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Island Trees Board of Education Election Candidates

On Tuesday, May 17 the Island Trees School District will hold its budget vote and elections from noon to 9 p.m. at Michael F. Stokes School at 101 Owl Place in Levittown. A “Meet the Candidates” event is planned for Monday, May 9 at 7 p.m. in the Island Trees High School Auditorium and the final public budget presentation will be made at the Town Hall meeting planned for Tuesday, May 10 in the Administration building.

Patricia Mahon, President, Incumbent

Patricia Mahon has lived in the Island Trees School District for over 31 years. She has one daughter who attended and has graduated from Island Trees High School. She is an educator, with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from Hunter College and a

Masters of Arts (M.A.) degree from Adelphi University in Garden City.

Question: What do you believe is the most important issue within the Island Trees School District?

Answer: The main issue facing our district, as well as most school systems in the nation, is to prepare students for the 21st century and to be able to fund it under fiscal constraint.

Question: What would you plan to do as a board member of the Island Trees School District, if elected?

Answer: Here are some of the objectives that I would like to implement, if elected.

I would broaden the scope of our shared services with surrounding districts.

I would support programs that would continue to challenge the academic rigor in our schools.

I would meet with all our elected officials and ask for exemptions from unfunded mandates; this is one of the major reasons that there are higher costs to our district over the past few years.

If you look at our neighboring districts, Bethpage, Seaford, Plainedge, Levittown, you will view higher budget increases and higher tax levies than the budget we are putting forward to our voters. Everyone is being stung by these economic times. We have set forth a budget that responds to keeping costs down, but still provides a quality education.

Having spent over 33 years in the field of education, I believe that I bring the experience of knowing schools, how they run, and how they can be improved. I would like to continue working together with the Board and Dr. Murphy, because he has demonstrated to us that he is an innovative leader for this district.

If elected, I will continue to fight for providing full academic and extra-curricular programs for our children and to do it with the least amount of tax dollars.

Brian Kelty, Running for President

Brian Kelty has lived in the Island Trees school district for over 25 years. He is celebrating his 27th wedding anniversary to his wife, Lisa. Kelty has four sons, Andrew is 25, Vincent is 23, Gregory is 20, and Nicholas is 18. Gregory is a college student and Nicholas is a National Honor Society member and a senior at Saint Dominic High School.

Kelty is a retired firefighter from the FDNY. He graduated from Queensborough Community College and Bernard Baruch College with an A.S. in business/marketing.

Presently, Kelty is an executive board member with the Levittown Property Owner’s Association (LPOA) and he has coached baseball for more than a decade in both Island Trees Baseball and Levittown South Wantagh Baseball. He is also a member of the UFA (United Firefighters Association), the IAFF (International Association of Firefighters), the FDNY Emerald Association, the FDNY Holy Name Association, a member of the NY Blood Donor Center, a volunteer along with members of FDNY’s Engine Company 44 at Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan, where they meet the children, distribute toys from Santa, sing Christmas carols, and try to bring some joy to children who really need it.

Question: What do you believe is the most important issue within the Island Trees School District?

Answer: The most important issue is our current scholastic rankings. According to Newsday, Island Trees ranked 32nd out of 44 Nassau County districts with high schools in Regents rankings in 2010. Eighty-nine percent of seniors received Regents diplomas and 48 percent received Advanced Regents diplomas. I met with Superintendent Murphy about this matter and he shares my concern.

As reported in The New York Times, Island Trees ranked 32nd out of 55 districts in NYS Assessment scores for grades three to eight. According to the Island Trees April 2011 newsletter, Island Trees spends $19,982 per pupil. It also reports that nearby Wantagh spends $17,338 per pupil. Wantagh ranked 5th in both Regents rankings and NYS Assessment scores for grades three to eight.

We spend $2,644 per pupil more than Wantagh, so it is not a financial issue. As an elected board member, I would want to meet with department heads throughout the district to listen to their recommendations on how to improve our test scores. Working with the administration and my fellow board members, I would then try to assist our teaching staff in every way possible to achieve the goal of higher Regents and Assessment scores. School rankings have a direct impact on property values.

