7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Coram Elementary School, West Middle Island Elementary School, Ridge Elementary School and Charles E. Walters Elementary School.
The district proposes a $227,000,000 budget for 2015-16, a 2.02 percent increase from the current $222,500,000. The local tax levy would increase 3.2 percent, from $127,312,951 to $131,386,541.
This increase is equal to the state's tax-cap limit of 3.2 percent, so a simple majority vote will be required to approve the budget. School taxes for the average single-family home for 2015-16 assessments were not available, so the district could not calculate an estimate.
The proposed budget uses projected salary figures because the teacher contract is under negotiation. The district would add positions in general education, special education, English as a second language and academic intervention services. It also would restore a social worker, a school counselor, a psychologist, math support and an assistant principal. The district also would restore a fourth-grade music program.
Incumbents William K. Miller, Maureen E. Silvestri and Daniel Tomaszewski and candidates Penelope Blizzard-McGrath and Victoria Molloy are vying for three at-large seats. Terms are three years.
BACKGROUND: Blizzard-McGrath, 48, a lawyer, earned an associate degree in applied science from Briarcliff College, a bachelor of science degree from Dowling College and a law degree from Touro College. She is a member of the Suffolk County and New York State bar associations; New York State Dispute Resolution Association; Longwood Legislative Committee; and the Longwood Safety & Awareness Committee. She is a former member of the Longwood Policy Committee; a member of the Longwood PTA/PTSA; Central Brookhaven Lions Club; Ridge Civic Association; founder/president of the Touro Family Law Society; and former secretary of Alpha Chi national honor society. She has a ninth-grader at Longwood High School.
ISSUES: "High school Regents exams are Common Core-based and they cannot be refused," Blizzard-McGrath said. "Imagine being 13 again. Imagine spending years learning math one way and suddenly in the midst of your education in eighth grade you're learning a new way to do math while still being taught the old way. Imagine having to take two algebra Regents exams -- one on the old standards and one on the new Common Core standards. Remember, the results of these exams will determine whether or not you will graduate high school. This is what our children in algebra faced last year." Blizzard-McGrath said as a result, "high achievers will pass" while many others will not. "These students will be left behind," she said. Blizzard-McGrath proposes to create a local task force of unbiased expert educators and parents to review and report on the testing and teacher evaluation system. "Let teachers teach. That is what they are trained to do."
William K. Miller
BACKGROUND: William K. Miller, 42, is a commercial banker who has served on the school board for 24 years. He has a degree in Augmented Studies from St. Peter's University in Jersey City, New Jersey, and the American Institute of Banking in New York City. He is chairman of the Longwood Legislative Committee and president of the Long Island Metro Business Association, and has been a board member of Eastern Suffolk BOCES since 2006. A 29-year member of the Central Brookhaven Lions Club, he is president of the Colonial Youth Family Services in Mastic/Shirley. His two children graduated from Longwood schools.
ISSUES: The most important issue facing the district, Miller said, are the roles of career and technical education. The future of these at the high school level, he noted, is being debated seriously across New York and the country. "Questions that are critical to state, federal and local strategies are to raise high school students' achievement and reduce 'leaks in the pipeline' into and through postsecondary education and careers," he said. "Future high school reform cannot be addressed without including vocational programs." To help in achieving this, the district "must integrate math, science and technology and achieve a balance with all subject areas," Miller said. "We need to address the productive social and business environment so that our students can be able to compete in the complex society that awaits them."
BACKGROUND: Molloy, 38, is a nurse. She is a graduate of Longwood High School and the Eastern Suffolk BOCES nursing program in 1996. Molloy has been a nurse for 18 years and works in critical care. Molloy is vice president of the Ridge Elementary School PTA and treasurer of the middle school PTA, the Share Decision Making Team at Ridge Elementary and the Longwood legislative and policy committees. She also serves on the BOCES Career and Technical Task Force and BOCES STEM and Engineering Advisory Board and is business advisory chairwoman for the Time to Play Foundation. She is a former co-president of the Ridge Elementary School PTA and served on the Longwood Safety Committee. Molloy has a third-grader at Ridge Elementary School and a sixth-grader at Longwood Middle School.
ISSUES: Molloy said the district faces many challenges, including the new Common Core curriculum and testing and unfunded mandates that "are taking much-needed funds from the district when the money would be better spent elsewhere." Another challenge is a "flawed state-aid reimbursement, which exhausts our already overburdened taxpayers." Molloy wants to continue to lobby and build "working relationships, continuing to research methods to bring in more revenue for the district and creating a pathway for relief. . . . I would like to help facilitate increased open dialogue, advocating for better understanding and awareness, and building on maximizing a cohesive relationship between the board and the community."
Maureen E. Silvestri
BACKGROUND: Maureen Silvestri, 72, a homemaker, is a 24-year member of the school board and currently chairs its safety committee. She has served on all school board committees, including the legislative committee, policy committee and budget advisory committee. She was president of the Longwood PTA Council and high school PTSA, special education president for SEPTA, and a longtime member of the Longwood Junior High School PTA. She also was a delegate for the New York State School Board. Her four children attended Longwood schools, and she now has a granddaughter in the seventh grade at Longwood Junior High School and a grandson in the third grade at Charles E. Walters Elementary School.
ISSUES: Silvestri, noting she is the board's second longest-serving member, said she represents "all the children, citizens and groups fairly. I am not obligated to special interest groups. I am visible and accessible to all the citizens of our community." She said she believes the state-imposed tax cap "has given us the challenges to provide first-rate education at a price we can afford. As a senior citizen on a fixed income, I am aware of how important it is to keep our tax levy as low as possible. My years on the budget committee make me the right candidate to make the tough choices." Silvestri said she believes implementation of the Common Core academic standards and the state's policies stemming from them "are another challenge. While we all strive for highest standards, we must make sure that they are appropriate."
BACKGROUND: Daniel Tomaszewski, 68, is a retired teacher/administrator at Longwood High School who has been a school board member since 2003. He has a bachelor's, master's and school administrator's degrees from LIU Post. He is a former chair of the social studies department at Longwood High School and a former director of the high school's evening alternative program. An active member of the Yaphank volunteer fire department, he also is chairman of the Longwood Community Council. Tomaszewski has four sons who graduated from Longwood schools and four grandsons in district schools -- a kindergartner and third-grader at Charles E. Walters Elementary School, a sixth-grader at Longwood Middle School and a 12th-grader at Longwood High School. On the board, he served as president for five years and vice president for four years.
ISSUES: Tomaszewski said the district needs to implement "higher standards to meet the critical needs of an educated population capable of competing in the global economy." He said "political agendas have created difficulties even greater than initial challenges." The bottom line, Tomaszewski said, "is that a broken system needs to be fixed in such a way that works for our children's future, without bankrupting our taxpayers," and the way to accomplish that is to "bring everyone involved to the table and be part of the solution." Parents and families "need to see evidence, created by professional educators, that show how their children can benefit," he said. "Our districts and communities need to be led by skilled leaders who know how to communicate reason and advocate productively for the greater good of our students."