This year there are five candidates for two positions on the Manhasset School District Board of Education. Board president Barbara Donno has decided not to run for a second three- year term. Reuben Cohen's first three- year term is up and he is running for re-election. The remaining four candidates are Lawrence Belinsky, Robert Douglas, Aline Khatchadourian and David Lewinson. Their biographical information, positions and reasons for running are printed below.
· Principal at Sandler O'Neill & Partners, L.P. Oversees the investment banking firm's daily operations including Information Technology and Government Relations. Member of the firm's Investment Policy committee.
· Has had more than 20 years experience in both the public and private sectors; including international privatization advisory practice at the accounting firm of KPMG, Merrill Lynch's investment banking group and senior staff positions with former New York State Governor Mario M. Cuomo and the N.Y.S. Housing Finance Agency.
· M.B.A. from Columbia University School of Business
· B.A. from State University of New York at Albany
· Currently Chairman of Manhasset Public School's Citizen's Advisory Committee for Finance and member for five years
· Member of Manhasset Public School's Facilities Development Citizen's Advisory Committee
· Former Trustee of Village of Plandome Heights
· Former member of Village of Plandome Heights Zoning Board of Appeals
· Former manager/assistant coach for PAL/CYO softball, baseball and basketball
· Member of Board of Directors of HELP USA-the largest not-for-profit provider of supported homeless housing in the nation. Chairman of its finance committee and member of the executive committee.
· Four children and a nephew attending Manhasset Public Schools
· Lisa, his wife, has served in many SCA roles including; Vice President, Grade Level and class representative. Member of Board of Directors of CASA (Coalition Against Substance Abuse). Currently coordinates and teaches religion for St. Mary's Religious Education Program; member of Family Liturgy and Mission Statement committees.
To: Friends and Fellow Residents:
During the last year our community has been confronted with very difficult issues. We have experienced a failed budget vote last June, a bond issue approval process that has stalled after much discussion, increased enrollment, the reassessment of our homes and a currently contentious budget adoption process. Ahead we will be confronted with reduced State aid, the upcoming teacher's contract negotiations and the impact of the "No Child Left Behind" Act. These and other issues have contributed to the divide that currently grips our community.
I am a person who is willing to listen to all sides of an issue and then make a necessary decision - this is a key trait if we are going to get through these issues and keep Manhasset as a community of choice. My experience of working on the senior staff of a New York Governor, consulting to governments on improving efficiencies and currently addressing the daily operational issues of running a business, make me qualified to lead during this challenging time.
My wife, Lisa and I, have lived in this community for 10 years and have raised our four school-aged children here. Both of us have been, and currently are involved, in many community based organizations. I am committed to making our community the best it can be and I believe that it starts with our schools. Below I have outlined my platform and rationale for running for the school board.
Belinsky's Five Point Platform
1. I am committed to Excellence in Education for all of our children. As a father of four school-aged children in the District I have had the privilege to witness firsthand the quality of education that all of our children receive.
I have seen the care and commitment of our district's teachers and other professionals who continually challenge themselves to make our education process a meaningful and rewarding experience for all students. I will work hard to help them improve on the already high standard of education for all types of students. I will look to achieve the delicate balance between achieving higher test scores and a well rounded diversified teaching curriculum.
2. I am committed to making a prudent investment to improve our school facilities. The need to refurbish and expand our facilities is obvious. The Middle and High School have gone too long without the needed funding that will provide our children the necessary resources to remain competitive in the college entrance process. We also need to make proper expenditures to address an increased enrollment. Improvements need to be made to the overall educational experience especially our science labs, our drama and music facilities and our athletic fields. Prudent investment also needs to be at the elementary school level to address deferred maintenance and other needs.
3. During my five years on the CAC for Finance, where I currently serve as chairman, I have developed a keen understanding of the fiscal and financial issues currently facing the district. Attitudinal and fiscal changes need to be made to the budget process. There needs to be a greater sense of fiscal responsibility and accountability. I will study the level of our reserves and other funds to make sure that they are funded only to the levels necessary to ensure the long-term health of the district. A culture that allows for open discussion and suggestions for improving efficiency must become the norm.
