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Syosset school vote: 2 of 3 pushing reform win

Superintendent Carole Hankin, left, joined Syosset School Board

Superintendent Carole Hankin, left, joined Syosset School Board President Michael Cohen, second from right, as they watch the vote returns while members of the administrative staff tally the votes for budget and candidates in elections. (May 21, 2013) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Two of the three Syosset school board candidates who wanted the district to share more information with the public and invite better participation among residents in the decision-making process won Tuesday night.

Tracy Frankel and Rob Gershon won seats on the board, while the third member of the group, William Weiner, lost. Susan Parker, who ran independently, took the third seat.

Parker had said she did not want to be beholden to anyone. She pledged to consider every matter on its merits.

The district's budget passed, 2,627-1,555.

Gershon earned 2,740 votes, while fellow slate member Frankel had 2,715. Parker won her seat with 2,460 votes.

The school board has nine trustees.

Gershon said he was disappointed by Weiner's loss. Had the entire slate won, they would have had a majority, joining forces with two members elected last year.

Peter Dowd, 49, who has two children in the district, said he voted for the slate in hopes that they would bring a sense of openness to the board -- critics call the administration secretive -- and help rein in spending.

"Let's see what they can do," he said, adding that he voted down the budget. "There's always room to cut."

Randy Rosner, 56, supported the budget -- he said he wants other children to have access to the same stellar education his kids had when they passed through the district -- but wouldn't say for whom he voted.

Giovanni Graceffa, 46 and the father of two children in the district, supports Parker, with whom he works at the Syosset Fire Department. "She's fantastic," he said, adding that she has an excellent work ethic.

But he also voted for two candidates in the slate and wants the district to be more open and to make it easier for residents to speak at public meetings.

Toni Fleig, who is in her 70s, said the district is spending money frivolously on both administrative salaries and what she called unnecessary frills for students. She hopes the slate would look at the school system's finances with greater scrutiny. While Syosset has invested heavily in technology, it hasn't made students more capable, Fleig said.

If anything, she said, technology hurts their ability to communicate. The district needs to go back to the basics, she said, which is partly why she voted down the budget. "Give us a break," she said, speaking of older taxpayers.

Board member Josh Lafazan, a 19-year-old Syosset graduate elected last year when he was in the 12th grade, said the slate would help bring about much-needed change.

Lafazan has long criticized the board for failing to challenge high-paid Superintendent Carole Hankin, who he says exerts too much influence over the group.

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