TODAY'S PAPER
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Long IslandEducation

Shoreham-Wading River

VOTING

7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $74,842,792 budget for 2017-18, a 3 percent increase from the current $72,664,934. The tax levy would rise by 4.6951 percent, from $52,542,274 to $55,009,210.

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

School taxes on a single-family home valued at $400,000 would rise by 5.42 percent, from $8,564.05 to $9,028.42.

The proposed budget includes an average 2.8 percent step increase for teachers. It would add college-level courses, extracurricular clubs, Advanced Placement Capstone and Science Research programs, a Google Chromebooks initiative, increased math support at the secondary level, and more support for mental health in the elementary levels.

A proposition asks voters to establish a $7.5 million capital reserve fund for capital improvements in the district.

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbents Jack Costas and John Zukowski and candidates Katie Anderson, Erin Hunt, Henry Perez, James Smith and Michael Yannucci are running for four at-large seats. The three highest vote-getters win three-year terms, while the fourth-highest vote-getter will be elected to a one-year term left by a board member moving away from the district.

Henry Perez

BACKGROUND: Perez, 46, is an engineer and partner in a Hauppauge architecture firm. He has lived in the district for 15 years and is a graduate of NYIT in Old Westbury. He served on the district’s bond committee and is chairman of the Space and Facilities Committee. His children attend district schools.

ISSUES: Perez said if elected, he would use his experience as an engineer to “complement future development in a curriculum.” His goal, he said, is to create an “environment that would support education.” Perez criticized the district for spending $153,000 to send most of the senior class to Disney World in March. “I definitely do not approve of using taxpayer dollars to fund a trip, especially knowing that there are other line items that need to be addressed,” Perez said. He said he would advocate for the board to devise a five-year improvement plan for district upgrades.

Katie Anderson

BACKGROUND: Anderson, 32, works as a licensed real estate associate broker and has lived in the district for three years. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She serves on various school and local committees, including the Miller Avenue PTO, Wading River PTA and the Soundview Acres Homeowners Association Board. She also serves as volunteer coach for Girls on the Run and Young Families Focus Group. She has children who attend district schools.

ISSUES: Anderson said that if elected, she would seek a “recommitment” to the “whole child” education philosophy and explore “low and no-cost initiatives and programming that are geared to the social, educational, physical, and psychological well-being” of students. She said she would work to oversee bond work to ensure that buildings are maintained and utilized. She said she would work to secure favorable PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) agreements from companies looking to move to Shoreham. She said the goal is, “if and when those projects are implemented, and ground is being broken, that we are able to get as much money from those PILOT programs as possible.”

Jack Costas

BACKGROUND: Costas, 58, has served on the board since 2008 and has lived in the district for 13 years. He is self-employed as a general contractor. He is a graduate of SUNY Old Westbury. His children attend district schools.

ISSUES: Costas said he would continue to promote improvements to school facilities that were approved under the terms of a recent bond referendum. He said he would also work to promote a smoother rollout of the Common Core and advocate for more professional development. “If you have the right training and workshops for teachers, we’re going to get to a point where it’s going to be viable,” he said. Costas said he would push for manageable class sizes, more funding from New York State, maintaining enrichment programs, and promoting a STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math] curriculum.

Erin Hunt

BACKGROUND: Hunt, 33, is an operating officer at a wastewater management company in Middle Island, and the founder of a startup that provides concierge home services. She has lived in the district for eight years. She is president of the Miller Avenue Parent Teacher Organization and director of St. John the Baptist Vacation Bible Camp. Hunt has children who attend district schools.

ISSUES: Hunt said that she would work to promote the “whole child” educational philosophy that seeks to reduce the stresses of testing and Common Core on students. One policy change could be lengthening the time allocated for recess in the elementary schools, a recommendation she says is based on research linking it to higher academic achievement. She said she would work to increase the district’s presence on social media. “I think the inherent problem is people have lost a little bit of trust in the board,” she said. “I think that we need to involve the stakeholders so that they feel they’re being listened to and heard.”

James Smith

BACKGROUND: Smith, 39, works as vice president of sales focusing on the insurance industry and has lived in the district for five years. He is a graduate of University at Albany. He is a past vice president of the Briarcliff PTA and a parent administrator of the Sound Beach Soccer Club. Smith has children who attend district schools.

ISSUES: Smith said he would use his business background to evaluate the effectiveness of various programs and find efficiencies in the budget. That expertise, he said, would help ensure “that our district as a whole and our community have the ability to implement programs that will help all students.” Smith said he would advocate for the district to receive its fair share of funding in state aid, and work to promote the “whole child” approach in education, a philosophy that seeks to relieve the pressures of standardized Common Core testing with various educational programs. He was critical of the board’s decision to spend $153,000 to send most of the senior class to Disney World. “From a fiduciary standpoint, you have to pick the best programs that will benefit the kids and program long-term,” he said.

Michael Yannucci

BACKGROUND: Yannucci, 33, is a former school board trustee who works as an assistant principal at Old Bethpage Elementary School. Yannucci, who has lived in the district for 20 years, previously served as an educator in the Rocky Point school district, and is an adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College and Concordia College in Bronxville. Yannucci earned a bachelor’s degree at SUNY Oneonta and a master’s degree in education from LIU Post, as well as a doctorate in education from Dowling College. Yannucci also holds an advanced certificate in educational leadership from the College of Saint Rose in Albany.

ISSUES: Yannucci, who was first elected to the board in 2005, said he would increase transparency and communication in the district through social media, and work to alleviate the high pressures of testing. He said he was “outraged” at the revelation the district spent nearly $153,000 to send most of its senior class on a four-day trip to Disney World in March. “How come we’re being told we’re being very prudent with the taxpayers, but we have $153,000 we found to spend on Disney?” Yannucci said. “When it comes to spending money, they spend it like it’s an endless supply.” Yannucci said he would work to increase accountability in the district’s oversight of spending on a nearly $50 million bond and questioned delays on various projects.

John Zukowski

BACKGROUND: Zukowski, 53, is president of the school board, where he has served as a trustee since 2011. He has lived in the district for 11 years. Zukowski, an attorney, also serves on the district’s policy and space and facilities committees. His children attended or are attending district schools. He is a graduate of SUNY Geneseo. He holds a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law.

ISSUES: Zukowski said he would work to ensure that facility upgrades — approved in a recent bond referendum — are finished on schedule. “We need to ensure that we stay on top of the construction and the contracts to make sure people get their money’s worth out of this,” he said. He added he would continue to serve as an advocate for more state funding to the district. Zukowski said he is most proud of having expanded opportunities for more students, citing the addition of new clubs and the AP Capstone program, as well as more cooperation among board members. “There was some discord on the board before we got there,” he said. “I think the board has worked together well as a team.”

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