4. There needs to be greater use of long-range planning models, which the CAC for Finance has suggested and has been advocating to the board. I believe that we can no longer continue to complete the budget process on a year-by-year basis. Our future budgets must be influenced by a long-term vision. The need for this vision is even more vital now, as the community is confronted with the upcoming bond issue vote and the teacher's contract negotiations
5. I am committed to working with and listening to, all of our community stakeholders. For our community and our schools to achieve the highest levels of accomplishment, we must understand that we are all interdependent. The highest quality of education is critical but must be within the context of fiscal responsibility. It is imperative to be both pro-education and fiscally prudent. If you have any suggestions please e-mail them to Belinsky2004@aol.com.
Reuben Cohen has lived in Manhasset with his wife, Jean, since 1987. Their son, Jesse, is a Manhasset High graduate and college freshman. Reuben has a Wharton MBA, and is a graduate of Brown University, where Jesse currently attends.
Reuben was elected to the school board three years ago. Prior to that, he served as chair of the CAC for School Finance for eight of his 11 years on the committee. He also co-chaired the CAC for Facilities in 1995.
Reuben and his family are members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, where he currently serves on and has chaired the Stewardship Committee, which oversees a sizable endowment. As chair of this committee, Reuben introduced, developed and built consensus around a totally new, more conservative spending paradigm.
Reuben's career took him to Chicago and London before returning to New York to join Bankers Trust, where he was a managing director and ran the firm's structured finance business. Having embarked on a second career two years ago, he is currently a senior vice president at Lee Hecht Harrison, a leading career management services firm.
In seeking re-election to another term on the board, Reuben says, "I ask for your vote on the basis of my strong first-term record of creating positive change." In seeking a clear mandate from the community for more lasting, positive change and greater accountability, Reuben is offering his candidacy as a referendum on his seven-point platform to advance student achievement and fiscal discipline.
Reuben's first-term accomplishments include the following:
§ Proposed a CAC budget planning model and per-pupil cost study, and as liaison to the CAC budget planning subcommittee, played a leadership role in framing the analysis.
The results are clear: a) an increased understanding of our budgetary problems over the next five years; b) a shared commitment to solutions that least impact our students; c) a relatively small 5.87 percent proposed budget increase; and d) yes, Manhasset lost its number one per pupil cost ranking.
§ Requested the recently-completed study comparing our high school offerings to those of other districts, which complements the per-pupil cost study.
§ Pushed for student achievement metrics, which now enable us to assess performance over time of any given student cohort as they move through our schools.
§ Actively promoted the special ed, transportation, and climate studies - as well as exit interviews of departing administrative staff.
§ Advocated for more open and transparent board meetings.
In running for re-election, Reuben wants to complete the job he set out to do three years ago. He says, "I offer my candidacy to the community as a referendum on the following seven points," most of which he has been promoting during his first term:
* A strategic, long-term plan for its schools must be developed by the board and administration together with the community.
For a long time now, most district decision-making, while generally well-intentioned, has been incremental. This must change, he says.
Community consensus must be built around a long-term vision for our schools. This vision will then serve as our guiding framework for evaluating programs, defining excellence, and assessing district performance.
* Critical evaluation of the educational benefits and financial costs of our programs, so we can move to higher levels of excellence in an economically sound way.
* A more formal model of continuous improvement.
* Increased staff productivity and greater control over increases in total staff compensation.
* A program to work with our legislators to free us from costly state mandates which do not benefit students.
* Continued reductions in our cost per pupil ranking. An initial focus on transportation could generate huge savings for the district without adversely impacting programs for kids.
* A prudent plan to accommodate enrollment growth, to be submitted for community approval in the fall.
Reuben speaks passionately when he talks about how deeply he cares about our schools and about our community's children. "Being a school board member has offered me the opportunity to make a difference, to contribute meaningfully to the future of our children and to contribute meaningfully to this community."
He goes on to say, "My son, Jesse, had an extraordinary 13 years in the Manhasset schools. This was no accident. He benefited from wonderful programs and an outstanding group of teachers, coaches, directors, administrators, and support staff.
