Meet Board Of Ed Hopefuls

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On May 20, Westbury residents will take to the polls to vote for the three open seats on the Westbury School District Board of Education. Two seats, currently held by Karin Campbell and Laura Pierce, are for three years terms, beginning July 1, 2014 and ending June 30, 2017. One seat was left open by Siela Bynoe and is for a two year term that would begin May 20, 2014 and end June 30, 2016. These trustees have a huge responsibility as they make decisions that will shape the future of education in Westbury. They come from varying backgrounds, professional experience and skills. But they all have one thing in common: they want to make a difference on Westbury’s education system and community at large. Here’s a look at the five contenders vying for the three open seats.

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Robin Bolling, Row 1

This is Robin Bolling’s first time running for School Board. She’s a graduate of the Westbury High School class of 1986 and says she is running in memory of her friend, Damon Dave Mock. The mother of two is a lifelong Westbury resident.

Why are you running for school board?
I am running for school board trustee to bridge the gap between our families, community organizations and schools. I want to make a difference in how decisions are made for our students. Parents need greater input in how their children are educated. In addition, I want to contribute to the school board as a long term member of Westbury/New Cassel, who has attended its public schools and has creative ideas which would invigorate the communication between home, school, and community.

What qualifies you for a trustee position?
I have a broad background as a PTA Council President, Girl Scout Leader and Vice President of the Executive Board for the McCoy Center Family and Youth Services, which has given me an understanding of the needs of all children. While working as PTA president in Park Avenue, Drexel Avenue, and Westbury High School I learned the day to day operations of our schools. As President of the Westbury/New Cassel NAACP our mission statement mandates we eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination. I believe that to serve effectively as a trustee, all members must be free of prejudice and promote tolerance of all cultures. My goal is to work with all the Westbury/New Cassel residents and organizations that care about the welfare of our children and youth in the home, school, and community.

What do you think are the top issues in the district?
One of the most important issues facing my district is the overcrowding in all the schools. Some classes have over 30 students which is too many. I plan to work with the Village of Westbury and the Town of North Hempstead to address this issue and the role illegal housing has in creating the problem. Another concern I have is the need for greater communication between the school board and residents of the community. This will allow for resident’s voices to be included in decisions and actions taken by the school board. Then everyone becomes a stakeholder in what happens in our school system. My third concern is the need for additional support staff to assist in the education of the many children attending our schools. I would use the additional New York State Aide towards an improvement of the ratio of staff to students. This would promote the educational, social and emotional welfare of the children.

Larry Wornum, Row 2

Larry Wornum is a previous school board trustee and says he believes that the community can help provide an education without yearly school tax increases. If elected, he says he will hold the board accountable.

Why are you running for school board?
I am seeking election to the Westbury School Board to improve its academic standing by holding the school administration to their contractual and statutory obligation of educating our children. Based on our most recent Nassau County ranking and test scores the Westbury School Administration is failing at educating our children yet they never failed to increase school taxes. I realize that educating is a collaborative effort involving parents, teachers and the community. However, when an entity whether corporate, public or a school administration continually fails in its primary mission, they request more funding. It would be irresponsible of any governing body or a school board, not to demand immediate changes and start to limit funding. I would make both major and minor changes as a School Board Trustee to rectify academic issues. I realize I cannot change Westbury’s performance immediately or alone as a School Board Trustee but I would work toward and insist that Westbury Taxpayers not be gouged by the school administration.

What qualifies you for a trustee position?
I have experience as a Westbury School Board Trustee and have a record of being pro-active on the behalf of residents and students. As a rule and my past experiences with the previous administration and some board members, I believe very little of what I am told without substantive proof, especially when they have blamed others. I investigate the issues being discussed and review the findings. I look for unconventional solutions, taking into account the benefit results, cost and alternatives. It has been my practice to share and expose what the school administration does with the public. They can draw their conclusion.

