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Long IslandEducation

Port Jefferson school district


6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School cafeteria.


The district proposes a $43,889,812 budget for 2018-19, a 2.36 percent increase from the current $42,879,851. The tax levy would increase 2.27 percent, from $35,626,700 to $36,434,479.

This is equal to the district’s tax-cap limit of 2.27 percent, so a simple majority is required to approve the budget.

The district said an estimate of school taxes on an average single-family home was not available.

The teachers’ contract expired June 30, 2017, and contract negotiations are ongoing.

Under the proposed budget, 2.8 teaching positions would be eliminated. Funding for five paraprofessionals — teacher’s aides for special education — and two guards is included.

Voters will consider a proposition to authorize spending up to $1,056,000 from the 2015 renovations and upgrades capital reserve fund to replace three roof sections at the high school.

District website:


Incumbent Tracy Zamek and candidates Ryan Biedenkapp, Mia Farina, Jason Kronberg, Rene Tidwell and Ryan Walker are vying for three at-large seats. Terms are three years. Incumbents Mark Doyle and Vincent Ruggiero are not seeking re-election.

Ryan Biedenkapp

BACKGROUND: Biedenkapp, 42, works in medical sales. He earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Hartford and a master’s in business administration at Northwest Christian University. He is an active fundraiser for the American Heart Association and runs autism awareness events with his wife, Heather Biedenkapp, through Team Parker for Autism Speaks. He has three children attending district schools. He is running on a slate with Tracy Zamek and Jason Kronberg.

ISSUES: Building a sense of community and dealing with bullying emerged as key concerns he heard from residents when he was collecting petition signatures to run for the board, Biedenkapp said, and are things he will work on if elected. “We need an atmosphere where kids feel comfortable saying something if they see something,” he said. He would put students’ needs first while staying within the budget and taking care of facility needs. It’s also time to consider bringing back longer school trips that mix social groups and help students develop a sense of camaraderie, he said.

Mia Farina

BACKGROUND: Farina, 44, is a police officer in Queens. She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology from Mercy College. She was an Equal Employment Opportunity liaison for 10 years with the police department, is a member of the Special Education PTA chapter in Port Jefferson and a member of the National Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America. Apraxia is a neurological speech disorder that affects a child’s ability to clearly produce syllables and words. She has a child in kindergarten.

ISSUES: Keeping students safe in school is a key concern, Farina said, and she also would like to see the district start teaching another language in early elementary grades. The district needs to be proactive and train students for different safety situations “in a non-scary manner. Teach them how to react and be safe,” she said. Children reap benefits and can learn a new language easily at early ages, and some grants are available to help fund such programs. “It can be done easier than you imagine,” she said.

Jason Kronberg

BACKGROUND: Kronberg, 45, is a pediatrician. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Binghamton University and graduated from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine at New York Institute of Technology. He is a member of several professional groups. Kronberg has two children attending district schools. He is running on a slate with Tracy Zamek and Ryan Biedenkapp.

ISSUES: Kronberg said he would bring a practical and objective viewpoint to the board if he is elected. “As a pediatrician, I’m a natural child advocate. I would choose in favor of practical solutions that are still supportive of our kids,” he said. That objective viewpoint is important to bring onto the board, he said. “I have no agenda. Protecting the district and the children needs to be the priority.”

Rene Tidwell

BACKGROUND: Tidwell, 52, is a special-education aide in Smithtown. She formerly worked in banking as a financial analyst and financial planner. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in political science and is pursuing her master’s degree in early education. She has a child in district schools.

ISSUES: The district needs to focus on security, budgeting and long-range planning, especially with pending changes considering the proposed LIPA tax settlement, Tidwell said. As preparation, she said, it’s important to plan and to find alternative funding sources through grants and the district’s Royal Educational Foundation. The $30 million bond vote that failed in December divided the community, Tidwell said, and the new board needs to work to heal those divisions.

Ryan Walker

BACKGROUND: Walker, 49, is a retired New York State Police sergeant and currently is a student in Suffolk County Community College’s physical therapy assistant program. He earned an associate degree in criminal justice at Onondaga Community College and a bachelor’s degree in public justice at SUNY Oswego. He is on the Mather Hospital Institutional Review Board, has been a Port Jefferson firefighter since 2015 and has coached lacrosse for several years. He has two children attending district schools.

ISSUES: Security is the biggest issue facing the district, he said, and his training as a school resource officer upstate and work as a district security guard until last month will help him implement best practices, Walker said. “The district also needs people who will listen to a message that may not represent what they want to do, but will listen and make a decision that’s best for everybody,” Walker said. He added, “We want to keep our small, Blue Ribbon School strong,” referring to the high school being named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in September.

Tracy Zamek

BACKGROUND: Zamek, 45, is a fifth-grade teacher in the Hauppauge district. She earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Radford University and her master’s from Dowling College. She is vice president of the Hauppauge Teachers Association. Her husband works in the Longwood district and she has two children attending district schools. She is seeking her second term on the board and is running on a slate with Ryan Biedenkapp and Jason Kronberg.

ISSUES: Zamek said she would work with the district’s administration to craft a realistic plan for facility updates and make sure the district has a plan in place for the transition from Common Core to Next Generation teaching standards. Key to success will be professional development for teachers and developing a timetable so the new standards can be implemented successfully, she said. The district also needs to discuss funding options it can present to residents when the final settlement regarding LIPA taxes is finalized, she said.


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