made aware in late April that Cermak had a criminal record. According to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, Cermak pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in 1995, and was incarcerated from September 1995 to May 1997. He completed his parole in May 1999, according to the state Department of Corrections. Asked about the circumstances, Cermak said: “That was a fight, 25 years ago, nine people were attacking me and my girlfriend.” State education law does not preclude convicted felons from running for school board if they have completed their sentences and parole.
ISSUES: Cermak said the district needs to make decisions about its budget soon. “I see us kicking the can down the road every year,” he said. “We have to stop and make the hard decisions now.” He said he attends board meetings, but more community input is needed. He said the schools are “perfect” right now but “we just don’t have the money to pay for it.” Cermak said board members need to decide if the district should borrow money or cut programs, but he doesn’t have the answers yet. He said he’s been knocking on residents’ doors as part of his campaign to raise awareness about the budget issues.
BACKGROUND: Goldhammer, 33, is the chief engineer for a hydraulics company based in Ronkonkoma and Saddle Brook, New Jersey. He graduated from Stony Brook University with a bachelor of engineering degree. He has three children who attend district schools. He is a board member of the Eastport-South Manor Special Education Parent Teacher Organization; his wife is its president.
ISSUES: Goldhammer said his family moved into the district three years ago because of its special education program; one of his daughters has Down syndrome. He said he will work to preserve and advocate for all special education services in the district and wants to make sure staff members in those classes are trained beyond the state’s minimum requirements. Goldhammer said he wants to see more honors courses and advanced programs at the elementary schools. He said he’s “a constant face and voice” at board meetings over the past few years and has seen the budget process at work. He said the district is underfunded by the state, but officials need to plan for that. “Let’s just assume that when we’re doing our budget,” he said. He said he wants to build up the district’s fund balance and reserves.
BACKGROUND: Hack, 50, is an account manager at a Southampton sanitation company, and a professional field hockey and lacrosse official. She studied physical education at Hofstra University. She is a member of several local and county sports associations, including the co-chair of girls lacrosse for the Eastport-South Manor Sports Association and the first vice president for the Suffolk Field Hockey Umpires’ Association. Her children attended or are attending district schools.
ISSUES: Hack said she’s been a “very active” member of the community since moving to the district about 15 years ago. “I think this is the next logical step,” she said. She wants to add coding classes at the secondary level and a second language at the elementary level, but said she did not know if the budget has room to add courses. She also said the district has added a lot of “high-end” classes and should consider instituting courses for all education levels. “Not everybody needs an extra math class, but somebody might need a shop class,” she said. Hack said the same board members have been looking at the district’s strapped budget and it’s time for new solutions. “We’re going to need new ideas,” she said. “I don’t necessarily have them right now but I’m certainly looking into them.” She said the board needs to come up with “creative ways” to save money.
BACKGROUND: Harran, 60, is a retired nurse who previously worked in dialysis clinics in Freeport, Medford and Queens. She graduated from Adelphi University with a bachelor’s degree. She has two children who attended district schools. She has served on the boards of district schools’ PTAs and the PTSOs. She was appointed to the board of education in September 2013 and was elected to the board in May 2014. She has lived in the district for 21 years.
ISSUES: Harran said she wants to strengthen the district’s reading and math programs. She hopes to monitor the progress of current programs to spot potential weaknesses, as well as offer additional training for teachers. “I think that there’s room for improvement,” she said. Harran said state aid hasn’t been what the board had hoped for and members have tried to juggle crafting a responsible budget while also maintaining programs. “We’re trying to hold onto the good things that we have and we’re trying to get as much help as we can,” she said. “You don’t always get what you’re told. We’re feeling the sting of that, we really are.” She said her work in the parent organizations, especially when she organized a fashion show and auction for senior scholarships while her children were in district schools, made her want to stay connected to the community after they graduated.
BACKGROUND: Moeller, 54, is a school nurse at the William Floyd Middle School. She graduated from Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh with a bachelor’s degree. She is a member of the Suffolk County Association of School Nurses and the New York State School Boards Association. Her three children attended district schools. She has served two terms on the board, most recently as president.
ISSUES: Moeller said the current board members have worked “very diligently” with the teachers’ union and state lawmakers to try and get the district its “fair share” of funding. “It’s frustrating because you’re trying to do the best you can for all the students but you have to toe the line as taxpayers,” she said. Moeller said the board’s meetings aren’t well-attended and taxpayers might not understand the district’s financial difficulties. Only if a person goes to the meetings “do you see where the money is going to and how quickly the money gets depleted,” she said. Six years ago, the board wanted to bring an orchestra program to the high school, but she said only now in the proposed budget is it close to becoming a reality. Still, Moeller said she worries about being able to sustain new electives like orchestra.
BACKGROUND: Rocha, 21, is a real estate broker in Southampton and a student at St. Joseph’s College majoring in speech communication. He will begin at LIU in the fall to pursue a master of fine arts in acting. He attended district schools from kindergarten through his graduation, and his brother and sister go to district schools. He is a lifelong district resident and is a gala committee member at East End Hospice and a member of the Eastport South Manor Community for the Arts.
ISSUES: Rocha said his youth can give him a “relatability factor” with the district’s student body. As a recent graduate of the school system, he said, “I know how it operates from a student’s perspective.” He said he hopes to add more Advanced Placement classes, which he said gave him an advantage in college. He discovered his passion for acting while a student in the district and said he would like to preserve the schools’ arts education, as well as add to it. “From music to theater to studio art, I want to make sure we’re really paying attention to keeping those up and running,” he said. He said the district has been shortchanged in its funding by the state. “I think we need to be a little bit more insistent when it comes to dealing with our representation in Albany,” he said.