Question: What would you plan to do as a board member of the Island Trees School District, if elected?

Answer: First, I would work collaboratively with fellow board members, teachers, and administrators to try to improve our current scholastic rankings. It is in the best interest of the entire community that we achieve this. We have an obligation to prepare our next generation of leaders. We also have an obligation to provide this service at a cost that is affordable to everyone, especially our seniors. One of our seniors received a $1,480 school tax increase last year. In a financial climate rivals the Great Depression budgetary cost containment must be a priority. 

Secondly, Dr. Murphy has introduced town hall-style meetings. The first meeting was a success. It is more of an informal setting than school board meetings. I would recommend holding more of them to hear from community members on an array of issues.

Finally, I would address security issues district-wide. Our annual security budget is approaching $200,000. We have been victimized by multiple acts of vandalism at our high school and elementary schools that have resulted in unnecessary expenses. I would meet with police personnel, security experts, and our security personnel and listen to their recommendations regarding how to best utilize our resources to curtail if not eliminate vandalism. I recently met with Councilman Gary Hudes to discuss the issue of graffiti in our neighborhood. Three properties, including mine, were recently “tagged.” Quality of life issues need immediate attention. If elected, I will bring this type of leadership to the Island Trees Board of Education.

Kenneth Rochon, Vice President, Incumbent

Kenneth Rochon is a lifetime Levittown resident. He has lived in the Island Trees School District for 36 years. Rochon has been married to wife, Barbara for 25 years and they have four children. Son Dennis is a 2005 Island Trees High School graduate and a 2009 graduate Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute graduate. Son Matthew is a 2008 Island Trees High School graduate who is presently attending Nassau Community College in Garden City. Daughters, Kristin and April attend Island Trees High School.

Rochon is retired from the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department. He is a past chief and an active 41-year member of the Levittown Fire Department. He has served as co-chairman of the CPR/AED First Aid training, is a member of the Department training committee, and is an advisor to Department Explorer Post 620.

He is a trustee of the Levittown Benevolent Association, coaches Island Trees Soccer Club U-19 girls travel team, a former trustee of Island Trees Little League and has conducted CPR/AED & First Aid Training for several community groups.

Question: What do you believe is the most important issue within the Island Trees School District?

Answer: The most important issue facing the Island Trees School community is providing quality education for our students while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of the community, while dealing with reductions in state aid and facing the reality of the current economy.

Question: What would you plan to do as a board member of the Island Trees School District, if elected?

Answer: I will continue to deal with the issues facing the District in the future head on as I have done for the past six years.

Second, I will continue to look for ways to slimline the budget, expanding the sharing of purchasing, services and administrative costs with other School Districts and government agencies.

Third, the District is working toward being more transparent as demonstrated in the last several budget processes and we must continue to do so. We must continue to keep the residents informed on the issues facing the district.

Gus Milonakis, Running for Vice President

Gus Milonakis has been an Island Trees resident for 11 years. He has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 20 years and is the father of daughter Maggie.

Milonakis works alongside his brothers in a family owned business and prior to that worked in sales. He has volunteered in past years coaching basketball, but a lot of his time now goes to support his daughter and focusing on her dream of playing basketball in college.

Question: What do you believe is the most important issue within the Island Trees School District?

Answer: I see our schools are deteriorating and changing and I would like to keep the quality not only structurally safe but also academically the way we have always known Island Trees to be for our children.

My daughter has received a wonderful education in Island Trees and my concern is that we continue the quality of the education they are receiving and of course the financial responsibilities and issues in our district.

I have no agenda other than that I care about our school district, our children, and their education and of course our taxes. I only want the best for the district that we live in, that I’ve raised my daughter in and hope that we can continue to raise them with the quality of education and extra curricular activities they’re used to having and to ensure that our tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Question: What would you plan to do as a board member of the Island Trees School District, if elected?

