Election for board of education trustee positions in the Island Trees School District will be held on Tuesday, May 17 from noon-9 p.m. at Michael F. Stokes School. Incumbent Robert Condela is being challenged by Joseph Buda, while Paul Giambona, Sonia Meyer and Kenneth Rochon are running for the seat held by Ronald Tauss, who is not seeking another term. Incumbent Bernadette Bento is being challenged by Patricia Mahon. All terms on the Island Trees Board of Education are for three years.
Joseph Buda, 38, has lived in Levittown for 12 years and has devoted his life to work in public service. First as a sailor in the Navy, then a police officer in the NYPD and is currently a retired fire captain in the FDNY. Buda has a BS in business management and also actively coaches girls' softball for the Levittown Athletic Club and T-Ball for Island Trees Baseball. He and his wife, Noreen, reside in the Island Trees School District with their children, Samantha and Raychel, who both attend Island Trees Middle School and Joseph Jr., who attends Michael F. Stokes Elementary School.
Buda said "as a parent of three children who attend Island Trees schools, I wish to volunteer my time toward their education and the education of all children in our district. Our schools need fresh and innovative ideas to deal with a growing school budget, without proper funding from state and federal levels." "Our schools need more security. Most districts have a dedicated security force, Island Trees does not," Buda added.
School taxes are another concern to Buda, as he said "we must continue to provide the best education to our children and we must reduce spending. Keep taxes at a respectable level without cutting any programs. "If elected, I intend to weed out unnecessary spending through research and fiscally responsible avenues."
Robert Condela, 57, has served on the Island Trees Board of Education for 18 years, five of which he has been appointed president. A vice president at Credit Suisse First Boston in Manhattan, Condela has both BS and juris doctor degrees. He was in the Army from 1968-1970, including serving a yearlong tour in Viet Nam, where he attained the rank of sergeant. Condela then received an honorable discharge. His vast community involvement includes commissioner, coach and vice president of the Island Trees Soccer Club, PTA Honorary Life Member and a member of various committees of the board. Condela has also volunteered at the Dollars for Scholars Breakfast, SCOPE Service Award, Stokes Playground Committee and Project Team. Condela has lived in Levittown for 32 years and is married to Kathleen. They have five children - Carolyn, James, Christine, Michael and Peter - who have all graduated from Island Trees High School, and one daughter, Mary, who is currently attending ITHS.
Condela said he would like to be re-elected to the Island Trees School Board so he can "continue to help the district move forward to fulfill our motto, Excellence and Success for Every Student. We've started a number of new programs, such as all day kindergarten and a nine-period day in the high school. "Property taxes, which at one point were the highest in Nassau County, are now in the mid range," Condela added.
Paul Giambona, 37, has lived in Levittown since 1980, when his family moved from Queens. Island Trees educated himself, Giambona went on to attend Empire State College and both the New York City and Nassau County Police Academies. He is currently a police officer in the 8th Precinct. He and his wife, Connie, have two children in the school district and an eight-month-old baby at home. In the past, Giambona has coached for the Island Trees Soccer Club and volunteered his time for Island Trees Little League Baseball.
Giambona said he was prompted to run by the "desire to help the community and the district that I live in. I work here and feel that with my close ties to the community and my experience I can really be an asset to the community. We have a great school district and that is why my wife and I decided to raise a family where we grew up. I feel the children of this district deserve the best and I want to give them just that."
Giambona added that the most important issue facing the district is having "a balanced and advantageous school budget."
"If elected, I would do what is within my ability to assure that existing resources are optimized, newly acquired assets are financially sound investments and that our children will receive the highest level of quality and educational benefits from them."
