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Long IslandEducation

Sachem

SCHOOL VOTERS GUIDE

BUDGET

SPENDING $327,241,721, a 1.35 percent increase from the current $322,887,319.

TAX LEVY 1.99 percent increase, from $187,157,699 to $190,890,456. This is equal to the district’s 1.99 percent tax-cap limit, so a simple majority vote is required for approval.

TEACHER PAY / PROGRAMS Includes a 0.75 percent contractual increase and an average 2 percent step increase. The proposed budget includes the addition of 24 staff members to support children's needs; the addition of boys and girls volleyball and basketball teams at the middle school level; and an expansion of the science research program and the eighth-grade science program.

PROPOSITIONS

Proposition 2 seeks authorization to establish a capital reserve fund for future capital improvements, including construction, reconstruction, alteration and additions to district facilities, as well as acquisition of equipment, furnishings, machinery and apparatus for the district. The fund would have a maximum principal amount of $30 million and its term would not exceed 10 years. In addition, money transferred to the reserve from surplus funds, beginning with the 2018-19 budget and going forward, would not exceed $6 million annually over the term. Approval of the proposition will not affect the tax levy.

WHEN | WHERE

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the district’s 10 elementary schools: Cayuga, Chippewa, Grundy Avenue, Hiawatha, Lynwood Avenue, Merrimac, Nokomis, Tamarac, Waverly and Wenonah. www.sachem.edu

CANDIDATES

Thirteen candidates are running for five seats, elected at-large. The candidates are incumbents Tony Falco, Mike Matlat and Sara Wottawa, as well as David Aronow, Larry Collins, Cindy Fiore, Kevin L. Hyms, Jim Kiernan, Krupa Lauricella, James Mancaruso, Alex Piccirillo, Imad Rafi and Henry Schuman. The top three vote-getters will receive full three-year terms. The fourth- and fifth-highest vote-getters will receive terms of May 21 through June 30, 2020, that were created by the resignations last year of Teri Ahearn and Victor Canales.

David Aronow

BACKGROUND Aronow, 51, has lived in the district for 50 years. He received a bachelor's degree in secondary education in history from Dowling College in 1993 and is the owner and operator of a commercial printing company. He was a trustee on the Sachem school board from 2003 to 2006, is a past president of the Sachem Sports Club, and was the PAL representative for South Shore Youth and the Sachem Sports Club from 2002 to 2011. His wife, Melissa, is a math teacher at Seneca Middle School and they have four children — two who graduated in 2014 and 2016, respectively, one graduating this year, and one expected to graduate in 2023. 

KEY ISSUE Aronow cited the importance of protecting the interest of all stakeholders in the district. "I believe in the longstanding beliefs and traditions of the community and the great potential for growth," he said. "I will strive to ensure our student population reaches its full potential, emotionally and academically. I am not afraid to address some of the crucial issues that face the district, which include security and drug abuse." 

Larry Collins

BACKGROUND Collins, 41, has lived in the district for 35 years and is a high school teacher in the Longwood school district. A graduate of Sachem High School, he received a bachelor's degree in geology from Long Island University and a master's degree in liberal studies from Stony Brook University. He has three children, all now attending Wenonah Elementary School in Lake Grove.

KEY ISSUE Collins did not respond to Newsday's request regarding what he considers to be the district's most important issue.

Tony Falco

BACKGROUND Falco, 77, has lived in the district for 50 years and is a retired NYPD officer. His four children are graduates of the district, and two of them currently are teachers at Sachem High School North. He is a 47-year board member of the Sachem Youth Advisory Group, which services over 3,000 students annually in multiple sports and volunteer services. Falco has been on the school board for the past 33 years.

KEY ISSUE Falco cited declining enrollment as one of the most important issues. "We have to make sure our facilities, curriculum and staffing stay in line with the reduction of students," he said. "We have to monitor our funds each year and understand the tax obligations of our residents. We also have to make sure we give our teachers the tools to do well."

Cindy Fiore

BACKGROUND Fiore, 59, and her family moved into the Sachem school district from Brooklyn in 1967. She has been a real estate agent for more than two decades. She also has a leadership position at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle and sat on its Missions Board for 10 years. Fiore has three children who are district graduates and two grandchildren who are current students in district schools. Her daughter and a nephew both teach in the district.

KEY ISSUE Fiore cited keeping the district's values intact as an important aim. "The district has done so much in my family's life that I know it's time to give back," she said. "Education is an amazing tool for a child's future, and Sachem's values are what a child needs. We stand behind every child and let them know we are here for them and their family. Moving forward, I would like to keep these values in place."

Kevin L. Hyms

BACKGROUND Hyms, 63, is a safety and environmental consultant who has lived in the district for 50 years. He graduated from Sachem High School in 1973, received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Stony Brook University in 1977, and a master's of business administration in management from New York Institute of Technology in 1986. He has served as president of the Sachem High School North PTA, Samoset Middle School PTA and Sachem Special Education PTA. In addition, he holds numerous leadership positions in the community, including as secretary of the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of the American Society of Safety Professionals' Long Island Chapter, and is a member of the Town of Islip's Anti Bias Task Force, the Suffolk County Legislature's Lake Ronkonkoma Advisory Board and the Sachem Schools Business Alliance. He has two children who graduated from the district in 2007 and 2009.

KEY ISSUE "Definitely the rise in opioid addiction and drug overdoses affecting our students," Hyms said. "We need to better educate our students and their parents on these dangerous drugs." He also said that school officials need to become better trained and aware of the students who may be addicted and work in conjunction with local police, community organizations and houses of worship.

