TODAY'S PAPER
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Clear 29° Good Afternoon

VOTING

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Robbins Lane Elementary School, H.B. Thompson Middle School and Syosset High School.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $223,702,174 budget for 2017-18, an increase of 1.75 percent from the current $219,860,188. The tax levy would increase 2.12 percent, from $187,650,187 to $191,622,402.

This increase is within the district’s tax-cap limit of 2.24 percent, so a simple majority will be required to approve the budget.

The district did not provide the dollar amount of school taxes on the average single-family house because final assessment figures were not available from Nassau County. The district said “the aggregate salary lines for teachers are increasing by 1.5 percent,” but did not provide further information by press time.

A proposition would authorize the district to spend $7.7 million from a capital reserve fund to upgrade fire alarm systems, replace interior doors, replace underground storage tanks and create security vestibules in school buildings.

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbent Michael Cohen and candidates Melissa Breitstein, Carol C. Cheng, Mark Alan Fierstein, Anna Levitan and Uzma Syed are running for three at-large seats. Breitstein and Fierstein are running as a team, and Cohen and Cheng are running as a team. Terms are three years.

Melissa Breitstein

BACKGROUND: Breitstein, 44, has lived in the district for five years. She is a corporate attorney and a legal consultant for private companies. Breitstein has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University at Albany and a law degree from New York Law School. Her two children attend district schools. Breitstein is a lunch captain for the Walt Whitman Elementary School PTA. She helped create the character education program for students at Whitman.

ISSUES: Breitstein said if elected, she would focus on “increasing community involvement in the school district decision-making process.” She said she would look into “revamping the district website to provide more information and make the content more user-friendly.” Breitstein said the district should make greater use of technology by providing a live feed of board meetings on Facebook for community members who can’t attend in person. She said that one of her first acts as a board member would be to call for the formation of board committees of local experts to provide guidance on matters under discussion by the board.

Carol C. Cheng

BACKGROUND: Cheng, 42, has lived in the district for 15 years. She is a self-described “full-time mother” and PTA volunteer. Cheng has a bachelor’s degree in math, statistics and economics, and a master’s degree in applied math and statistics, both from Stony Brook University. Cheng worked for five years as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Manhattan. She serves on the Stony Brook Medicine Community Relations Advisory Board and is an active member of the PTAs at Village Elementary School and South Woods Middle School. Her three children attend district schools.

ISSUES: Cheng said that the district is in need of major capital improvements. She said she supports the ballot proposition that would allow the district to spend $7.7 million to replace school roofs, fire alarms, classroom doors, and other projects. If elected, she said she would use her PTA background “to reach out to more community members to discuss any message the district wants to deliver.” Cheng said, “I’ve lived here for 15 years and I’ve seen the Syosset district improving every year.”

Michael Cohen

BACKGROUND: Cohen, 56, a cardiac anesthesiologist, is the associate chairman of the department of anesthesiology at St. Francis: The Heart Center in Roslyn, and chief of the division of cardiac anesthesia at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip. He has lived in the district for 20 years. Cohen has a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from the City College of New York and a medical degree from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. His four children graduated from district schools. Cohen was elected to the school board in 2005 and has served as its president since 2012.

ISSUES: “Syosset’s board and administration face the challenge of balancing budgetary pressure with our shared goal to continue and enhance our academic, arts and extracurricular offerings,” Cohen said. “By way of careful evaluation and remaining proactive we [the school board] have been able to successfully modulate this fine balance.” If re-elected, he said he will focus “on seeking ways to minimize student stress and overemphasis on grades.” He said the district’s focus “should be on having students become critical and creative thinkers” and “mastering the ever-changing technological skill set required to succeed in a global environment.”

Mark Alan Fierstein

BACKGROUND: Fierstein, 59, has lived in the district for 26 years. He is an internist with a practice that is part of the NYU Langone Faculty Group Practice. He has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Princeton University and a medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. Fierstein has been president of the Hunting Hill Civic Association in Woodbury for 16 years. He has served for the last 10 years as a trustee of the Woodbury Jewish Center. He is a member of the Princeton University Alumni Schools Committee. Fierstein’s two children attended district schools.

ISSUES: Fierstein said that the biggest issue facing the school board is providing “the best educational experience to each student” in a district with “students from many different cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic groups and with different academic foundations and varying abilities.” Fierstein said the district should use technology “to enable students to do computer-based, self-directed, self-paced instruction under close supervision of their classroom teachers.” He added: “At the highest levels, we may need to explore relationships with local colleges or with online education providers to offer experiences at or above the Advanced Placement level.”

Anna Levitan

BACKGROUND: Levitan, 48, has lived in the district for 10 years. She owns and operates a test preparation and tutoring company in Syosset. Levitan earned a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Moscow State University and a master of public administration in international relations from Bowling Green State University. Levitan serves on the executive board of the Syosset Council of PTAs and the council’s budget committee. Her three children attend district schools.

ISSUES: Levitan said if elected, she would work closely with the district administration on capital improvements and to ensure “all our students have superior instructional support.” She said that because of Common Core standards, the district’s teachers “should receive access to more tools, training and professional development . . . to deliver exceptional instruction to their students.” Levitan said as a board member, she would “call for equal support of all our athletic and arts programs so that every student has a chance to pursue his or her passion.”

Uzma Syed

BACKGROUND: Syed, 38, has lived in the district for 29 years. She is an infectious disease physician and is a partner at South Shore Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine Consultants in West Islip and Syosset. Syed has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Syracuse University and a doctor of osteopathy degree from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine. Syed has two children, one attending a district school, and the other in a private prekindergarten program because, she said, the district doesn’t offer such programs.

ISSUES: Syed said, “My main reason for running is my dedication to and passion for the Syosset school district.” Syed said, “I’m a product of the district and . . . it’s time to give back to the district which has shaped me into the person I am today.” Syed said she believes that academics in the district should “align with real-world experiences,” and, if elected, she would ask for a committee to be formed to look into starting an apprenticeship program at the high school. She said that adding a public school prekindergarten program in the district “would provide a smoother transition to the kindergarten program, build on their [children’s] social skills and stimulate them intellectually.”

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