Sonia Meyer, 43, settled in Levittown with her family after migrating from Guatemala in 1970. She attended Division Avenue High School and Hofstra University and is currently a trial preparation investigator/office manager. Meyer has been involved with PTA on both elementary and secondary levels, including having held executive committee positions in both units and being named a PTA Honorary Life Member. She was also involved in several school programs, in addition to being a Girl Scout leader for seven years, religious education instructor for 15 years and past coordinator of Levittown PAL track. Meyer has served on the Island Trees Library Board of Trustees for six years, the past two of which she has been president. Meyer is married to Robert and has two children, one in Sparke Elementary School and another in ITHS.
After being involved in the schools and community for so long, Meyer said she thought it was time for her to take the next step.
"I recognize the tough job that a governing board is faced with," Meyer said. " I have gained enormous experience since being elected onto the Island Trees Public Library Board and am very proud of our accomplishments. I am ready to put this experience to work for our schools."
She said the focus should be to advocate for continued support from the local and state legislators, businesses and community groups.
Kenneth Rochon, 53, was born and raised in Levittown and has lived in the Island Trees School District for the past 26 years. Retired from the Nassau County Sheriff's Department, Rochon is also a 35-year active member of the Levittown Fire Department, where he has been elected to several office positions. He is also past vice president and current elected trustee for the Levittown Fireman's Benevolent and Exempt Association and a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Fireman's Association of the State of New York (FASNY), New York State Fire Chiefs Association and Nassau County Fire Chief's Council. In the past Rochon has coached and been a board member of Island Trees Little League Baseball and is currently the head coach of the Under 12 Girls Travel Soccer team. Rochon is married to Barbara and they have four children; two in ITMS and two in ITHS.
"I assisted the school district in the selection and purchasing of AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillation Devices), and coordinated the training and certification of School District Staff members in first aid, CPR and the use of AEDs," Rochon added.
Seeking federal funding and grants is important, according to Rochon.
"We must look at all areas of operations and find creative ways of utilizing the latest technologies to meet the aspects of the No Child Left Behind mandates," Rochon said.
Bernadette Bento, 42, was appointed to the board last year after Kathleen Saffrey left the district, vacating her seat. The board had asked people to submit petitions for the temporary appointment and Bento was chosen out of 11 applicants in August of 2004. A Levittown resident since 1996, Bento has an associates degree in nursing from Farmingdale State University and is currently an executive assistant. She is also a member of the PTA and SEPTA, as well as past recording secretary for Cub Scout Pack 600. Bento lives with her husband, Carlos, and her four children; Shannon McAdam, a 2004 ITHS graduate currently attending Farmingdale State, Brittany McAdam, a senior at ITHS, Ryan McAdam, an eighth-grader at Island Trees Middle School and Liam McAdam, a sixth-grader at ITMS.
Bento said that maintaining the public's trust is of "paramount importance."
"If elected, I will continue to support the board in making any changes necessary to ensure that information is readily available at all future board meetings so that residents who attend and ask those crucial questions will feel satisfied that their concerns were addressed and answered," Bento added. "I would also like to ensure that the rationale for making a sometimes unpopular decision is clearly explained and always in the best interest of the schools and the students. Keeping the lines of communication open between the community and the school board is vital."
Patricia Mahon, 51, has resided in the Island Trees School District section of Levittown for the past 25 years. Earning a BA from Hunter College and masters degree from Adelphi University, Mahon has been involved in the education field for almost 30 years as both a teacher and dean of students in the public and private sectors. She is also a PTA member and has coached for the Island Trees Little League Association and Levittown PAL basketball. Mahon has one daughter who currently attends CW Post.
Mahon said her career experiences would assist her in fulfilling her school board member responsibilities.
"It is with this experience, that of being an educator and that of being a taxpayer, that would allow me to make decisions focusing on the best educational opportunities for our students combined with a sense of fiscal responsibility," Mahon said. "I have also served on the school district's planning committee for formulating an AIDS curriculum."
Mahon went on to state that a school board has a responsibility to be in touch with what the community wants and needs.
"The major issue is the economy of Long Island dictates that the board must find the right balance between what can be done to preserve a quality education and yet an affordable tax bill for our community," Mahon added.