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McGrath to Seek Re-Election for Mineola School Board

Artie Barnett vying for one of two open seats

School election and budget votes are more than one month away, but that doesn’t stop barbs from being traded among incumbents and challengers.

Mineola School District Board of Education Trustee John McGrath last week responded to recent comments made by school board candidate Artie Barnett. The two seats up for election for next school year are McGrath’s and board president Christine Napolitano. He and Napolitano said they would seek re-election.

Barnett recently said in a letter circulating around Mineola that he plans to run for school board on May 15. He stated that McGrath is out of touch with the community.

“I fully support the re-election of board president, Christine Napolitano,” Barnett said. “She, along with Terry Hale and Will Hornberger, have diligently worked to move our district forward through a tough economy. I hope to join with them as they have shown the willingness to make the tough decisions.”

McGrath, who has been on the board for 13 years, pointed out that school board elections are run “at-large” indicating that no one person runs against another. The top vote getter will be elected.

“I’m fully aware that candidates run at-large,” Barnett explained, “but it doesn’t take too much intelligence to figure out that if I’m endorsing Mrs. Napolitano, I’m certainly running against him.”

The district realigned its schools starting this year, moving fifth grade to Mineola Middle School and eighth grade to Mineola High School. Cross Street School closed and was leased to Solomon Schechter Day School. Willis Avenue School will close in September, but could be leased by Harbor Day Care of Nassau County.

“With respect to [Barnett’s] claim that I fought reconfiguration is inaccurate,” McGrath exclaimed. “I disagreed with the board’s proposals for reconfiguration. I made different proposals which would have maintained neighborhood schools.”

McGrath intended to propose a merger with Herricks School District during reconfiguration talks, a plan exclusively revealed to the Mineola American, but the idea was ultimately nixed. McGrath also proposed the closure of the middle school.

The district floated two construction bonds before the public before going with the current configuration last year. Both bonds failed at the voting booths.

The first bond called for a $6.7 million construction project that would have resulted in the closure of three elementary schools. The second bond totaled $4.4 million and called for Meadow Drive School and Hampton Street School to house a pre-K-2 configuration, with the Willis Avenue and Cross Street schools closing.

“When the board put the first bond proposition before the public in October 2010, I publicly opposed that,” McGrath stated. “Mr. Barnett publicly supported it. The first bond was defeated by 80 percent of those voting.”

Jackson Avenue would have housed third through fifth grade with a sixth through eighth grade configuration at the middle school and a traditional ninth through 12th grade setting at the high school.

“I wasn’t really keeping score, but I can tell you for a fact that I never publicly endorsed the second bond, which [McGrath] said I did,” Barnett stated. “I did endorse the first bond and I did endorse the budget, but if he’s going to keep score, then I guess the budget passing is a loss for him.”

McGrath criticized the board’s decision to place the reconfiguration plan into the budget last year.

“Undeterred by two failed bond votes and restricted by law from putting another bond proposition before the voters, the board placed the money for its reconfiguration plan directly into the budget, funded by an overage in the district’s fund balance from 2010-2011,” McGrath said. “ I publicly opposed that plan as well. Mr. Barnett publicly supported it.”

Barnett said he wants to see reconfiguration through ensuring that the district receives the “maximum savings out of it that we’re trying to get” as opposed to spending any savings. He commented on a potential ticking time bomb in the Mineola teachers contract, which expired in July 2011 and negotiations have reached an impasse.

“Since [McGrath] abstained on the budget vote, he should’ve just voted no in the first place,” Barnett said. “It would’ve been a lot clearer.”

Contracts for four of the district’s bargaining units expired at the end of the 2011 school year.

“I don’t know if the impasse has been officially declared,” Barnett said. “I’d be interested to see where we are and I’d be interested in seeing where we go to where we are. If anyone thinks I’m going to want to sit at the bargaining table, I never intended for it to come across that way, but there are conversations that can occur where ideas are born, outside the bargaining table.”

News

Senator Jack Martins discussed education, business and drug use among other topics in a an exclusive interview with this newspaper and FiOS 1 News. He’s currently seeking re-election in November, being challenged by Democrat Adam Haber. Pointing to what he called “key legislation,” particularly the tax cap legislation passed in 2011 and prescription drug bill he helped shepherd to enactment, Martins feels New York State is on track to continue fiscal responsibility.

 

“In these last four years, we’ve had four balanced budgets, we’ve cut taxes working together, we have paid off debt, streamlined government, kept spending below 2 percent each one of those years,” Martins said.

A contingent of 80 Mineola runners embarked on their first trek to lower Manhattan last year for the Tunnel To Towers 5K Run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel toward the World Trade Center site. This year, the United Mavericks, a networking group of local business people that support local charities and causes, are gearing up surpass that number.

Mavericks reps say they’re half way to gathering 1,000 people to run in the event’s 13th year on Saturday, Sept. 28.

 

The run honors a fireman Stephen Siller, who was enjoying a day off planning to play golf before he learned the Twin Towers were hit by two airplanes during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He was one of the 343 firefighters who died when the towers collapsed.


Sports

Though it had already hosted the series of lacrosse games during the regular season this past spring, Chaminade High School’s new Gold Star Stadium was officially christened on Saturday, Sept. 6, named in honor of the 56 alumni who had perished during combat.

 

“Tradition holds that when one dies in the service a gold star is given to the family,” said Chaminade President Bro. Thomas Cleary. “Our 56 Gold Star Alumni are honored for their selflessness, courage, and integrity.”

Although the expectations for the 2014 Mineola Mustangs boy’s varsity soccer season may be somewhat measured, the team enters the season with the goal of a berth in the Nassau County playoffs. The team is young and inexperienced but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

 

There is considerable talent on the horizon. There are only four starting seniors and five sophomores on the roster. Four year starting senior forward Daniel Pardo returns (19 goals in three seasons) as does senior standout goalkeeper Andrew Pereira.


Calendar

Town Zoning Meeting - September 17

International Night - September 18

Bereavement Support Group - September 19


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