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Long IslandEducation

Gangs, harmony on minds of Brentwood school voters

Maria Gonzalez-Prescod is congratulated after she is elected

Maria Gonzalez-Prescod is congratulated after she is elected to the Brentwood school board, along with Simone Holder-Daniel and Julia Burgos, on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Brentwood voters handily approved the $393.5 million budget Tuesday and elected three new board members who pledged to work together for the community, which has been shaken by recent gang violence.

The budget easily passed by a vote of 1,007-460. And a slate of candidates comprising Maria Gonzalez-Prescod, Julia Burgos and Simone Holder-Daniel won three seats as trustees in the largest school district on Long Island.

Robert S. Mickens lost his bid for a seat. He ran for school board after his daughter Nisa Mickens, 15, was found killed along with her friend Kayla Cuevas, 16, last September in a brutal act of gang violence.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez-Prescod, the top vote-getter with 959 votes, said she was “ready to represent the Brentwood community.”

“I have children in the district so I feel that every decision I make will affect my children with all the 20,000 other children . . . and we need to come together as a community to make Brentwood strong,” she said.

Voters who streamed into Brentwood’s Loretta Park Elementary School Tuesday afternoon — a short walk away from where the bodies of Mickens and Cuevas were found last year — said one large concern was on their minds: Stop the violence.

The No. 1 issue is “the situation with the crime, you know, what’s been going in Brentwood,” said Frank Hager, 72, a lifelong resident who attended Brentwood schools and whose three sons are graduates of the district.

Resident Christopher Robles, a maintenance mechanic who lives near where Mickens’ body was found and who voted at Loretta Park, said while he was moved by her father’s story, his concern is having a board that makes decisions based on professional performance. He said he supported Gonzalez-Prescod, Burgos and Holder-Daniel.

Year after year, he said, “we just change one regime for another” and the schools don’t improve.

Annie Porter, a retired assistant principal from the New York City public schools, said she supported the budget and voted for Mickens and his running mates, Joseph Fritz and Bryan Greaves.

“I voted for the candidates that I thought would help with the violence here in Brentwood,” said Porter, a resident for 15 years. The death toll linked to gang violence in Brentwood and neighboring Central Islip has risen to 11 in the past year.

More voters streamed in during the early evening hours at Northeast Elementary School.

Lisa Collins, a lifelong Brentwood resident whose son and daughter graduated from the local schools, said the district’s issues go beyond the recent flare-up in gang activity. She supported the budget and was encouraged to see mostly “new faces” running for board seats.

“You have to pass the budget, to keep the kids busy, so you keep them off the streets” and in educational or recreational programs, said Collins, a help desk analyst.

Some also griped about being left with the cost of educating an increasing population — many of them immigrants who are recent arrivals from Central America — without outside financial help.

Kevin Roberts, a resident for 23 years, said he supported the budget, reluctantly.

“The feds have pushed so many children on us, without giving any kind of money,” said Roberts, 62, who is retired from a carpet business.

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