$238M Hills Budget, 2 Seats Go To Vote

HALF HOLLOW HILLS, New York, May 14

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

Voters can take to the polls on May 19 from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. at High School East.

Four Vying For Two Seats On Hills School Board

With incumbents Frank Grimaldi and James Ptucha not seeking re-election, four candidates are looking to fill the two vacant seats on the Half Hollow Hills school board this election season.

2015 candidates for Half Hollow Hills school board, from top left: Stephanie Gurin, Adam Kleinberg, Scott McElhiney and Adrian Montalvo.
2015 candidates for Half Hollow Hills school board, from top left: Stephanie Gurin, Adam Kleinberg, Scott McElhiney and Adrian Montalvo.

Stephanie Gurin, no. 3 on the ballot, is a 47-year-old mother of two sons – one currently enrolled at High School West – with extended involvement in the Half Hollow Hills PTA system and a career set in education.

She supports furthering the district’s transparency towards the public and implementing the district technological innovations. She is against state standardized testing and, in turn, does not agree with linking scores from those tests to teacher evaluations.

“As a board trustee I will work collaboratively with all the stakeholders in this district to review both educational and non-educational programs and ensure that we spend wisely to reach as many students as possible and be on the forefront of new innovations and technologies,” Gurin, a 14-year resident, said during Half Hollow Hills’ Meet the Candidates Night.

Adam Kleinberg, no. 2 on the ballot, is a 41-year-old father of two who works as an attorney for Sokoloff Stern LLP in Carl Place – a position which he believes, by working closely with school districts and boards, has given him the perspective needed to fill a seat for Half Hollow Hills.

He supports a major push in district transparency and long-range planning when evaluating the district’s future budgets. He is also against state standardized testing, an issue that he believes is the biggest currently facing the district.

“We’ve got a divided district once again, one looking for answers and information,” he said during candidates’ night in reference to the record number of students being opted-out of testing this year by parents. “I can be a leader on this issue and all of the other issues that are facing our district. I am not afraid because I am informed and when you’re informed you can lead the right way.”

Scott McElhiney, no. 1 on the ballot, is a 14-year resident with a son and daughter who attend elementary school in the district. A former teacher and assistant principal with Half Hollow Hills, McElhiney currently works as a principal for the Locust Valley School District.

He supports putting students and their developmental needs first when it comes to important decision-making and believes that his career in education has helped him develop an understanding of school district budgets, curriculum and the importance of community partnerships.

While he said that he believes New York State Common Core standards were not implemented in a way allowing for adequate development for teachers and students, he does not support the opt-out movement.

“School boards need diversity,” he said during candidates’ night. “As a lifelong educator, I bring that perspective to the table. I understand there’s a learning curve with serving on a school board; there’s been a learning curve throughout every part of my career.”

Adrian Montalvo, no. 4 on the ballot, has been a resident of the district for 19 years, has worked as a construction project manager for 16 years and is a father to one son enrolled at High School East. From early on in his son’s life, Montalvo said, he realized that he wanted to play an important role in the community by empowering and motivating youths. He has displayed this, he said, through extensive involvement in youth sport organizations around the district – including Half Hollow Hills Pride Football and Youth Lacrosse – and other community efforts.

His experience as a construction project manager, he said, would help him aid the district to establish and stick to budgets and manage negotiations.

“Wherever there might be a need in our community, my immediate response is to make myself available to help in any way possible,” he said during the candidates’ night. “To be successful in my profession, the utilization of essential project management disciplines, such as design, develop, analyze and monitor, are crucial. My being able to understand how, when and why to deploy these disciplines would prove to be a valuable asset on the board of education.”

Voters can take to the polls on May 19 from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. at High School East.

$238 Million Budget Sports 2.34-percent Tax Levy Increase

The Half Hollow Hills proposed $238,658,101 budget sports a tax levy increase of 2.34-percent and marks the lowest budget-to-budget increase (1.9-percent) for the district since the 1996-97 school year.

District officials have stressed the educational opportunities available to students within the budget, which include plans to restore elementary clubs; implement fine arts courses such as filmmaking and photography; and put forth a revamped physical education program that includes group and outdoor education.

Three capital projects are also included in the budget. Those projects are the replacement of High School East’s chilling and cooling tower, the renovation of High School West’s tennis courts, and the replacement of High School West’s auditorium partition doors.

Should it be approved by voters, the $238.7-million budget would be funded by $195,369,595 in property taxes – marking a 2.34-percent tax levy increase, which is in line with the district’s tax cap. Half Hollow Hills plans to receive $28,999,697 in state aid, which is a little more than $2 million more than it was allotted last year.

Voters can take to the polls on May 19 from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. at High School East.

Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, May 14, 2015;  A7)

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