Answer: My plan if I get elected is to do the best job I can to preserve our community and school district. I have never run for the Board, but feel that I can bring some fresh ideas and thoughts to help our district.

Robert Vilbig, Running for Trustee

Robert Vilbig has been a resident of the Island Trees School District for over 28 years. He has three children. Two have graduated from the Island Trees High School and the youngest is a junior now in the district high school.

Vilbig presently works at Adelphi University, where he is a shop steward and just recently finished negotiating their contract. He has also worked for UPS where he was also a shop steward for over 28 years.

Question: What do you believe is the most important issue within the Island Trees School District?

Answer: I think the morale in the district is pretty bad in the last couple of years since the state cuts and the teacher situation. I went to one meeting and saw the Board fighting against each other and thought that was a really bad way to handle business.

Question: What would you plan to do as a board member of the Island Trees School District, if elected?

Answer: First, the taxes are not being supplied to the district by the state; we aren’t getting the right state funding coming down to us. We don’t have the businesses to support the tax base. We are going to get a point that there will be some sort of revolt, we as residents cannot keep absorbing the cost.

Second, show that we, as a Board, have a united front to the people of Island Trees whether we agree or not. We cannot fight; we need to act as one.

Third, I want to boost the morale of this district. We have a wonderful school district, I had three kids go through the district and I know the difference between Island Trees and where I went to school in Queens. This is a small district and they do a lot for the kids.

John Fontana, Running for Trustee

John Fontana has been an Island Trees resident for 21 years. He is married to Janet and has one son, Mike, a 2010 graduate of Island Trees High School, and presently attending Farmingdale State College.

Fontana is a retired New York City Correction Officer and is presently an account specialist for B&S Aircraft in Syosset. He is a graduate of the NYC Department of Correction Training Academy, and the Municipal Police Training Council.

Fontana has coached Island Trees Little League, his son’s travel baseball team, the Long Island Gators.

He has served as the elected delegate for the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, and is a 20-year member of the NYC Correction Officers Columbian Society, and a 10-year member of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Fontana has been awarded the Department of Corrections Commendation Medal and Certificate of Outstanding Duty for his service and heroic efforts following the World Trade Center Disaster in 2001. He has also twice been awarded the Department of Corrections’ Certificate of Appreciation.

Question: What do you believe is the most important issue within the Island Trees School District?

Answer: The most important issue within the Island Trees School District is the school taxes. They are too high. The elderly cannot afford to live here anymore, and our young are leaving. Our tax bill now looks like out mortgage bill. It’s just not affordable anymore. School taxes have become a tremendous burden to our household budgets. How much can education possibly cost?

We must rein in school spending before it bankrupts our neighborhood.

Question: What would you plan to do as a board member of the Island Trees School District, if elected?

Answer: First, I worked as a carpenter in New York City for many years. I have experience in the construction trade my whole life, working with masons, bricklayers, electricians, plumbers, city engineers, steam fitters, and carpenters. While employed by the Corrections Department I read blueprints and estimated labor and material jobs start to finish. My consulting can help save money overseeing the construction and renovation projects to the school buildings. I will make sure these needed projects are cost effective, completed on time, and done correctly. I will also work closely with the facility manager.

Second, I will look closely at how the district purchases and manages the budget codes. While employed by the Dept. of Corrections, I worked in the Support Service Division where I was in charge of their storehouse. I managed the Division’s budget codes, the NYC bidding process, tracking orders, capital projects, bill paying and inventory. I worked well with all vendors pertaining to the construction projects and renovation projects throughout the Department. I know how budgets work from fiscal start to fiscal close. I will roll up my shirtsleeves and work closely with the purchasing agents and reduce the $57 million dollar budget.

Third, I spent many years representing the labor force as an elected union delegate for the Correction Officers Benevolent Association Support Service Division. This was my forte. I never lost an argument or walked away from a challenge, when concerning my members. My expertise in this field can surely help with the negotiation pertaining to collective bargaining issues with the unionized labor. “Concessions” or “give backs” are very popular. This area will probably save the taxpayers the most. 

