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Long Island

Long Islander is elected president of state school boards association

Susan Bergtraum, center, of Old Westbury, a longtime

Susan Bergtraum, center, of Old Westbury, a longtime trustee on local and regional school boards in Nassau County, attends a panel during the New York State School Boards Association 96th Annual Convention & Education Expo at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Susan Bergtraum of Old Westbury, a longtime trustee on local and regional school boards in Nassau County, was elected Tuesday as president of the 5,000-member New York State School Boards Association.

Bergtraum, whose term begins Jan. 1, was chosen unanimously by more than 200 delegates at the association's annual convention in Manhattan. The group's presidents serve one-year terms and generally are elected a second time.

Lynne Lenhardt, the current president, serves on the local school board in upstate Bethlehem and on a BOCES board in the same region.

Bergtraum's selection as president-elect comes at a critical time for local school boards. Many are struggling with the financial effects of state-imposed property tax caps, coupled with more demanding state requirements for student testing and teacher evaluations.

In her acceptance speech, Bergtraum sought to remind school board delegates that overcoming day-to-day challenges -- important as those might be -- would not be the ultimate measure of their success.

"Instead, we measure success by the accomplishments of individual students who have passed through our districts' doors," she said.

Fred Langstaff, 71, of Sayville, a veteran of the Eastern Suffolk BOCES board, was elected second vice president of the state organization -- giving Long Island two of the association's top four positions. The other officers are both from upstate -- William Miller of West Winfield, who was elected first vice president, and Thomas Nespeca of Webster, re-elected as treasurer.

Bergtraum, 68, was a board trustee in East Williston, one of the Island's best-regarded districts, from 1991 to 2006. She began serving on the Nassau BOCES board in 2006 and currently is its vice president.

Bergtraum also has been on the board of directors for the state school boards association since 2005.

The last Long Islander to serve as president of the state association was Pamela Betheil of Mount Sinai, who held the post in 1998 and 1999.

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