TODAY'S PAPER
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Long IslandEducation

Westbury school district

VOTING

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Dryden Street School, Park Avenue School, Drexel Avenue School and Westbury Middle School.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a $151,360,739 budget for 2018-19, a 4.17 percent increase from the current $145,295,800. The tax levy of $77,223,323 is the same amount as that of last year.

This is within the district’s tax-cap limit of 2.07 percent, so a simple majority will be required to approve the budget.

School taxes on the average single-family home will decrease 0.32 percent, from $10,050.17 to $10,018.37.

The district said there would be an increase in teacher salaries but did not indicate any estimated amounts.

The school district does not anticipate receiving enough additional state financial aid to help maintain existing programs. In response, it would appropriate additional fund balance and would not replace nine staff members who are retiring, among other reductions.

Under the proposed budget, varsity, junior varsity and middle school sports would be reduced, while elementary and secondary school classes would become larger.

A proposition on the ballot asks voters to approve a $58,595,000 bond referendum to fund the expansion of the middle school and high school.

District website:

westburyschools.org

THE CANDIDATES

Five candidates are vying for two at-large seats. Incumbents John E. Simpkins Jr. and Pless M. Dickerson are seeking re-election. Challengers Karin B. Campbell, Mateo Flores, and Michelle Wilson are seeking to join the board.

Karin B. Campbell

BACKGROUND: Campbell, 57, is a substitute teacher, counselor and former longtime MTA and Amtrak employee. She was previously a member of the school board for 15 years. She is a 1978 graduate of Westbury High School with a bachelor’s degree in business management and economics from Fisk University, graduating in 1986. She then earned a master’s degree in human resources and labor relations from the New York Institute of Technology in 1999. She has lived in Westbury for 46 years and has two children attending district schools. She is also a den leader for a local Cub Scout pack.

ISSUES: Campbell said she hopes to rejoin the board to continue addressing overcrowding and lobbying for more funding. She said that district needs to complete its construction plan and that while a zero tax increase sounds good, “paying school taxes is part of funding schools.” Raising the district’s academic standards is also another priority for Campbell, who supports establishing parent centers in all schools.

Pless M. Dickerson

BACKGROUND: Dickerson, 69, is a retired educator who was the Westbury High School principal for nearly two decades and then the Superintendent of Schools at the Wyandach School District, where he worked from 2009 until 2014. Dickerson received a bachelor’s degree in history from Clark College in 1969 and two masters degrees in administration and guidance from C.W. Post in 1978 and 1981, respectively. He then earned a doctoral degree in education from Columbia University in 1998. He has lived in Westbury for 42 years. If elected, this would be his fifth term.

ISSUES: Dickerson said he believes the district is not receiving sufficient funding from Albany and that he will encourage lobbying for additional support. The state budget has been underfunded routinely for several years, he said. As a board member, Dickerson said he will continue to keep a careful eye on the budget to maximize resources.

Mateo Flores

BACKGROUND: Flores, 51, is the director of the Hempstead division of Nassau’s Economic Opportunity Commission, a nonprofit that provides community services such as rental assistance, after school programs, and a soccer club. He has lived in Westbury for 38 years and graduated from Westbury High School in 1987, then attending community college for three years before receiving a credential for human services from Cornell in 1999. He is the founder of the Westbury Hispanic United Assocation and the co-founder of the Westbury Youth Soccer Club. His wife works as a teacher in the Hempstead School District and two of his three children attend district schools.

ISSUES: Flores said that developing better relationships with teachers and parents would be a key priority that would help address academic performance. Expansion of the schools is vital to resolve overcrowding, Flores said. He would also push to re-implement the dual language program in the district, which he said was a “very inclusive program for all the kids of Westbury.”

John E. Simpkins Jr.

BACKGROUND: Simpkins, 52, is an executive vice president and chief human resources office at a local health care company. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from St. Johns University in 1986. He has resided in Westbury for 25 years. He has three children, two of whom are now in college. His son previously attended district schools and now attends private school. If re-elected, this would be his third term on the board.

ISSUES: Simpkins said that though inequalities in state funding have affected the Westbury school district more than most other districts, lobbying isn’t the sole answer. Increased academic rigor and fiscal discipline would show that state aid is being used effectively, he said. Simpkins also believes that academic expectations could be boosted by emphasizing a critical thinking approach to curriculum.

Michelle Wilson

BACKGROUND: Wilson, 47, is a former project manager for IBM. She has lived in Westbury for 32 years, graduating from Westbury High School in 1988. She then received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Temple University in 1993. She has three children who attend private school. She previously served as a mentor to budding young female entrepreneurs and to students at IBM’s Pathways in Technology Early College high School.

ISSUES: Wilson said that if elected to the board, she hopes to help boost expectations for student achievement. The district’s vision needs to be more effectively promoted so it is “viewed in a positive fashion,” she said. Wilson believes that the district’s overcrowding issues has it operating in “crisis mode” and that students cannot learn when placed in less than an optimal learning environment.

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