Daniel Donahue, Running for Trustee

Daniel Donahue has lived in the Island Trees district for 44 years. He is a 1985 graduate of Island Trees High School. Donahue is married to Laura Rayll-Donahue and has five children. Leanna, 13, and Tara, 10, attend Memorial Middle School; Danielle, 3, attends SCOPE and Jacklyn, 2 has not started schooling yet.

Donahue is a Correction Lieutenant for the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department. He is also a volunteer Firefighter in Levittown. He has served as Captain of Engine Co. 7 2009-2010, and volunteers as Manager/Coach of the Levittown Athletic Club.

Question: What do you believe is the most important issue within the Island Trees School District?

Answer: The most important issue is ensuring that the best educational services are available to our students at the lowest possible cost to our district taxpayers. We are all aware of the tough economic times; we are living it. This is all the more reason to make sure that our educational services remain intact so that our children are well prepared to deal with what may very well be worse economic times in their future. That being said this needs to be accomplished with as minimal financial burden as possible to our taxpayers who are already paying some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

Question: What would you plan to do as a board member of the Island Trees School District, if elected?

Answer: First thing I would do is listen, to the taxpayers, to the students, to the parents of students, to the faculty, to the administration, then I will help formulate a comprehensive plan to accomplish the mission at hand which is to ensure the availability of the best educational services at the lowest cost possible, and third I will put that plan into action.

Joseph Buda, Running for Trustee

Joseph Buda has resided with his family in the Island Trees community for 17 years. He has a Bachelors Degree in Business Management and a Masters in Education/Special Education.

In 2004, Buda retired from the New York City Fire Department in the rank of Fire Captain. Before that he served as a Police Officer in the City of New York. One of his greatest achievements in life was having served honorably for nine years in the United States Navy.

Question: What do you believe is the most important issue within the Island Trees School District?

Answer: My concerns for the future of the Island Trees School District include the health, safety, well-being, and quality of education for our children.

Question: What would you plan to do as a board member of the Island Trees School District, if elected?

Answer: Taxes and out of control spending have crippled our district. Our residents are leaving in droves. It seems that every block has at least one or two for-sale signs on their lawns. There are more than 340 houses currently listed in foreclosure in our community. In addition, there are currently over 950 houses listed for sale. These numbers do not include people that haven’t been able to pay their mortgages/taxes and are still living in their homes, pending foreclosure.

Just look at your school tax bill, it never stops going up, while our salaries, pensions and Social Security remain the same.

If you’re satisfied with your school tax bill, then I’m not your candidate.

If you’re satisfied with your income not rising, while your school taxes are skyrocketing, then I’m not your candidate.

If you’re satisfied with watching our senior citizens struggle just to pay their school taxes, than I’m not your candidate. 

Michael Kutzma, Running for Trustee

Michael Kutzma is a 48-year resident of Island Tress, born and raised in the district. He is a 1981 graduate of Island Trees High School and has four of his own children presently in the district. Two of his children attend Island Trees High School, one is in seventh grade at Memorial Middle School, and the youngest is in fourth grade at Michael F. Stokes School.

Kutzma is a Marine Corps veteran and is now in semi-retirement from the United States Courts as a court officer.

Question: What do you believe is the most important issue within the Island Trees School District?

Answer: The biggest problem, I think, is the spending. There are areas where money is owed back to the district; we should be collecting that money. We can’t just keep raising the taxes; it will run everyone out. I remember years ago when people moved to Island Trees because of our school district.

Question: What would you plan to do as a board member of the Island Trees School District, if elected?
Answer: The togetherness of the board, I’d like to help restore some cohesion to the district’s board. I’d like to change the attitude and bring back the pride in Island Trees, and most of all try to cut some of the spending that’s been going on. 

* * *

George Storm, is a current Trustee, but will vacate the seat and run as a candidate for a
separate Trustee position.


(Editor’s note: As of press time, George Storm’s bio was not available.)