Election Night Brings Change In BOE

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Westbury and Carle Place voters both approve budgets

Voters in the Westbury and Carle Place School Districts both passed their budgets for the 2016-17 school years, and while Carle Place saw a calm election night, with the return of trustee Lawrence Zaino who ran unopposed, the tide changed in Westbury where challengers Pedro Quintanilla and Stanton Brown beat out incumbents Laura Pierce and Leslie Davis for the board of education. Trustee Rodney Caines was voted in for another term, by a mere two votes to beat out challenger Sherley Cadet.

Pedro Quintanilla
Pedro Quintanilla

The highly contested Westbury board of education election saw nine candidates running for the three open seats on the board. Leading up to election night on May 17, candidates participated in several candidate forums, which were sparsely attended. Approximately 1,500 residents came out to vote, with the majority casting their vote at Park Avenue and the middle school. Quintanilla, a 25-year Westbury resident who spoke out about increasing board transparency and accountability, had 843 votes and fellow challenger Brown, a 10-year resident who noted academic performance and lack of positive community engagement as major problems, had 774.

“I thank the citizens of Westbury for electing me and Dr. Brown to the school board. Our resounding victory sends a message that change, accountability and performance results are sorely needed. I would like to thank all of the candidates for their commitment to serve, and also the outgoing board members for their service,” Quintanilla said. “I’m very proud and humbled by the trust placed on me by the community. I know we have many challenges ahead but also a great opportunity to transform our school district to become much successful.”

Brown, who previously served on the board from 2009-11 said the victory was “bittersweet,” because he believes some residents were denied the right to vote. He said there were inadequate interpretation services available for non-English speaking voters and that registered voters were turned away.

Stanton Brown
Stanton Brown

“At Park Avenue School there needed to be interpretation services available, the district didn’t have anyone to do that,” Brown said. “At the middle school, folks were asked for their ID and were being turned away from voting and were registered voters. We don’t believe the proper protocols were taken to validate whether they were or not. We don’t believe the board of elections was called in all instances or an affidavit ballot was offered.”

Caines had 718 votes, beating out Cadet by two votes. While Cadet had the lead with machine votes, Caines pulled ahead with 43 absentee ballots (compared to Cadet’s 23). Cadet, ran with Quintanilla and Brown, and said she has put in a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request to see the documents from Election night such as the signature books and paperwork from voting machine printout. She is waiting to hear back from the district on a date when she and her running mates will be able to review the paperwork. The district clerk and attorney will be present as well.

“I want to take it one step at a time. I want to compare the amount of votes that came through and verify the information that came from the machines,” Cadet said. “I want to do it as soon as possible.”

“I can’t say what will come next,” Cadet said in response to whether she will challenge or not. “I want to confirm [the numbers] before I proceed. I didn’t expect it to be so close. We had the community behind us. We need a change. That’s why we fought so hard, we can’t let it go. We just have to wait and be patient and we’ll see.”

Rodney Caines
Rodney Caines

Caines said that the close race was to be expected when there was such a large number of candidates involved, and thanked the community for their support.

“I am humbled by the support and am committed to working harder to get the message out that we have to be a part of our school district, not just a spectator,” Caines said. “I would hope that our community beings to get involved not only at the board level but on the local levels (schools) to help to effect change in our district. I would like to congratulate Mr. Brown and Mr. Quintanilla and welcome them to the Westbury Board of Education. I look forward to working with them on improving our district performance and managing our district’s finances.”

Incumbents Davis and Pierce had 656 and 633 votes respectively. Other challengers were Perelene Perpall (191 votes), Tania Stamp (168 votes) and Jan F. Figueira (141 votes).
The $134,446,668 Westbury budget passed with 923 votes to 583. The budget represents a .33 percent tax levy decrease and will result in a savings of $32 per year for the average homeowner with a market value of $320,000.

“We’re very happy with the results,” said Westbury School District Superintendent Dr. Mary Lagnado. “I look forward to next year, working with the board as we always have for the good of the children and community.”

Voters in Carle Place adopted the $48,466,946 budget, which represents a 1.69 percent year-to-year increase with a .34 percent tax levy increase. Residents also approved the use of $1.4 million of capital reserve funds for the replacement of three sets of exterior doors at Cherry Lane School, the replacement of playground surfacing and related curbing at the Cherry Lane kindergarten playground, new fencing and concrete work along the playground at Rushmore Avenue, asbestos abatement of three classrooms and attached areas at Rushmore Avenue School, the replacement of the high school track and replacement of original interior doors at the middle and high school.

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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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