TODAY'S PAPER
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Long IslandSuffolk

Brentwood school district

VOTING

8 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hemlock Park, Laurel Park, Loretta Park, North, Northeast, Oak Park, Pine Park, Southeast and Southwest elementary schools.

THE BUDGET

The district proposes a budget of $368,204,872 for 2015-16, a 3.83 percent increase from the current $354,634,052. The local tax levy would increase 1.87 percent, from $99,676,574 to $101,539,563.

The increase is equal to the state's tax-cap limit of 1.87 percent, so the district budget would pass with a simple majority. School taxes on the average single-family home would rise 1.87 percent, from $4,495.21 to $4,579.23.

The budget would provide for teacher salary increases, pending negotiations. The proposed budget includes funding to add 27 positions to the teaching staff to comply with New York State Board of Regents regulations addressing the educational needs of English-language learners with bilingual instruction. The district also is budgeting for four art and three music teachers it is bringing back, and two additional social workers. It would add to the district's music and art programs at the elementary level.

District website:

brentwood.k12.ny.us

THE CANDIDATES

Incumbent Gail Kirkham is being challenged by Ricardo Gomez for seat 1. Eileen Felix is running unopposed for seat 2, now held by Ana Martinez, who is not seeking re-election. Incumbent Keith Allison is being challenged by Daniel Calderon for seat 3. Kirkham, Allison and Felix are running as a team, as are Gomez and Calderon. Terms are three years.

Keith Allison

BACKGROUND: Allison, 47, is a correction officer with the Suffolk County sheriff's office. He is a 1985 graduate of Brentwood High School and has a daughter and son, both graduates of the Brentwood schools. He is first vice president of the Brentwood school board and past president of Brentwood Youth Activities, a community group for sports and educational programs.

ISSUES: Allison cites the need for services for English-language learners and special-education students as the district's most important issues. He said he will continue to join with other board members in calling for more resources to support the education of children who have greater need of instruction and support services in a district with a large immigrant population. "We have a lot of students who come through our front door and they don't speak the language and sometimes it's hard to get the resources we need and to make sure those students are still showing growth," Allison said. "We just want to see the dollar follow the child."

Daniel Calderon

BACKGROUND: Calderon, 23, is an entrepreneur who said he has done research analysis on a part-time basis. Calderon was Brentwood High School's valedictorian in 2010, where he was captain of the science olympiads and varsity golf teams. Calderon graduated from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in economics. He was secretary of an entrepreneurship club at Wharton. A cancer survivor who underwent treatment during his senior year in high school, he served as treasurer for Relay for Life/Colleges Against Cancer at Wharton.

ISSUES: Calderon said he wants to give back to the schools he attended and the community that supported him through his medical treatment. He is concerned about the large influx of students the Brentwood schools have seen without an equivalent rise in tax money. He wants to bring "a fresh outlook" with efforts to raise funds to enhance programs. "No one would expect a kid from Brentwood to go to an Ivy League school and I had teachers and people who supported me to get there," he said. "I want kids throughout the same school district to follow their own path in a similar fashion."

Ricardo Gomez

BACKGROUND: Gomez, 26, is an accountant who graduated from the Brentwood schools in 2008. He earned his bachelor of science in accounting from The School of Business at Ithaca College in 2013. He's volunteered as a preparer of income tax forms, has served as recruitment manager for the National Association of Black Accountants and was captain of the varsity wrestling team while attending Brentwood High School. He has also volunteered as a guest speaker in the district.

ISSUES: Gomez said a critical issue for Brentwood students is achieving the readiness to compete in academics and athletics at the college level. He wants to set himself as an "example" of what Brentwood students can accomplish. Though he did not return calls for comment, he provided a statement saying he would be "a strong advocate for education and athletics" as a championship-winning wrestler who wants to give back and inspire others to achieve.

Gail Kirkham

BACKGROUND: Kirkham, 61, is retired from her work as a management information systems director for 18 years, she said. She has lived in the district for about 40 years, and earned an associate of science degree in nursing from Farmingdale State College in 1974. Kirkham serves as secretary of the Islip Town branch of the NAACP and has been a trustee of the Brentwood Public Library since 2003. She's also been on the Brentwood school board since that year. Her three children graduated from the Brentwood schools.

ISSUES: Kirkham said Brentwood and other school districts in lower-income areas that are not receiving their fair share of funding struggle to meet the needs of English-language learners and the overall student population. The Brentwood schools need aid, she said, particularly to cope with the population of unaccompanied immigrant minors who moved into the district. She said the state should not put in place any unfunded mandates. "Right now, we are trying to work with what we have, but yes, there's always the need for additional funding to help the children," she said.

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