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North Shore School Board Candidates

Six candidates vie for three open seats

Sara Jones

What are some of the issues facing the district today? How would you go about correcting/changing them?

 

The coming years present tremendous financial challenges to the North Shore district due to rising state mandated costs, the tax cap, and the closing of the LIPA plant. It is tempting to approach this situation with the goal of simply trying to salvage as much of the education we offer as possible, but I believe the answer lies in a more creative approach that will allow us to improve the education we provide while remaining fiscally responsible. 

 

Second, our system of high stakes testing has spiraled out of control. Schools do need to be accountable, but today the financial cost of creating, preparing for and scoring these tests is too high. I want to work with our community and other districts, to bring costs under control and to focus on providing students with an education that will make them productive, responsible, creative members of our community and nation.

 

What is your favorite aspect of the district?

 

Educational research clearly demonstrates that small schools are more effective than large ones. We are fortunate to live in a district of only small schools. While each elementary school has a slightly different culture, they all provide a warm and nurturing environment for students, as they launch their academic careers. The middle and high schools have the kinds of offerings and qualities that help small schools do their magic: teacher-led advisory groups, interdisciplinary programs, small classes, rich extracurricular offerings, and a talented and dedicated staff. In addition, the size of our schools facilitates parent involvement and community partnerships, both of which are critical to our success.

 

Why are you the candidate of choice? Why should the constituents vote for you?

 

My business background is exactly the kind of experience we need to put in place real solutions. For over a decade, I have been the owner and CEO of a successful national catalog-based company now serving 80,000 customers. Further, I also have experience as a fundraiser, generating millions of dollars annually for meals-on-wheels programs.

 

My deep involvement in my children’s school, understanding and support of the district’s budget, and commitment to public education has enabled me to learn a tremendous amount about our schools. I would like to bring this knowledge to the board and to work on issues like limiting the impact of standardized testing—financially and educationally—on our district.

Michael Nightingale

What are some of the issues facing the district today? How would you go about correcting/changing them?

 

The biggest issue we are facing in our district today is the balance between trying to reduce our taxes and still providing the best teachers and education for our children. With the LIPA tax approaching, we need to find a way to cut our expenditures, without cutting our classroom size or hiring less teachers...we first must have complete transparency in the budget process…Another issue facing our district is state mandates and state testing…I believe that we need to motivate the community so that we can have a sustained grassroots campaign, letting Albany know we are here and need help.

 

Lastly, how the Board of Education governs and meets is also very important. Meetings need to be videotaped live, if possible. They must begin earlier, allowing more time for more public comments. It is important to allow new ideas and new faces to be part of the process in order to sustain the high standard of education we expect from North Shore. In order to accomplish this, I believe that there should be term limits for trustees. 

 

What is your favorite aspect of the district?

 

My favorite aspect of this district has to do with our community itself. The people in this community have a real passion for education and understand the importance of a keeping the North Shore School District a highly regarded and desirable school district. 

 

This district is a place that makes people want to stay here long after they graduate. This ultimately sustains the value of our homes and keeps everyone closely invested in this community. I want to do my part to insure that this does not change, so that one day my children will want to raise their families here as well. 

 

Why are you the candidate of choice? Why should the constituents vote for you?

 

I am a father, husband and local business owner, who is invested and cares deeply about our community. I would like to be a new voice for our community and will respectfully listen to the needs and desires of our residents. My goal would be to inform and advocate for our residents on all issues that affect our children, our schools, our property taxes, the value of our homes, and the quality of life within our community. I want to ensure that we make the meaningful changes needed to maintain the highest quality of education, while remaining fiscally responsible, particularly during these challenging economic times. 

George Pombar

What are some of the issues facing the district today? How would you go about correcting/changing them?

 

Some of the most critical issues facing the district in the upcoming years are: extensive unnecessary mandated testing; LIPA closing of nearly half of their Glenwood Landing plants, thus causing a significant reduction of taxes collected by the school district; and the continuing annual state increase of schools’ contributions to the Teachers Retirement plan (10 years ago North Shore Schools contributed some $86,000 annually, today our cost is $2.3 million, and it is expected to continue to rise).

 

My plan to address the testing and the retirement funding issues is to engage other local LI schools and lobby Albany. Together we can become a power to lobby our legislators to modify this process. On the LIPA issue, there are several approaches to reduce the burden that closing of some of their plants will cause. Thanks to our legislators’ efforts, the state has agreed to award us $2.5 million for the upcoming year to be applied to the reduction of taxes, which are not expected to affect our school district until 2014 - 2015. The second will be to get LIPA to the table to plan the sale/lease of the property vacated for other either LIPA use, or another company’s usage, thus creating tax revenues for our schools. Lastly, I am personally in touch with Albany on the matter of retirement costs and we will need to again convince our legislators to implement defined contribution plans that can be implemented now so to “stop the bleeding” on the costs created by the existing plans. 

 

What is your favorite aspect of the district?

 

We have a great school system in North Shore, we have great teachers, administrators and staff, and our community knows this and is very supportive of the process. This is my favorite aspect of our district.