Jim Kiernan

BACKGROUND Kiernan, 71, has lived in the district for 40 years. He is a retired lieutenant of the Hempstead Police Department, a retired school security director, and a retired college professor of criminal justice. He also served as a commanding officer of the Hempstead Police Department's Youth Bureau. Kiernan received his bachelor's degree in community health from St. Joseph's College in 1991 and earned a master's degree in homeland security management from Long Island University in 2010. He has three adult children and two grandchildren who are district graduates, one grandchild graduating this year and one grandchild who is a kindergartner in the district. Kiernan was a Sachem school board member from 1997 to 2006 and during that time held the positions of president and vice-president. 

KEY ISSUE "There is no greater concern than the safety of our children," Kiernan said. "We live in a new reality of school shootings, terrorism, bullying, drugs and gang violence. While our school board oversees budgets, state mandates and curriculum needs, there is a significant void in security oversight. Of course, all members of our school board are concerned about school safety and security, but the planning and oversight of this important function is left largely to school administrators alone."

Krupa Lauricella

BACKGROUND Lauricella, who did not give her age or how many years she has lived in the district, is the CEO of FTZ Strategies, with more than 15 years experience in working with businesses on international trade solutions. She is chairwoman of the Sachem Legislative Committee, a board member of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, and a member of the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County's Board Development Committee and the Holbrook Vision Committee. She also created the Women's Roundtable segment on JVC Broadcasting (103.9 FM). She is the parent of current elementary school and middle school-bound children.

KEY ISSUE " As a parent of school-aged children and chairperson of the Sachem Legislative Committee, I value the importance of education mandates since they outline essential student programs," Lauricella said. "However, many of these mandates are unfunded and cost Sachem taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. For this reason, I would like to partner with state and federal agencies to mitigate the costs of these unfunded mandates, in order to reinvest in school safety along with education for vocational and technical career pathways."

James Mancaruso

BACKGROUND Mancaruso, 49, has lived in the district for 20 years. A municipal bond trader, he received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts in 1991. Mancaruso has served as a board member of the Municipal Bond Club of New York and the Sachem Sports Club. He has two children who attend Waverly Elementary School and Sagamore Middle School.

KEY ISSUE "As the district has gone through fiscal hardship and has started to re-establish a more secure future financially, I would like to see the district bring back programs that have been cut and develop a sound five-year plan that incorporates fiscal responsibilities with the best educational and extracurricular programs that lead our students to the best possible versions of themselves," Mancaruso said. 

Mike Matlat

BACKGROUND Matlat, 51, is a lifelong resident of the district. He is a real estate consultant and small business owner. He received a bachelor's degree in business administration from Flagler College in Florida and a master's degree in education from Dowling College. He has three children — one graduating this year from Sachem High School East, one who is a junior at Sachem East, and one who attends Sagamore Middle School. He is seeking his second term on the board. 

KEY ISSUE "Maintaining a strong budget — like we have over the past three years — that provides students and taxpayers with the best opportunities Sachem can offer without crushing the family checkbook," Matlat said. He also said it's important to keep an eye on nepotism and abuse of school facilities by those looking to "pad their own pockets rather than do what's right for the community and its kids."

Alex Piccirillo

BACKGROUND Piccirillo, 34, has lived in the district all his life and is a teacher and coach in the Three Village Central School District, coaching boys varsity basketball and junior varsity baseball at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket. He received a BA in English Literature/Secondary Education from St. Joseph's College. 

KEY ISSUE Piccirillo said the district's biggest issue is having five vacant seats on the school board. "I have no children in the school district," he said. "Unlike other candidates, when I cast a vote on the board, I will make sure all students benefit, not just my child. Being on the Board of Education is a serious job, and I believe that some of my counterparts are running as a vanity act or to continue a personal agenda that would only affect some students. I have no agenda."

Imad Rafi

BACKGROUND Rafi, 19, graduated from Sachem High School East in 2017. He currently is studying political science at Stony Brook University and expects to graduate in 2021. He is founder and president of the Long Island Youth Enhancement Association, a nonprofit that helps prepare young people for job-seeking and professional life, and is a member of the Town of Brookhaven's Youth Board. He is a graduate of the Suffolk County Page Program, a summer program that provides leadership training to college-age students, and has interned in the office of Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue).

KEY ISSUE "As a recent graduate of Sachem, I know firsthand how the administration has consistently overlooked the infrastructure of our schools," Rafi said. "I believe that our students deserve a good, safe environment that allows them to thrive. If elected, I will ensure that our school district is properly investing into our buildings and actively securing a better future for the students in our district. This can be done by investing more money from the budget into building maintenance and janitorial staff."

Henry Schuman

BACKGROUND Schuman did not respond to requests for background and issues statements.

Sara Wottawa

BACKGROUND Wottawa, 37, is a lifelong district resident and is a vocational trainer for students with intellectual disabilities. She has attended Dowling College and Suffolk County Community College. She has a son and daughter who currently attend Sagamore Middle School. She is seeking her second term on the board.

KEY ISSUE Wottawa cited shrinking enrollment as an important issue for the district, but "instead of focusing on the negative, I would like to put emphasis on the great strides Sachem has made in the last three years," she said. "We have upgraded our technology, improved our finances, and we are focusing on social emotional learning. Sachem is a wonderful district and I hope I continue to serve as trustee."

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