Written by Katherine M. Trager Friday, 13 May 2011 00:00
To assist residents in making informed decisions in the upcoming Westbury Board of Education trustee election, the Westbury Parent Teacher Association and the League of Women Voters hosted an open community forum on May 4 at Westbury High School.
Residents had the opportunity to meet and address the four candidates, who are running for three-year terms. The candidates will be competing for the two seats left available from this year’s term expirations of BOE trustees Stanton Brown and Karin Campbell. Campbell is seeking re-election to her position. The other candidates in the running are former board members Laura Pierce and Larry Wornum and previous board candidate Stan Ercolano.
The forum was structured in a question-and-answer format in which all four candidates were given the chance to respond to each question raised by the audience.
Several residents were interested in how the candidates would handle state cuts to educational programs and services without increasing taxes for residents.
Wornum said, “I think that we will get our fair share of funding, but we first must clean house ourselves and limit some of our own spending. I think that we’re not doing that and the budget reflects it.
“I would close pre-K. Pre-K by law is not required and the location is 7.8 miles from here. I would freeze salaries. Capital projects would be limited. Transportation costs would also be significantly limited if we had designated bus stops instead of door-to-door.”
He continued, “There is too much emphasis on having a good track and other sporting-type events. Although we do need those things, a long time ago school was really just reading, writing and arithmetic and I believe that we need to do more in those areas.”
Pierce stated, “Looking at the needs of Westbury and looking at the needs of neighboring districts, it’s important to make sure that the legislature understands that just because we’re sandwiched between Jericho and Carle Place and Wheatley, it doesn’t mean that the makeup of our school district is the same.”
In regard to reining in the district’s spending, Pierce proposed, “We need to try to reevaluate the registration process for students, and in determining where a person’s residency is. I’m concerned that the enrollment in Westbury’s district is going up every year while there are other districts on Long Island where enrollment is going down.”
Ercolano said, “I think we need to make better use of technology, which has historically resulted in reduction of overall costs across all industries as well as education. In my job I’ve been made responsible for corporate training, and I have been researching how outside professional firms are consolidating classrooms into interactive online training. I think we have to look at some of those options in researching what we can do in Westbury.”
He continued, “In the long-term, I think we need to start seeking different methods of doing things that will reduce our costs without reducing services. For example, the district has been very successful in partnering with BOCES, and we save an enormous amount of money using them as a resource. I think we can do the same thing by partnering with neighboring districts to share transportation and other resources.”
Campbell also mentioned the benefits of outside involvement. She said, “As I’ve traveled, communities are willing to share what they have done to address some of these problems. We are not alone, we are not unique and the only thing that I can say that is different is that in better-faring communities, they have more support from the community and the parents.”
She also stated, “I would continue to work with the people that volunteer. We have a large number of volunteers in our community, and unfortunately in the past they have not worked together. If those organizations pooled their resources and worked together, we could go to Albany on a regular basis and be heard.”
A number of residents also wanted to know how the candidates would ensure that residents’ concerns would be listened to and represented by the board members.
Pierce stated, “The first thing I would do is to look at the policies that are in place to see how the board entertains concerns and issues from the public, and see if the board can come to some kind of a consensus. Then I would reach out to the public so that they can voice their concerns and tell us what they don’t like.”
Wornum said, “I have always been available and will continue to be available. I am approachable. The first question I always ask people is, ‘What can I do to do better?’”
Ercolano said he wanted to, “restructure the school board meetings to make the meetings more welcoming to the public by reducing the length of time and reducing or rescheduling executive sessions.”
Campbell stated, “I listen to people; I do hear. A lot of times I hear things that I don’t like, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to correct people, to educate people and to share my experiences. I wish I could hear from everybody.”
Residents will have the opportunity to vote in the BOE trustee election as well as on the proposed budget on Tuesday, May 17.