COMMACK, New York, April 30
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Two candidates coming from different perspectives are squaring off next month to fill one seat on the Commack school board.
Jarrett Behar, a father with a child currently enrolled in the district, and Bill Marchesi, a father with a son who’s long graduated, hope to fill the seat of Board of Education President Deborah Guber, who is not seeking reelection, when voters cast their say on May 19.
Behar, a nine-year resident with a son enrolled in the second grade and a daughter who will enter kindergarten in 2016, will be back on the ballot for the second time – the first came in the 2013 election when he was defeated by current-Trustee Steve Hartman. Ultimately, he said, he believes the district made the right choice and said the defeat gave him the opportunity to gain more experience. He said he’s attended every school board meeting for the last three years.
Co-chairman of the Commack PTA Council’s budget committee, treasurer for the Rolling Hills PTA, manager for Commack South Little League and partner at Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina, LLP in Central Islip, the 38-year-old said he believes his experiences as a professional, a community member and, perhaps most importantly, a father are what give him a “unique perspective” on the issues the school board faces now and could face in the future.
“As a parent I’m going to be right there in the thick of it… I’m very invested in the district,” he said. “The main reason I’m running is because I have young children. I feel that I would be the best person to represent our children and our community while looking out for their best interests.”
Behar is an undergraduate of the University of Florida and earned a Juris Doctor degree from the New York University School of Law.
In March, he traveled to Albany with a delegation from the Commack School District for Lobby Day where he and the group discussed educational matters, such as the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), which he believes should be eliminated.
Behar also said he is against New York State standardized testing, as he believes they are not an effective way to evaluate teachers.
“Being a board member puts you in a position to advocate,” he said. “We have to tell state legislators that we don’t want this [standardized testing]… We have to bang the drum as loud as possible for these, and the next, real big issues.”
Bill Marchesi, however, seeks to offer taxpayers a different perspective as he seeks election for the first time in his 56 years as a resident of Commack.
“I think that, in Commack, for the first time in history the retirees outweigh those that have children enrolled in the district,” Marchesi, whose son graduated from Commack in 2004, said. “The perspective of those people needs to be brought to the forefront.”
Previously a contract negotiator for the Teamsters Union, Marchesi has since retired, but currently works as a safety supervisor for bus company WE Transport / Towne Bus / Van Trans. He is also a Commack graduate.
Unlike Behar, Marchesi believes that since he does not have a student enrolled in the district, it may allow him to bring to the board a perspective that it needs.
As part of his platform, the 62-year-old would like to address what he feels is an issue of transparency for the district.
“It could be better,” he said. “The district lacks a bit of transparency to the community.”
This is apparent, he believes, in the budgeting process where he’d like to see a simplified, easy-to-understand version of the budget become available to the community.
Marchesi also believes that some compromises can be made to give taxpayers a break in terms of the budget; that Common Core standards shouldn’t be used against teachers; and that he could be a representative for academically middle-of-the-road students, which he feels the district could better address.
“Not everybody on this board should have a ‘dog in the fight,’” he said. “I believe the board could use another objective voice from the community.”
Voter registration for the trustee election and school budget vote will be held at Commack High School and Middle School on May 7 and May 13 from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. On May 19 voters can return to those schools to cast their ballots from 6 a.m.-9 p.m.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Record
(Thursday, April 30, 2015; A6)