TODAY'S PAPER
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Long IslandEducation

Merrick school district

VOTING

7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Norman J. Levy Lakeside School.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $51,791,334 budget for 2018-19, a 5.1 percent increase from the current $49,277,857 budget. The local tax levy would rise 2.90 percent, from $38,740,195 to $39,863,661.

The increase is less than the district’s tax cap limit of 2.92 percent, so a simple majority will be required to approve the budget.

The district did not provide the dollar amount of the school tax paid on the average single-family house because final assessment data was not available.

The proposed budget includes an average contractual salary increase of .57 percent and a 1.9 percent step increase for teachers. Program and staffing would stay at current levels.

The ballot also includes the proposed 2018-19 Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District budget of $159,788,043.

District website:

www.merrick.k12.ny.us

THE CANDIDATES

Five candidates are running for three at-large seats: Gabrielle Curcio, Richard J. Soleymanzadeh and incumbents Pamela Banks, Nancy S. Kaplan and Linda Wilk. Terms are three years.

Dr. Pamela Banks

BACKGROUND: Banks, 59, has been a pediatrician in Merrick for 26 years. Banks has lived in the district for 40 years. She received a bachelor of science degree in pre-med from Adelphi University, a master of science degree in biology from New York University and a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury. Banks has four children, one of whom is a current district public school student and three of whom are district graduates. Banks was a longtime member of the Lakeside PTA, vice president of the Merrick Avenue Middle School PTA, and president of the Sanford H. Calhoun High School PTA. She was elected to the Merrick school board in 2012.

ISSUES: Banks said that she brings to the school board experience in childhood issues with both medical and mental wellness, and that she is “knowledgeable in the operation, expenses and educational needs of our schools.” On school safety, Banks said that she and the current school board “have been able to make structural safety changes to our school buildings as well as hire security guards without additional cost to taxpayers.” Banks said that in addition to budgeting for maintaining security programs in the future, the district is required by New York State to create a mental wellness curriculum. Banks said, “Implementation of such an important program needs to be done in an efficient manner without significant cost to our district.” Banks said she recently attended a New York State School Boards Association seminar where she learned about cost-efficient ways to help set up such a program.

Gabrielle Curcio

BACKGROUND: Curcio, 42, is a self-described “stay-at-home mother.” She has lived in the district for 30 years and is a 1994 graduate of Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick. Curcio has a bachelor of arts degree in speech communication from Pennsylvania State University, and a juris doctor degree from St. John’s University School of Law. She worked as a commercial litigation attorney for a small Manhattan law firm from 2001 to 2008, when she left the firm to raise a family. Her two children attend district public schools. Curcio has been active for the last four years as a member of the Chatterton School PTA. This is her first run for the school board.

ISSUES: Curcio said that the most important aspect of school security is “maintaining a balance between a sound security protocol and the highest quality of educational programs for which Merrick is known.” Curcio said that district parents and community members should be informed about “what security options are being considered and what resources are available to support those options.” Curcio said that “as an attorney, I am trained to listen to all sides and work toward resolution” on important issues in the Merrick school community. Curcio said, “We need to secure not only our schools, but also the vision of an innovative and progressive district that meets the needs of all of our students. I see my role as a guardian of that vision.”

Nancy S. Kaplan

BACKGROUND: Kaplan, 49, has lived in the district for 16 years. Kaplan is associate provost at St. John’s University. Kaplan is a consultant and federal grant reviewer for the U.S. Department of Education and a training consultant on diversity and anti-bullying for the Anti-Defamation League. She is also a national training consultant for the Institute for Sports and Social Justice in Orlando, Florida. Kaplan received a bachelor of science degree in sports management, a master of business administration degree in executive management and a doctor of education degree in K-12 educational administration and supervision, all from St. John’s University. She received certificates in management development studies from Harvard University and in management development from Cornell University. Kaplan has two children, one a current district public school student and one a district graduate. Kaplan was elected to the Merrick school board in 2004 and has served as its president and vice president. She also serves as an appointed member of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District school board.

ISSUES: Kaplan said that if reelected she would “continue to be knowledgeable about the issues and accessible to community members.” Kaplan said, “I take pride in being accessible to every parent and resident in my community.” Kaplan pledged to work with the district’s administration to ensure that “all areas of our spending directly impact instruction and the learning outcomes of our children.” She said, “It’s my job to make sure that all monies are being spent to directly impact the education and safety of our children.” Kaplan said that she would strive to be “an advocate on our board of education, and in our decision-making processes, for all members of our community, those with or without children.” She said, “I have as many conversations with older people in the community whose children are no longer students within our schools, as I have with younger people.”

Richard J. Soleymanzadeh

BACKGROUND: Soleymanzadeh, 44, is an attorney specializing in litigation, with a private practice in Carle Place. Soleymanzadeh has lived in Merrick for four years. Soleymanzadeh received a bachelor of business administration degree in banking and finance from Hofstra University, and a juris doctor law degree, also from Hofstra. He was an adjunct professor in business law at Brooklyn College from 2003 to 2005. His three children attend district public elementary schools. This is his first run for the school board.

ISSUES: Soleymanzadeh said that it is important for the school board to be “well balanced” and include members who have children in district elementary schools. Soleymanzadeh’s children attend two of the district’s elementary schools, which he said gives him “a vested interest in the academic performance and enriched programs of the district.” Soleymanzadeh said that if elected he will “make sure that our school board becomes more efficient with our tax dollars so that our property taxes don’t increase too much.” He said, “School safety is on the minds of every parent these days, and I would want our kids to enjoy a similar level of protection and security that every courthouse, government building and public event enjoys in New York State.”

Linda Wilk

BACKGROUND: Wilk, 54, has lived in the district for 15 years. Wilk is a curriculum writer and training specialist for adults with developmental disabilities at the Young Adult Institute, which has locations in Westbury, Farmingdale and Brentwood. Wilk has a bachelor of arts degree in Greek and Roman Civilizations from the University at Albany, a master of arts degree in industrial/organizational psychology from Columbia University and a master of arts degree in early childhood and elementary education from Adelphi University. Wilk has three children, two currently attending district public schools and one a district graduate. Wilk served as Levy Lakeside School PTA president from 2013 to 2015. She won the Lakeside PTA Founders Day Award in 2015. She was elected to the Merrick school board in 2015.

ISSUES: Wilk said that if reelected, she will continue to work with the New York State School Boards Association “to increase our revenue and decrease our expenditures.” Wilk said that as a school board member she would continue to oppose charter school proposals that she said “divert funds that could otherwise be used to support the state’s public school districts.” Wilk said, “I would also work hard to increase the amount for mental health grants and expansion of mental health wraparound services for all districts.”

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