 

Why are you the candidate of choice? Why should the constituents vote for you?

 

Because I bring extensive fiscal management experience—30+ years in the financial business, because I am a proactive, hard working pragmatic member of the community—I have an extensive positive proven record of community involvement, more so than any other candidate—I  am passionately committed to meeting these challenges, but more importantly, I know how to achieve the above listed goals.

Marianne Manning Russo

What are some of the issues facing the district today? How would you go about correcting/changing them?

 

Our district, like all districts across New York State, is facing the ever-increasing tax burden from rising pension and health care costs… These costs, coupled with the projected decrease in tax revenue from the LIPA power plant in Glenwood Landing, make crafting a fiscally responsible budget that continues to allow our schools to offer the highest quality education extremely challenging.

 

In order to meet the goal of offering quality education while still maintaining fiscal integrity, I would recommend that a 5-year projection be done for any new program that the district proposes to adopt. We need to see the long-term fiscal impact of any academic program, weighed against the benefits that such program may offer. We need to review all of our academic programs annually and assess whether it makes sense to keep those programs and/or courses in our curriculum, in light of the cost and the benefit to our children.

 

What is your favorite aspect of the district?

 

My favorite aspect of the district is the diversity of the people who live here. This district is a tapestry of many different colors. We have every economic group, we have artists and athletes, new families and families that have raised their children here. My goal as a trustee on the North Shore Board of Education is to keep this community affordable so that all these varying groups of people can continue to reside here. 

 

Why are you the candidate of choice? Why should the constituents vote for you?

 

I have been actively involved in the district since my daughter entered elementary school 12 years ago. Since that time, I have served on the executive boards of the parent organizations for elementary, middle and high school. I have a junior in the high school and a son in the eighth grade at the middle school. I know the past history of the district, in terms of curriculum choices and capital improvements. I understand what the district has to offer and how it can be improved.

 

In addition, I am an attorney specializing in pension, ERISA and labor law. I have a unique understanding of the most pressing issues that are facing our district, both professionally and as a parent who has been actively involved.

Tim Madden

 

What are some of the issues facing the district today? How would you go about correcting/changing them?

 

The greatest financial challenges facing the district today include rapidly rising mandated costs and the decommissioning of the LIPA power plant. We must continue our efforts through the Legislative Action Committee to push for “glide path” legislation at the state level that would protect taxpayers from a sudden and painful shift in tax burden from the utility to residents. We should work with other districts, outside organizations, and the New York State School Boards Association, to urge Albany to transfer back to the state the cost of financial obligations and mandates that have been pushed onto local school districts. 

 

Educationally, state imposed high stakes standardized testing is adversely impacting our students, our financial resources and our overall educational culture... At the state level, I strongly support the efforts to reform New York State’s top-down “one size fits all” approach to education that ignores differences among school districts and students, and has had the effect of quashing innovation and creativity within the classroom.

 

What is your favorite aspect of the district? 

 

There are many wonderful aspects of our district. These include the underlying philosophy of education that recognizes the uniqueness of every child and, as a result, the importance of offering a rich variety of learning experiences. In addition, the district is very forward looking. This is evident through the introduction of the new world languages program at the elementary level and the use of new technologies in the classroom—both of which I believe have greatly enhanced my children’s education. But what I like most about this district, is that my kids’ teachers and the other adults that they come into contact with on a regular basis during the school day, genuinely care about their well-being and see themselves as partners with parents in their efforts to help them succeed. 

 

Why are you the candidate of choice? Why should the constituents vote for you?

 

I have served and worked in a variety of positions in education for more than two decades and these experiences have enabled me to view public schooling through many different lenses. Prior to moving to Sea Cliff, I served as a school board trustee in the Northport-East Northport School District. I have served on the North Shore School District’s Legislative Action Committee and have worked to minimize the financial impact of the LIPA plant decommissioning on the district…These experiences, as well as being a parent and a taxpayer, have helped me develop a well-rounded and unique perspective on public schooling that I think will be useful to the district in confronting the many challenges that we face. 

James O’Sullivan

What are some of the issues facing the district today? How would you go about correcting/changing them?

 

By any measure, the North Shore School District produces outstanding scholars. There is no question we are on the right academic path. However, upcoming financial burdens will make it difficult to maintain our success. Our future must include more local control and decisions, and less state and federal mandates.

 

What is your favorite aspect of the district?

The enthusiasm and pride for our school district is my favorite aspect. From the parents to the educators to the alumni who raise their kids in the district, the ability to come together and focus on creating a great school system is not something that should be taken for granted.

 

Why are you the candidate of choice? Why should the constituents vote for you?

Although the current board has made great strides meeting the financial challenges, we need to take a fresh look at the big ticket items. The LIPA plant closing and multi-million dollar increases to the pension funds are painting taxpayers into a corner.

 

My wife Lorraine and I are parents and taxpayers who want to preserve the stability of our district and community. With your vote, I intend to provide an optimistic and realistic approach to the budget issues that concern us all.