HALF HOLLOW HILLS, New York, April 30
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
In just a few weeks, voters in the Half Hollow Hills Central School District will cast their say in a contested election for two open seats on the Board of Education.
Adam Kleinberg and Stephanie Gurin, who ran last year, will face off against newcomers Scott McElhiney and Adrian Montalvo for the right to fill two seats currently held by incumbents Frank Grimaldi and James Ptucha – who are not seeking re-election – for the next three years.
First up is Stephanie Gurin, a resident of the district since December 2001, who currently has one son enrolled in the district at Half Hollow Hills High School West – her older son graduated from the high school in 2013.
A career-long educator, Gurin said she would like to bring her expertise and experiences to the board in order to give the district and community an educationally-minded representative. Gurin said her main priority is the students of Half Hollow Hills and ensuring their success; she’s also a proponent of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics); fiscal responsibility, positive and effective community relations and transparency.
“I want nothing more than to see this community shine and have it be the best that it can be,” she said.
In her 13 years as a Hills resident, she has served in several leadership positions, including president, vice president and recording secretary of the Half Hollow Hills PTA Council; president of the Candlewood Middle School PTA; and co-president of the Forest Park PTA.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in childhood education, and is working on a second master’s degree in educational technology. She has worked for several years teaching kindergarten and first grade in New York City public schools and pre-kindergarten in Roosevelt. Currently, she works as the Suffolk Region PTA’s Education Chairman.
She is also the commissioner and a coach for the Half Hollow Hills Fury Basketball League, and has coached for Dix Hills Basketball, Dix Hills Soccer and St. Matthew’s Basketball.
“My formal educational training, my teaching experience and, perhaps most importantly, my extensive service and dedication to the Half Hollow Hills School District and community, will bring a unique voice to the School Board,” she said in a written biography.
Another candidate, Adam Kleinberg, an attorney at Sokoloff Stern LLP in Carle Place, is a 41-year-old Dix Hills father of two that’s lived in the district since 2003. Married with two daughters – one in sixth grade at Candlewood Middle School and another a third grader at Vanderbilt Elementary – Kleinberg is running on a platform of being open and proactive.
“Right now, the district is being faced with unique challenges,” he said. “From the delay in state funding by the governor’s office to the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) and common core standards… we really need to be open and proactive so that the community knows what’s happening.”
Kleinberg said he believes the district needs to improve communication with taxpayers and stand up for them and their children. As an attorney, he said, he’s worked closely with school districts for many years.
“I want to take what I learned and put it to use in or community to improve our district,” he said. “I know what’s required of board members, I know the education law, I know the Constitution, I have unique access to situations that no one else has and I’m running for the right reasons.”
Kleinberg also voiced his stance on the “opt-out” initiative that recently saw students of school districts around New York State refusing standardized English and math exams. After researching the issue, Kleinberg said he opted his daughters out of the tests last year, not because he viewed them as difficult, but as a form of protest.
“Sometimes the only way to right a wrong is to take a stand,” he said.
Scott McElhiney, currently a principal in the Locust Valley Central School District, did not return requests for comment before press time on Monday, but according to an online biography he is a 14-year resident of the district with a son and daughter attending Half Hollow Hills elementary school. Along with being a coach for Half Hollow Hills Little League, McElhiney is a Special Education Parent Teacher Association (SEPTA) and elementary PTA member.
Throughout his 17 years as an educator, he has worked in the district as a teacher for Forest Park Elementary School and as an assistant principal for Vanderbilt.
“Teachers, staff, parents and residents must partner together to create an environment which fosters intellectual, social, emotional and physical development of every child,” McElhiney writes in the biography.
Should he be elected, McElhiney has said he’d like to maintain transparency, encourage the growth of STEM programs for younger students, and remain focused on district safety and security.
The final candidate, Adrian Montalvo, a 19-year resident of the district, also did not return requests for comment before press time on Monday, but according to an online biography he is married with one son enrolled in the district. Montalvo has worked as a construction project manager for 16 years and is heavily involved with several athletic groups around the district.
He’s served as a board member, commissioner, camp coordinator and coach for Half Hollow Hills Pride Football; challenger program coordinator, board member and coach for Half Hollow Hills Youth Lacrosse; coach for Half Hollow Hills Little League; supporter for Half Hollow Hills High School East football and lacrosse booster clubs; and construction coordinator of the High School East Thunderbolt Monument.
In the biography, Montalvo writes that he is an advocate for district-wide technology upgrades and art and music programs, a supporter of special education and Academically High Aptitude Program (AHAP) opportunities and a proponent of ensuring college and career readiness for all students.
A Meet the Candidates forum, hosted by the Half Hollow Hills PTA Council and moderated by the Huntington League of Women Voters, is scheduled for 7:30-9 p.m. on May 4 at Candlewood Middle School.
Along with the vote for the 2015-2016 Half Hollow Hills school budget, the school board election is set to be held on May 19 from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. at High School East.
Residents can register to vote from 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the District Clerk’s office at the Fran Greenspan Administration Center until May 14. Special voter registration days will also be available on May 9 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and May 13 from 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, April 30, 2015; A2)