What do you think are the top issues in the district?
There are many important issues that are confronting the Westbury School District. These few issues I believe are priorities; their order has no bearing as to importance.
• Interpretation of Collective Bargaining Agreement by the Westbury School District with Unions in respect to seniority
• Student performance and ranking
• Graduation rate 66 percent well below Nassau County average rate
• Administrators contract versus student performance
• Possible Bond Referendum,valued 100 million dollars its effect on taxes and property value
• Illegal housing versus school over crowding in schools
• Treatment of Private School Parents
• Charter School for Westbury positives and negatives
• Accreditation of Westbury Schools
• Inordinate number of pending civil litigation cases involving Westbury School District

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Stan Ercolano, Row 3

Stan Ercolano is currently the Director of Information Technology for a Long Island law firm. This is Ercolano’s third time running for school board. The 30-year Westbury resident says he will represent all areas of the district and is hoping to increase community participation.

Why are you running for school board?
We have several very qualified people already on the Board and running for election or re-election. I am running because I feel I fill two very important voids. A good portion of Westbury is unrepresented. Poets’ Corner is one example comprising a good number of seniors on fixed incomes whose priorities differ vastly from residents from other areas of residents better represented on the board. The area west of Post Avenue is as well unrepresented. Further, while we have professionals experienced in education, and children’s advocates, there are no seated board members or candidates with as broad a technological background. In an educational environment where technology is both crucial to the future of our children, and costly, my vast technology and global business experience better equips me to help guide the district effectively toward making our children competitive in what has already become a global job market, and doing so in a cost effective manner. While no single board member can turn the district around, I am one more asset the board does not have that can contribute to its success.

What qualifies you for a trustee position?
As a 30 year resident of Westbury, I have been active in the community. Currently I am President of the Poets’ Corner Neighborhood Association, described by the NCPD Third Pct. as one of the most successful neighborhood watch associations in the Third Precinct. My goal is to see the school district and the children our school district educates, flourish and become revitalized.
I plan to do something that has never been done to any great degree before. I accept that most residents cannot or don’t have the time to attend School Board meetings. I do not plan to only get input and feedback on issues affecting the District and Community from those meetings. I will reach out to the community via social media and email and by conducting meetings outside of the School Board environment for those residents and parents who either don’t use Technology or prefer “face to face” meetings. I plan to use those various means of interaction to represent the community, parents and children should I become elected.

What do you think are the top issues in the district?
The District faces may important issues. I promise to alter my priorities based upon community feedback, but in my mind this is my “personal” priority list.
1) Test scores and progress of our children must improve.
2) We need to more effectively use the limited funding the district gets from all sources to better control the tax rates impacting our residents already overburdened financially. To do this we must also look for other sources of tax revenue which by necessity requires review of the illegal housing issue facing Westbury.
3) The schools’ infrastructure is crumbling. Within the next 5 to 10 years, our building will no longer support the number of students we have, and many of the buildings require either extensive rehabilitation or replacement regardless of anticipated enrollment increases. How can we accomplish (or afford) this? The community and district must work together on this issue to successfully address it in time.

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Karin Campbell, Row 4

Karin Campbell has lived in Westbury for over 40 years. Having served on the board for 12 years, the incumbent is looking to increase parent and community involvement, raise standards and continue to look for funding for the district.

Why are you running for the school board?
I am running for the school board to represent all of the people of the Westbury community who are committed to educating and supporting the children in our school district. Over my 12 years on the board I have learned so much about New York State Education Law, Policy and Procedures, Administration and the impact they have on curriculum, staffing, day to day instruction, budgeting, athletics, scheduling, negotiations and much more. I would love to continue to serve the community as an advocate for the children and everyone who has a vested interested in our success.

What qualifies you for a trustee position?
I have continued my education since graduating from Westbury High School to receive degrees in Business Management, Economics, Human Resource Management and Labor Relations. I have served as an officer of the board and as a member of many committees. I have served on the New York State School Boards, Cultural Diversity Committee and currently serve as the Area 11 Director for the New York State Caucus of Black School Board Members. I am a community volunteer who works daily with the children of the Westbury community. I am committed to achieving excellence for all children and I believe I have a lot to offer. My involvement as a school board trustee has exposed me to many people giving me a large network of both residents and professionals to help me meet my goals and objectives. I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves to work hard and I am always willing to go the extra mile.