"When I ran for the school board three years ago, it was to serve all the children. I remain fully committed to all the children. What drives me is a dream that every single kid in this district has an experience where his or her needs are as fully and as suitably met as Jesse's were."
Married 32 years to Barbara Ferrari Douglas (St. Mary's '67)
One daughter, Mary Martha, a freshman at Manhasset High
Barbara's parents moved to Manhasset in 1961 and still live on Mill Spring Rd.
Barbara and I lived in North Strathmore, Manhasset from 1974-1987
Mary Martha was born in Manhattan and attended Convent of the Sacred Heart through 4th grade. We were active in the CSH Parent Organization and I founded the Father/Daughter Committee.
We returned to Manhasset in 1999 and Mary Martha began fifth grade at Munsey Park.
CYO Basketball Coach
Robert Douglas is a graduate of Columbia College and conducts interviews for his alma mater. He has been with the Bank of New York for over 10 years and prior to that with Citibank for 15 years. All positions held were in a financial capacity dealing with clients who, for the most part, owned and controlled their own business ranging in size from $5 million to $5 billion.
Newsday does a series of articles on candidates running for local school boards and Robert Douglas was asked the following question by the newspaper, "What is the biggest challenge facing the district?" His answer follows:
"We face a challenge of leadership. Fiscal burdens imposed by state and local governments have placed in sharp focus the discretionary actions of the District. We must restore confidence in our fiscal management by implementing stringent budget reviews and controls. Every dollar budgeted, expensed or owed must be justified and documented under the guidance of district and independent accountancy staffs. We dare not implement a large capital project until a new discipline is in place.
There is no excuse for us to have to choose the education of one class of student over another. Our talented staff needs to be supported in their efforts to design and teach programs of excellence. Our board must be prepared to make difficult decisions regarding personnel and policies. We should adapt a zero-tolerance for any action or inaction that diverts us from our goals.
Comments from the community must be encouraged. With an emphasis on basic and required programs, we must strive to view education as more than a list of course offerings. We must enrich every child with the skills to become an independent and critical thinker; self-disciplined to work well alone and with others. The breadth of our offerings should be sufficient to engage each child in a passion for subjects for future study and a glimpse at a potential career. There can be no budget constraints on a quality education."
Mr. Douglas' candidacy will be marked by respect, accountability and be dedicated to finding and keeping quality staff. He is willing to ask tough questions and establish bold initiatives and is committed to scrub the budget with independent accountants. He makes a promise to better educate all children at every level and to evaluate every program before adding/deleting a single class.
"When people ask me why am I running it seems the same as when people ask me why I ran 25 marathons. Because the school district is at about the halfway mark in a marathon, gone too far to turn back and a very long way from home."
A 1981 graduate of Manhasset High School, Aline received her Bachelor's Degree in Finance from Marist College and a Master's Degree in Accounting from Pace University. She is a Certified Public Accountant in the State of New York. She and her husband, Mano, have two children, Lia, 12 and Raffi, 9, who are currently attending public school in Manhasset.
Aline is a dedicated volunteer who is involved in a number of community and civic activities, often lending her financial expertise to worthwhile causes that benefit the Manhasset Community. Among them, she currently serves as treasurer and a member of the board of Adventures in Learning Inc., as treasurer and an executive board member of the Tower Foundation and as a Sunday School teacher. She serves as assistant coach of the 6th grade Girls' Lacrosse team. Aline also was the past-treasurer of SCA Ways and Means and past- Journal co-chair of the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She was the treasurer for Munsey Park book fair for five years, and she has served as grade level chair and Munsey Park room parent.
Aline Khatchadourian is a CPA with 15 years professional experience in both public and private accounting. Her many years as an auditor, controller and chief financial officer have provided Aline with deep insight into sound fiscal management. She has also developed a strong track record of implementing long-term financial planning and budgeting for diverse companies and organizations. These skills, coupled with being the proud mother of two Manhasset public school students, make her ideally qualified and strongly committed and motivated to serving on the Manhasset School Board.
