The Merrick and North Merrick school districts both feature competitive Board of Education races this year, with three incumbents and two challengers vying for three seats in Merrick, and two incumbents facing two challengers in North Merrick.
In addition to deciding the race for three seats on the Board of Education, voters will have before them a budget that has a number of security improvements at Merrick Schools — including a security guard at each building — fueling a 5 percent budgetary increase. Look for more on the district’s budget in next week’s issue.
Longtime school board Trustee Dr. Nancy Kaplan is running for re-election. Kaplan, who is president of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Board of Education, holds a number of degrees, including a Doctor of Education, a Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration from St. John’s University, where she is now an associate provost.
She is also a training specialist for the Anti-Defamation League, giving speeches on a number of topics, including confronting anti-Semitism.
“I have served 14 years, and it has been a blessing to do so,” Kaplan said in a recent Facebook post. “I am very active in the educational community, and believe I have done an excellent job of serving Merrick.”
Fellow incumbent Linda Wilk, who has lived in Merrick for 15 years and served on the Board of Education for the past three, is also running for re-election.
She holds a master’s in education from Adelphi University and a master’s in industrial psychology from Columbia University. Wilk has also served as a Levy-Lakeside Elementary School PTA co-president and a Student Council volunteer at Lakeside.
“I feel privileged to have served as a board trustee for the past three years,” Wilk said in a Facebook post. “My experience as a former elementary school teacher, and current position as a curriculum developer in special education enables me to have a depth of knowledge in the field. I will serve as an advocate for our students, parents and the Merrick community, always making decisions that improve and enhance our school district.”
Dr. Pamela Banks, the Board of Education president, is also running for another term.
Banks is a pediatrician who has lived in Merrick for nearly 40 years. She has four children, and a medical degree from New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, a master’s from New York University and a bachelor’s from Adelphi University.
Richard J. Soleymanzadeh is a newcomer to the race. A father of three and a lawyer, he attended Long Beach High School, and earned a bachelor’s in business administration in banking and finance at Hofstra University, then a law degree from Hofstra’s School of Law. He also has been an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY and Nassau Community College, and has been voted among the top three “Best Lawyers” for two years in a row by the Long Island Press.
“As a parent with three children in the district, I believe that in addition to employing and maintaining the best teachers we can find, it is equally important to maintain a safe and secure school environment in today’s reality,” Soleymanzadeh said. “As a taxpayer that helps fund our school system, it is important to not overspend, and to keep a watchful and diligent eye on the bottom line. As an attorney, I understand the need to balance the various issues and concerns . . . to ensure that we are doing what is in the best interest of all our children.”
And Gabrielle Curcio, a Merrick resident of 30 years, with two children in the district, told the Herald that she wants to join the board to make sure the district is using its resources — and tax dollars — efficiently.
“This issue permeates everything, from security, to teachers’ contracts, to special services,” Curcio said.
Curcio earned a degree in speech communication and political science from Penn State, and a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law. She worked as an attorney in New York City for nearly 10 years, and now is a stay-at-home mom.
In North Merrick, voters will be choosing between four candidates for two seats on the Board of Education, as well as eyeing a $4.5 million budget — a $1.1 million increase over the current year’s. The district is looking to raise 3.34 percent more in property taxes to cover the increase.
Incumbent Steve Enella is a graduate of Calhoun High School, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1989, which he believes instilled a sense of honor and discipline in him that help him to make difficult decisions as a Board of Education trustee.
A father of two who now lives in his childhood home, Enella owns a home inspection franchise, for which he has performed more than 4,200 home inspections — many in North Merrick. He also serves on the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Board of Education.
Before serving on the Board of Education, Enella was on the volunteer budget committee for five years. He said that he enjoys his work on the board, “being involved and looking out for the children and taxpayers of North Merrick.”
Fellow incumbent Todd Ransom has lived in North Merrick for 10 years with his wife and four children.
He attended the University of Georgia and then Plattsburgh State University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English literature. He went on to receive a law degree from the University of Houston. Ransom is a partner at Haynes and Boone, LLP, where he works as a corporate finance attorney in the New York City office.
Ransom said that he strongly believes in community involvement, and that his experiences as a lawyer, parent and community member allow him to help serve the board in a productive and collaborative manner while being a strong advocate for the children of the district and steward for the taxpayers.
Newcomer Vincent Lentini, a father of two, has lived in North Merrick for eight and a half years. He holds a master’s degree in secondary education from Hofstra University, and works as a teacher and chairman with the Lynbrook Public Schools, where he teaches three classes and leads three departments, including fine arts, technology, and family and consumer science.
A believer in constructivist education, Lentini said that he supports student learning through differentiated instruction. He added that he would strive for better transparency between the district and community.
Michelle Gordon, a North Merrick resident of eight years, with two children, has worked in a variety of fields, including at WNBC-TV and CBS, and as a business manager in advertising.
She used to own a wedding and event planning company, and has recently returned to the advertising field. While working in television, Gordon was the first woman selected to work in the control room for the NFL and college basketball as a remote coordinator.
Additionally, Gordon has been a member of the Old Mill Road PTA for five years, and is an appointed member of the district’s technology committee.
Gordon told the Herald on Monday that if elected, her main areas of focus would be school safety and mental health.
School district elections will be held on May 15. Look for more on the proposed budgets in next week’s edition, and coverage of the results on May 16 at www.liherald.com.
One candidate who initially filed paperwork to run for the Board has withdrawn his petition. By law, the district must now extend the deadline for individuals to file a nominating petition to run for the Board. The new deadline to file a petition is Tuesday, May 8 by 5 p.m.
All paperwork is due to the Office of the District Clerk by this time.If you are interested in filing a nominating petition or have any questions, please contact District Clerk Clarice Rebentisch at 516-992-7200.
Please also note that the PTA Meet the Candidates Forum, originally scheduled for Monday, May 7, has been rescheduled as a result of the deadline extension. The forum will now take place on Monday, May 14 at Birch School, beginning at 7 p.m.