TODAY'S PAPER
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Long IslandEducation

Plainview-Old Bethpage school district

VOTING

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Old Bethpage Elementary School, Jamaica Avenue School and Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $149,236,325 budget for 2016-17, a 2.19 percent increase from the current $146,035,602. The tax levy would rise by 0.23 percent, from $119,710,657 to $119,990,212.

This increase is lower than the district’s tax-cap limit of 0.25 percent, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget.

School taxes on the average single-family home would increase by 0.47 percent, from $9,578 to $9,623.

District officials said the amount of step and contract increases were not available because district officials were in contract negotiations. The proposed budget adds 4.5 teacher positions to support the new nine-period day at the high school, and adds a half-day teaching position for technology support at the elementary level, as well as a part-time English as a New Language teacher. It does not include any cuts in programs or services.

A proposition asks voters to approve spending $5 million from a capital-reserve fund for work on district buildings. It would have no effect on next year’s tax levy, according to the district.

  • District website:

pobschools.org

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbents Gary Bettan and Seth Greenberg and candidates Ronelle Hershkowitz and Susan Stewart are running for three at-large seats. Terms are three years.

Gary Bettan

BACKGROUND: Bettan, 52, is a business owner. A 26-year resident of the district, he has a bachelor’s degree from University at Albany. Bettan has three children who attended or are attending district schools. He is a travel coach for Plainview-Old Bethpage soccer. Bettan has been president of the school board for the past two years, and has been president for four of his nine years on the board.

ISSUES: The tax-levy limit has forced most districts on Long Island to create budgets with less than a half-percent tax-levy increase, which will make it impossible to maintain programs, Bettan said. He said he is not opposed to Common Core, but said the rollout was poor. Overemphasis on testing and the linking of scores to teachers’ evaluations puts “terrible stress on teachers, administrators and students,” he said. He said he was proud of the advocacy by the board on behalf of the community.

Seth Greenberg

BACKGROUND: Greenberg, 38, is an attorney who has lived in the district for 12 years. He has a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law, and is a co-division head for the Plainview-Old Bethpage soccer club for the girls’ intramurals. Greenberg has four children; two of whom are old enough to attend district schools. He has served on the board for one term.

ISSUES: Greenberg said he seeks to continue the best education for his children and others, and he said he also shares the concerns of residents to make sure the district “continues to spend money wisely.” Still, the district’s board has found a way to work a budget in line with the tax cap and still add programs, he said. “Because of our common-sense budgeting . . . we have been able to stay under the tax caps, and we have even been able to expand programs and services,” he said.

Ronelle Hershkowitz

BACKGROUND: Hershkowitz, who did not give her age, has lived in the district since 1966. She is the principal of Parkway Elementary School and is retiring in June. She has a bachelor’s degree in education after attending various state university colleges, and a master’s degree in education from LIU Post. Her three children attended district schools. She has been president of Camp Apollo, a nonprofit summer day camp for district children, for 25 years.

ISSUES: Hershkowitz said the Common Core standards are not age-appropriate. “You can’t make a 5-year-old into a 7-year-old,” she said “They have different experiences in life.” She said she wants to advocate for more educators to be involved in making curriculum decisions, and wants to make sure that parents are well-informed. “When we bring things in that no one understands, it makes parents uneasy about their children’s learning, and it is not going to be successful,” she said.

Susan Stewart

BACKGROUND: Stewart, 48, is an accounting associate with a private CPA firm. She has a bachelor’s degree in food and natural science from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She has two children who attended or are attending district schools. She held leadership roles in district PTAs for 16 years. She is an executive board member at Temple Chaverim in Plainview.

ISSUES: Stewart said her priority is to “rebuild the community’s confidence and trust in the district’s leadership,” including the divide created by Common Core. She said a balance between mandates and “common sense will bridge some of the gaps.” She said she would lobby the state to return more aid to the district. Her experience would make her a good fit for the board, she said. “Students’ educational, social, and emotional well-being must guide everything that the board of education does,” she said.

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