Board of Education Elections: Meet the Candidates

The Board of Education elections are being held on Tuesday, May 21. Parents, students, and teachers gathered in the LHS cafeteria on May 15 to learn more about the candidates at Candidates Night hosted and organized by the PTA council and moderated by the League of Women Voters (LWV). The candidates running for reelection are William Belmont and Heather Hanson, and Danielle Longo and Dana Franklin are running to be newly elected.

To start off the night, Maria Squitieri, the PTA representative who organized the event, introduced the moderator of the event, Marion Fleming from the Hempstead LWV. Fleming commented, “I joined the league a while ago, and we’re working with so many issues, not only do we do voter registration, but we teach people the importance of voting. I’ve been a school teacher for 60 years, so having an opportunity to hear the concerns of people in education caused me to want to moderate.” She explained to the audience that the LWV is an organization dedicated to informing voters on issues and addressing their concerns. She then read the procedures, which were that questions would be written by guests and asked to the candidates in a rotating order.

Candidates read their opening statements, where they thanked everyone for coming, thanked the PTA and LWV for hosting, and explained why they wanted to be elected. Then, Fleming began reading the questions. The questions and topics discussed were lack of resident attendance at meetings, the role of a board member, security, overcrowding in schools, communication between the board and residents, how to support paths other than college, and how to lower costs in the district.

Hanson, who is running for reelection, has been on the board for six years and hopes to continue to serve. She explained, “I [first] ran for this position because after attending many BOE meetings, I thought the board was focusing too much energy on too few issues within the district. I wanted to broaden the conversation and have a role in refocusing priorities. The role of a BOE member is increasingly challenging, with issues like school safety and state interference impacting our district, so my years of experience are all the more critical to Lynbrook’s continued success.” She believes that being a Board of Education member is a job for a leader who will fiercely fight to do better for Lynbrook’s children, and her years of experience on the board, the PTA, the compact committee, and several other clubs make her qualified for that job. At Candidates Night, she described herself as an influential and effective leader within the board and explained how she has helped to improve the district by bringing attention to issues in parity and accessibility, such as getting an elevator at North Middle School, which she fought for and achieved. She described the district’s top issue as managing growth and being able to provide adequate special needs and student support services for children as the district grows.

Belmont has been on the board for twelve years and has been the board president for four years, and he believes that since the district is succeeding, changes should not be made to the board: “I think the school district is in a great place and, as the Herald said, the ‘district is thriving under this board’s leadership.’” He regarded the lack of attendance at meetings as a good sign, as it means that people do not have any complaints to address to the board. During his opening and closing statements, he explained that he feels that, as a resident, he has an obligation to make Lynbrook better, and has done so by being a part of the health and safety committee; coaching youth teams, varsity teams, and the Challenger basketball program; being on the board and the policy committee; speaking at LHS Human Relations Day; and administrating the networking site for students. He said, “I like being able to make a difference in our community. I like knowing that all the time and energy I put in will help make the future generations better citizens because of the excellent education they received from the Lynbrook school district.” He feels that the number one issue for the district is the threat of Albany attempting to control the schools unnecessarily and making Albany less involved, as it hurts the district financially and limits the curriculum.

Longo is a Lynbrook parent who has been involved in the PTA, several executive boards, and the North Middle School compact committee. She explained, “There were several factors that motivated me to run for the BOE, including the desire to have a voice in optimizing the educational experience of the children in our community and providing them with the foundation for a successful future. My current position on the Lynbrook North Middle School Compact Committee has enabled me to bring forth concerns of the parents and the community and to contribute to the resolution of these issues. I would like to continue to provide a positive impact as a board member.” She seeks to improve education, work with the district on the societal issues facing students, raise awareness for needed resources, and motivate residents to gain efforts against legislation from Albany. In her opinion, the district’s top issue is state mandates and testing that are flawed and cost the district, and the district should have more control of their own content and assessment.

Franklin, who is running with Longo as a part of the AIM (advocate, innovate, motivate) High party, has done work with administration and faculty, been the co-chair of the compact committee, been involved in the PTA, worked with special needs, volunteered as the head coach for Empire Games for the physically challenged, and advocated for ability awareness. She explained her reasons for running: “As an alumnus of LHS and lifelong resident of Lynbrook, I am committed to the future education of my children and the children of our community. Next year, I will have three kids in three different schools and feel it is imperative to play a role in their educational future and be a voice for the people of this community. It is essential to stay on top of the dynamic world we live in and bring in positive messages needed to help mold our children and raise them to be exceptional role models. I am excited and hopeful to play a role in continuing to help Lynbrook maintain its reputation of excellence in education.” Franklin describes herself as passionate and committed, and aims to provide the best education possible in Lynbrook and have positivity, respect, and accessibility as a board member. She put focus on the crisis facing young people regarding the vaping issue, social media, and the well-being of students, saying that content viewed by kids online is not monitored, and it causes children to come into contact with bullying, eating disorders, and drugs.

Candidates for the Board of Education felt that Candidates Night was a success. Hanson explained, “Candidates Night is the community’s opportunity to see who has the leadership skills necessary to move the district forward. Many in the audience were pleased to hear that managing growth is my top priority.” Belmont also commented, “I think Candidates Night went well. I was well prepared and provided substantive responses to the questions. Many people came up to me after and expressed their appreciation for my efforts as well as my responses to the questions. But again, the district is doing very well, so I believe most people are happy with the board.” Franklin agreed: “I think meet the candidates night went well. We discussed a lot of very important issues from safety in the school environment to the number one issue facing the Lynbrook School District. I think the people who attended understood my messages, but more importantly, were able to see how passionate I am about my kids, the kids of the community and the community as a whole.” Longo added, “I was thrilled to see such a large turnout for the event. I think it is crucial that students, parents and community members attend this event in order to make an informed decision when it comes time to vote. I feel the format of Candidates Night is fair, balanced, and provides each candidate the opportunity to deliver an opening statement, address questions, and then conclude the evening with a final message to support their candidacy. A few community members approached me afterwards and stated they were disappointed that their questions were not asked by the moderator. I think the questions were well balanced and addressed many of the issues that are facing our district today. I am confident the moderator from the League of Women Voters did the best she could to ask as many questions as possible during the allotted time frame. My ongoing involvement as a PTA member and informed parent as well as the extensive research I did to prepare for the event, assured I would be able to effectively address all questions.”