Lester said the district boasts one of the lowest class ratios in the county; the graduation rate has increased and he maintains that it is still one of the lowest-taxed areas in the county. Additionally, he said the board’s efforts to be fiscally conservative paid off after Hurricane Sandy. Because it had enough money saved, the district was able to begin repairs immediately and get kids back to school faster than any other district with the same amount of damage, he said.
But those vying for Lester’s seat have concerns about the way the board operates. Many are running on a platform of increased transparency and interaction with the community. A common desire among all of them is to have a board that is more approachable, and one that makes more of an effort to better explain complex information to the public.
Candidate Elizabeth Treston, 53, a long-time West End resident, said she decided to enter the race last fall after parents approached her and told her that she would be a good candidate.
“It’s time for some fresh eyes, new questions and common sense,” she said. “We’re all in this together.”
Treston is a retired speech pathologist who worked at the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County. She also has a background in special education, and experience working in the educational system.
Additionally, as the former project director of TRAID, a New York State grant program that provides technology for persons with disabilities, she said she had the opportunity to observe different school systems across Nassau and Suffolk counties, and examine what works and doesn’t. During her 10 years as project director for TRAID, she said she never exceeded her budget.
Treston said the board has to do a better job of making sure the community understands what it does, the difference between school and city taxes and what exactly they are paying for in the school budget. Most criticism of the budget that she has heard or read about was based on misinformation, she said.
“It’s the school board’s responsibility to clear that up,” she said. “So that rumors don’t spread that are not factual.”