As a manager at KPMG Peat Marwick, Aline was responsible for planning, directing and reviewing audits of both privately held and publicly traded companies around the world across a range of industries, including not-for-profit organizations. During her eight years with the firm, she distinguished herself by developing significant improvements in internal controls and operating efficiencies. In addition, she designed and implemented accounting policies and procedures as well as control systems for corporate clients. These are often the first steps toward improving transparency and increasing accountability in any organization, as a matter of priority, are the steps that must be taken by the Manhasset School District.
Aline's success in the financial management field resulted in her being selected as a national trainer for KPMG staff, where she also helped develop new courses in accounting and financial analysis for the firm's and client's professional teams.
In addition to working with one of the world's leading accounting firms, Aline's professional experience also included four years as controller and CFO of a successful manufacturing company where her primary responsibilities included establishing and implementing financial policies and procedures, cash flow forecasting, budgeting and financial reporting. She has also trained investment banking analysts and associates business modeling and accounting.
As an active community member, and a mother of two children in the Manhasset School District, Aline has the drive, proven financial acumen, and dedication to make a positive contribution on the Manhasset School Board.
"My decision to run for the school board came out of being involved in the most recent budget discussions, where I was pleased to be instrumental in identifying numerous areas of savings simply by applying the professional skills I developed during my 15 years as a CPA in both public and private accounting. Importantly, these savings did not result from cutting student programs but rather targeting non-instructional and support areas that would not adversely affect our students. This experience made me realize that my many years as an auditor controller and chief financial officer, coupled with my passion for the fate of our schools provides an excellent basis to serve my community as a member of the board."
M.A. Classical Languages (1977) - University of Manchester
B.A. Classical Languages (1975) - University of London
Married to Rose, New York City School Teacher (ESL specialist)
Daughter - Jennifer 12th grade Manhasset High School
Member of CAC Finance Committee (3 years)
Co-chair: Teacher's Contract Sub-Committee
27 years in financial services with a total of six head of department positions within regulated brokerage industry.
Two positions as chief executive officer and chief financial officer of two separate US broker-dealers with special responsibilities for compliance.
Co-Founder of a financial technology company.
Languages: bilingual French, working knowledge German, Italian, Russian, Polish, some Spanish
I am running for the School Board because:
I have spent three years learning the intricacies and variables related to the budget process, but feel that I have virtually no ability to influence the Board of Education's thinking and decision-making process.
As co-chair of the Teacher's Contract sub-committee, I was largely responsible for identifying significant savings by elimination of educational steps (M.A. degree plus 15/30/45/60 credits) and working to forge consensus on raising co-pay contribution to health benefits. There has been no feedback from the school board on these items.
I have laid out extensively in the Manhasset Press the need for a Voter Blueprint calling for: Accountability, Long-Range Planning, Transparency, Quality of Education and Audit. It is essential to create transparency within the budget and financial planning process if we are going to succeed in explaining to the community how we spend their tax dollars.
I have also focused on the lack of leadership and ability to articulate a consistent approach to running a school district as evidenced by a number of poorly thought out presentations by the School Board - most notably the deferred bond issue and explanations regarding transportation issues. The delays in making a decision on bus outsourcing / bell time changes / relocation of bus garage have cost taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars that could have been avoided if outsourcing had been implemented.
Last, but not least, despite a reduced recommended increase in the 2003/2004 budget of 5.87 percent, the present school board have barely been able to slow down a rate of expenditure that until this year had propelled and maintained Manhasset School District at the top of a list of comparator schools in terms of cost per pupil.
Approximately 21 percent of the school budget is devoted to non-teaching expenditures with transportation (both for special education and regular students) being one of the principal drivers of cost. One of our goals as a community should be to lower that percentage devoted to non-teaching resources by at least half a percent per year.
I am running for trustee of the school district because we need to create a fiscally sane budget in a very short period of time. Productivity among all staff needs to improve and the CAC Finance Committee needs to be given teeth to act as a true watchdog on behalf of all voters. Ultimately, everyone involved with the school district is accountable to the voters - trustees, members of the administration, teachers and non-teaching staff.
More on what David Lewinson believes as a candidate for a seat on the board of education can be found on his website: http://david-lewinson.squarespace.com.