What do you think are the top issues in the district?
1. Funding is a major concern for our school district. We are all aware of the challenges we face with the increasing student population and the contractual demands on the school budget. We must continue to tell our story, which is unique and different from many other school districts. We must continue to lobby and appeal to the community for help. School Boards have the legal right to work to bring money into the district. We must explore all of the possibilities until the formula for funding public education changes.
2. Standards and levels of expectation must be raised across the board. If we do not expect more of ourselves, community and children, we will not get more. We must be open to the reality that we have work to do and we must be willing to do the work to get the outcomes we are looking for. We must work together to make the necessary improvements for our children whether we consider extended day, extended year, weekends or reduction of class size the decisions we make today will affect generations of children to come.
3. Parent involvement must become a focus of the next strategic five year plan. I believe we will be able to do so much more if we work together as a community utilizing all of more resources. We must support those programs that currently exist that are working and encourage keeping an open mind to the possibilities of new opportunities. We must look closely at our athletic program offerings and support the PTA, STEM and the arts. I support the establishment of parent centers in all of the schools where parents and schools can begin to seriously address the academic needs of their children in an environment that is welcoming and available.
4. I would love to see the school board work with committees to address many of the concerns of the district. The Westbury community has a wealth of resources in the people and we need to make an appeal for their support.

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Laura Pierce, Row 5

Laura Pierce has been on the board the last three years and says if reelected, she plans to continue to be a mobilizing force and a point of reason for the board and proactive about the business of the district.

Why are you running for school board?
I have a passion for education and children. My first run in 2008 was driven by my then elementary-aged daughter being educated in Westbury public schools and requiring specific attention. Through being an involved and active parent I found out that as a part of this board I would have a stronger voice for not just my daughter but also my neighbor’s children and then the community overall. The school board is a vehicle to follow through on my passion while benefiting the residents of Westbury and fulfilling my desire to serve. I am mature, responsible and understand the importance of education policy and community engagement. Education is the foundation for every responsible citizen. I believe that being a part of this board and working with others who are open minded, committed and diligent that I can make a difference for our children and the Westbury Community overall. I am a driven individual not afraid of hard work or adversity which is a part of the fiber of public office.

What qualifies you for a trustee position?
The same thing that qualifies every resident of Westbury: first, the passion and then being angry enough about an issue to want to help make change happen; finally, following through on that passion or anger in order to see it through and become that change agent.

What do you think are the top issues in the district?
One of the most important issues facing the Westbury School District is overcrowding which impacts instruction and has an obvious trickle down affect on grades, then according to the state test results. The belief throughout NY up and down state is that Long Island is wealthy. However, due to the need for migrant workers in the wealthy areas the bordering areas have to contend with the overcrowding.
We have very capable students in the need of support and direction. Our diversity is comparable to other districts; however, Westbury is on the cutting edge of utilizing state-of-the-art techniques to combat this crisis. We need adequate classroom space, we need fair funding from the state that aligns with our demographics and will support our unique diverse population.
Due to our diversity there are programs that will support our needs such as mentorships, hands-on training and alternative school programs. Parents need to be educated so that they can then parlay this in the home in helping their children and develop strong households. We must recognize that every child is entitled to a solid education in order to become productive participants in our society. I was always taught that a solid, good education is the foundation for a productive citizen.
I engage all families and reach out to the students of my district. Parental involvement through engagement is also lacking and a strong issue in the district. We are a very diverse community and have to be able to find a way to be able to get a majority of residents to understand the value in being proactive for these children. I believe in speaking with the students to hear their pulse, engaging them and then following through on what they are saying.
Overall, in order for change to occur we must have the support of the residents and it has to be consistent and driven. Everyone must get that spark that ignites their passion for their children. I am giving 100 percent to this responsibility and pursuing it with vigor and complete immersion.

Find out more at Westbury’s Candidates Forum May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Westbury High School Little Theatre.

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Betsy Abraham is the former senior managing editor at Anton Media Group and editor of The Westbury Times and Massapequa Observer. She also wrote for Long Island Weekly.

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