Schools

East Meadow candidates prep for forum

Three running for Board of Ed seats in May election

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Candidates vying for an open seat on the East Meadow School District Board of Education are preparing for a May 8 candidates’ forum at the East Meadow Public Library, as the May 6 school budget and board election nears.

This year, two candidates are challenging board Vice President Joseph Danenza, while incumbent Scott Eckers is running unopposed. Candidates will speak with local residents at the 7 p.m. forum.

The incumbent

Joseph Danenza, 61, is a longtime East Meadow resident. He has two children, Lauren and Harris, both of whom attended district schools. Danenza continues to live in the area with his wife, Meri, who is a W.T. Clarke High School alumna.

Danenza earned an undergraduate degree at St. John’s University and an MBA at CUNY Baruch College. He has also taken courses at NYU, Hofstra University and Nassau Community College.

“Education is very important to me,” he said. “I believe our children should be provided with the best quality of education.”

He has been on the board for seven years. He has chaired all of its major committees, including education, business, policies, personnel, facilities, school safety and transportaDanenza, who is the assistant director of police information systems for the Nassau County Police Department, said that his years of experience on the board are an advantage that he has over his opponents. “I believe that my extensive breadth of business, government, education and community service experience helps me stand out from the rest,” he said. “There are a lot of accomplishments that we, as a board, have made throughout the years but my personal favorite — and perhaps the most important one — was recently appointing a new superintendent.”

Danenza said that his commitment to improving East Meadow schools is a top priority. If re-elected, he said he would start to rebuild the district under the leadership of the new superintendent, Dr. Kenneth Card, and implement the $44.2 million bond that residents approved in March.

“I bring a great deal of school board experience to the community,” Danenza said.

The challengers

Alisa Baroukh, 40, is well known to the Barnum Woods Elementary School community, serving on the PTA’s executive board as the treasurer. She was born and raised in East Meadow, where she now lives with her husband, Anony, and three children, all of whom attend district schools.

Baroukh attended Barnum Woods Elementary School and Woodland Middle School, and graduated from East Meadow High School. She went on to earn a degree in geography from Hofstra University and later returned to Hofstra as an adjunct professor.

For the past 16 years, Baroukh has been a corporate accounting. “In the current educational and fiscal climate, the importance of careful and smart financial decision-making is imperative to the taxpayers of our community,” she said. “I pledge to make sure that East Meadow’s tax dollars are spent wisely [and] appropriately.”

Baroukh was one of three parents to revamp the district’s elementary-level report cards. She was a member of the East Meadow Parents for Full Day Kindergarten group and strongly advocates for what she calls fair measures of student and teacher progress.

“I love this town so much that I decided to stay here and raise my family here,” Baroukh said. “I am incredibly active in the schools, and I truly believe that the board needs more people who actually have children currently attending schools in the district. This way, the board can provide the best possible quality of education for our children.”

A strong supporter of the Common Core State Standards opt-out movement, Baroukh said that she began to voice her concern at Board of Education and PTA meetings, where she found a group of parents who shared her concerns. “I believe each parent has a right to determine what’s best for their child with respect to state assessments,” she said.

David Rosenberg, 59, has lived in Salisbury for more than 30 years, and is also challenging Danenza for his seat because he believes parents’ concerns should be heard.

Rosenberg’s three children attended schools in the district, and although they are now adults, Rosenberg said he feels compelled to help other parents voice their concerns.

“I got tired of being on the sidelines complaining about things, so I decided to do something about it and run for a seat on the board,” he said. “My main goal, if elected, is to ensure that the students and teachers’ concerns are heard. I believe that teachers are incredibly valuable and should be treated with respect.”

Rosenberg is a professional entertainer. “I do mind reading, I practice hypnotism and I do magic tricks,” he said.

For nine years, he has performed at birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, christenings, communions and more on Long Island and throughout the tri-state area. He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and computer arts from SUNY Stony Brook.

“I think the community should vote for me because I’m not a very political person in, terms of not running for the ego or the title, but because I believe the students, parents and teachers need a voice,” he said.

The unopposed incumbent

Scott Eckers, 36, is running unopposed for his seat. He has been on the board for three years, and he published East Meadow’s first comprehensive history last year.

Eckers said he would continue to improve the district by advocating for new social studies, science, English and math programs.

“I would like to see a common-sense approach to elementary school, including expanding back-to-basics instruction in penmanship and grammar,” he said. “I believe that front-line educators, such as teachers and principals, should have the professional autonomy to create lesson plans based on individual student and local classroom needs.”

Eckers said that would continue to build relationships between parents and administrators. He added that her would work closely with the district’s new superintendent to ensure that the community and the district continue a positive and transparent relationship after interim Superintendent Leon Campo retires at the end of the school year.