TODAY'S PAPER
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Long IslandEducation

West Islip school district

VOTING

7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at West Islip High School.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $122,946,823 budget for 2018-19, a 1.5 percent increase over the current $121,129,702. The tax levy would increase 3.13 percent from $80,996,142 to $83,529,684.

This increase is equal to the district’s 3.13 percent tax-cap limit, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget.

School taxes on the average single-family home would be $8,426, a 3.13 percent increase from $8,170.

Teacher salaries are currently in negotiations and were unavailable.

The district is eliminating four teaching positions.

District website:

wi.k12.ny.us

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbent Steve Gellar and challengers Richard Antoniello and Catherine Artusa are running for two at-large seats. Incumbent Michael Zotto is not seeking reelection.

Terms are three years.

Richard Antoniello

BACKGROUND: Antoniello, 46, has lived in the district for 11 years. He is a history teacher in the Plainview-Old Bethpage district where his wife is also a teacher in special education. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history education from the University of Delaware, and holds a master’s in history from LIU Post. He is a member of the Long Island Council for Social Studies and the Long Island Interfaith Community. He is a member of the West Islip PTA. He has a daughter in the third grade in the local schools.

ISSUES: The most important issue facing West Islip Schools is making sure all students are safe and secure, he said. Secondly, West Islip Schools must continue to provide a first-rate education, while respecting homeowners and the tax burden they face in a general environment of declining enrollment, he said. Lastly, he added, the district must continue to be mindful of small class size. “These issues represent part of a vision of education in West Islip that build on its excellent tradition of diverse programs that prepare all students for success,” he said.

Steve Gellar

BACKGROUND: Gellar, 51, has lived in the district for 21 years. He is an engineer and holds bachelor’s and a master’s degrees from Polytechnic University. He currently serves as president of the Board of Education, president of R.E.F.I.T. (Reform Educational Financial Inequities Today), a multidistrict advocacy group, and secretary/treasurer of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association. He is past president of the Manetuck Elementary school PTA and is a coach of West Islip Little League and Youth Basketball. He has two children, one who graduated from the local schools and a son who is a senior at the high school. He has served on the board since 2006.

ISSUES: The most important issue facing the district is providing a sound education while minimizing the tax burden on residents, he said. “This is heightened by the societal changes that have dictated a shift in our approach as a school district and a community,” he said. The district has taken proactive measures to address safety and security for students while also addressing the mental health needs of students. “Funding these measures, and incorporating them quickly but with sensitivity is a major concern,” he said.

Catherine Artusa

BACKGROUND: Artusa, 43, has lived in the district for 20 years. She has an associate degree in business from Briarcliffe Business College and has an associate degree in marketing and business from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising and business management from FIT. She has two children in the district. She is a member of the Bayview PTA and the Beach Street PTA.

ISSUES: The most important issue facing the district, she said, is ensuring the lowest tax rate possible for residents while still improving schools and striving for the best education for students. Artusa said she would work to maintain class sizes and enhance programs at the elementary level. At the high school level, she would emphasize the need to retain programs and enhance college-readiness offerings while remaining within budget. “Since my daughters entered the school system I have seen our school’s grounds deteriorate over time. As a result, I will advocate to improve our grounds and enhance security measures to ensure a safe environment,” she said, adding that safety and security of teachers and students is crucial. She said she has the utmost respect for the district’s teachers and “we want to see the best possible overall scenario for our school district, to know we are in the best spot we can be — financially and academically.”

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