HUNTINGTON STATION, New York, May 14
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Voting is scheduled on May 19 from 3-10 p.m. in the South Gym of Walt Whitman High School.
Three Incumbents, One Newcomer For Three Seats
A newcomer and three incumbents are hoping to fill three available seats on the South Huntington school board this election season.
Andrew Bronson, a resident of the district for 13 years, is the new face seeking election to the board as an attorney with KPMG – a big four accounting firm – who is a husband with two sons currently attending Walt Whitman High School; his wife, Brooke, is a contacting speech language pathologist in the Carle Place school district. He’s been involved in local sports clubs such as the South Huntington Lacrosse Club and St. Elizabeth’s CYO Basketball and has volunteered as a food preparer and packager for God’s Love We Deliver.
The 48-year-old believes that there is nothing more important than ensuring the students of the district receive a well-rounded education. He also believes that, as an attorney, he has the professional background and skills necessary to aid the board in issues such as personnel matters, negotiation and communication, budgeting and settling policies.
“I think right now the district is in a good place. I’m a big supporter of what we’ve done,” he said. “As far as why I’m running, I don’t have a specific, special interest… When budgeting I think we need to spend smart, be fair and spread the wealth.”
As for the incumbents, Michele DeGaetano is seeking a second term on the board as a 14-year resident of the district. DeGaetano and her husband, Brian, have two children, a seventh-grader at Stimson Middle School and a freshman at Walt Whitman High School. She has volunteered with the PTA and local sports clubs.
A graduate of Seton Hall University, where she majored in finance, she began her career as a relocation manager and gained knowledge of the importance of school districts to real estate markets. Then, as a senior financial executive recruiter, she specialized in the placement of accounting and finance professionals. For the last 18 years she has worked on unemployment issues, interviewing and hiring the best talent in the marketplace and balancing company budgets.
DeGaetano promised to do her best to balance the concerns of overburdened taxpayers with the academic, athletic, artistic and cultural opportunities for students of the district.
Next is Linda LaCara, a graduate of Walt Whitman High School who has served as a board trustee for the last nine years. She has earned a MBA and a BS in mathematics and has volunteered in the district for 21 years in roles such as PTA president of Birchwood, Stimson and Whitman.
“As a trustee, I have taken action to give every child the opportunity to receive the best possible education, while remaining fiscally responsible to our district’s taxpayers,” she said in a flier. “I have worked extensively with the administration to enhance classroom staffing for all learners at a cost that is within our tax levy cap increase.”
LaCara also has two children, both of whom graduated from Whitman, and she has served on the facilities committee to develop goals to maintain buildings and grounds. Should she be reelected, she said, she would continue to show passion and dedication to the education of students and maintain high educational standards.
Ed Nitkewicz, a board trustee since 2009, is the final candidate in this year’s election and enters the race as a 51-year-old husband and father of a freshman at Whitman. Nitkewicz, a personal injury and special education attorney, believes the district is heading in the right direction.
“We have passed three consecutive budgets well within the cap… and have become an example for other districts on Long Island,” he said.
Nitkewicz said he is against the way Common Core standards were implemented and does not agree with how standardized testing results are linked to teacher evaluations.
“The Common Core curriculum could be wonderful, but the abrupt manor in which it was rolled out is absurd,” Nitkewicz, 51, said.
With what he said is an “incredibly high number” of advanced placement classes, projects and programs in the district, Nitkewicz said he is proud with what the board has been able to accomplish despite the economic challenges that have arisen at the state level.
“When things are headed in the right direction, it’s not time for a change,” he said.
Polls will open to the public on May 19 from 3-10 p.m. in the South Gym of Walt Whitman High School.
$156M Budget, 1.71-Percent Tax Levy Increase
A $156,069,907 South Huntington school budget for the 2015-2016 school year is being put before voters this election season; officials have said that with the budget, they’re hoping to address needs of the district responsibly while ensuring fiscal sustainability for a five- to 10-year period.
With that, the budget, which was adopted by school board members on April 15, sports a 1.71-perecent tax levy increase – a $1,856,780 raise from the ’14-’15 budget; and a tax rate increase of 2.95 percent.
State aid is also expected to increase, however, as South Huntington is planning to receive $31,861,160 in state monies – a 5.78-percent increase – which came mostly from the gap elimination refund, district officials said during the adoption meeting.
Additions to the district included in the budget are: 15.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) districtwide hires; a grades 6-12 Natural Helpers Program; and intramurals for grades 5-8. Officials also said the budget includes additional funding for facilities and maintenance in order to execute necessary repairs and to protect against long-term debt.
The 2015-2016 budget marks a 2.79-percent increase from the previous school year’s budget, a change that amounts to a $4,229,677 increase.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander
(Thursday, May 14, 2015; A14)