TODAY'S PAPER
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Long IslandEducation

Farmingdale school district

VOTING

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Weldon E. Howitt Middle School

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $158,880,867 budget for 2016-17, a 0.97 percent increase over the current $157,357,708. The tax levy would rise by 0.17 percent, from $119,056,937 to $119,255,708.

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

The district said it could not calculate the dollar amount of school taxes on the average single-family home or the percent change between years because the district straddles Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The proposed budget funds an average step increase of 2 percent for teachers. Current staffing levels and programs would be maintained.

A proposition asks voters to approve spending $1.5 million from the reserve fund for a new roof at Northside Elementary School. This would not result in a tax levy increase, according to the district.

  • District website:

farmingdaleschools.org

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbent Michael Goldberg and candidates John Brienza and Suzanne D’Amico are running for two at-large seats. Terms are three years.

John Brienza

BACKGROUND: Brienza, 56, a lifelong district resident, is a retired auto mechanic and co-founder of A & J Youth Sports, a nonprofit that teaches basketball to girls and boys and readies them for league teams. He has three children who attend district schools.

ISSUES: Beefing up safety and academics are two top goals for Brienza. On safety, for example, visitors are inside buildings while school officials check them out, but they should wait in the area between the outside doors and interior doors, which should be locked, Brienza said. On academics, he said, people outside the district praise its music and sports programs but not academics: “When my parents moved here to Farmingdale, they moved here because the school district was so good academically . . . Nobody ever talks about that anymore.”

Suzanne D’Amico

BACKGROUND: D’Amico, 41, has lived in the district for eight years. She is a photographer who owns her own photography company. She has an associate degree in business from Briarcliffe College. She belongs to the Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce and serves on education groups, including as president of the Farmingdale Council of PTAs, treasurer of the Farmingdale Special Education PTA and member of the district’s safety and legislative action committees. She has three children who attend district schools.

ISSUES: As the mother of two special education students, D’Amico said she’s used to thinking ahead, seeing things differently and listening — key skills for crafting budgets that consider everyone. “It’s not about students all of the time,” she said. “We need to make sure Farmingdale is affordable . . . Not everybody has children.” D’Amico said she wants to strip the stigma from special education and launch more “inclusive events” that also shape children’s character. For example, “buddy” programs like the one in her sons’ elementary school pair special education or younger students with schoolmates who want to be mentors. “When you see them together, it’s magical,” she said.

Michael Goldberg

BACKGROUND: Goldberg, 45, is the controller at a health care staffing company and co-founder of an event security company. He has lived in the district for 21 years and has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Hofstra University. He serves as the board’s president, liaison to the PTA Council and representative for BOCES budgets. Two of his three children attend district schools.

ISSUES: The district’s “powerful” opt-out movement against Common Core has resulted in many students missing out on instruction time while their teachers oversee test takers, said Goldberg, an opt-out supporter. Because the movement won’t go away anytime soon, he said, state lawmakers should pass bills to address the fallout — including reducing the six days needed to administer math and English tests. “I don’t know how to put the proverbial genie back in the bottle.” The district has done a good job balancing financial and academic needs, he said, but adding more college credit courses would be a step forward.

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