There are three candidates running for three open seats on the District 24 Board of Education. Incumbents Paul DePace and Lisa Pellicane are seeking re-election. Armando Hernandez is running for the seat currently held by Carole Meaney. All terms are for three years.
Voting will take place along with the school budget vote on Tuesday, May 20 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Brooklyn Avenue, William L. Buck and Robert W. Carbonaro schools, and at the Corona Avenue Firehouse.
Paul DePace is the longest-tenured school board member in any of Valley Stream’s three elementary districts. After 33 years on the District 24 Board of Education, he is looking to serve at least three more.
DePace said he believes he has made a difference in the community, and sees himself as fair. He described himself as a good listener, and said he always encourages his fellow board members to vote their conscience, even if he disagrees.
Ultimately, DePace said, the tone of the Board of Education filters down to the schools, so it is important for trustees to work together.
While there is a business side to education, he said a school district should not be run like a business. Rather, he said, it should be treated like a family, where people come first. That means the district can’t provide a one-size-fits-all curriculum, but rather offer numerous opportunities to benefit every student. The district could easily cut programs like art to save money, he said, but that would be a disservice to students.
In his most recent term, DePace said he is proud that the district has added a curriculum director and produced tax-cap-compliant budgets. This year, he is serving as board president, a post he has held several times in the past.
DePace said that when making a decision, he tries to see all sides. As a former teacher, he noted that he doesn’t just think about the district’s bottom line during negotiations, but also how a contract affects its employees.
“I think the community sees how fair I am,” he said. “I listen to all sides.”
He is concerned about some of the decisions being made at the state level regarding education, and feels that local control is slowly being taken away. DePace said he does not like the new teacher evaluation system.
In his next term, DePace said he wants to lobby elected officials for more state aid, and continue to monitor the district’s finances. He also said the validity of the outdoor education program needs to be re-examined, as the number of students going on the fields trips has dropped.
DePace said that he believes board members should be visible, and tries to attend as many programs as he can. He has two grandchildren in the district.
Lives in: Valley Stream
School board experience: 33 years
Family: Wife, Barbara; four children who graduated from South High School; 11 grandchildren
Career: Retired health and physical education teacher in New York City, 35 years
Education: Nassau Community College, associate’s degree; Long Island University, bachelor’s degree; Brooklyn College, master’s degree.
Other: Past Little League, soccer and Mason baseball coach
There’s a corner of Lynbrook that seems to churn out a lot of school board members for Valley Stream District 24. Armando Hernandez will be the latest resident of that southwestern section to join the Board of Education.
Hernandez is running for the seat being vacated by Carole Meaney, who has served for 12 years. He and his wife own a business on Rockaway Avenue and have three sons in Valley Stream schools.
In talking with neighbors Frank Nuara, a past District 24 trustee, and John Maier, a current board member, Hernandez said he was inspired to run. He said he wants to continue their good work and make positive changes in the school district.
Hernandez’s oldest son, Joseph, was part of the first class to have full-day kindergarten in the district, so maintaining an all-day program is important. “Most families have two working parents right now,” he said. “That’s a reality.”
He said his focus would be on providing the best possible resources for students, and keeping academic programs in tact. Hernandez pointed to South High School’s recent inclusion on a list by the Washington Post as one of the most challenging high schools in America. A big reason for that, he believes, is because of the strong education children get in District 24.
The implementation of the new Common Core standards, Hernandez said, is a polarizing topic but he has no objection to raising expectations. His concern was how the changes were put into place.
He said he would like the district to do more to inform parents about Common Core. “I think we can help the parents understand what that change has been,” he said.
The ultimate goal of public education, Hernandez said, is to prepare students for college. Even in elementary school, he said the mindset of children should be that their education doesn’t end after high school.
Hernandez said he is pleased with the state of District 24’s finances. He said budgets should put together with children in mind, not just based on numbers.
As a board member, Hernandez said he believes his interpersonal skills can be an asset. He stressed the importance of the board working cohesively and overcoming their differences to get things done.
Safety is also a priority for Hernandez, whose youngest son attends the William L. Buck School. He said he wants to ensure that the district has good systems in place to communicate with parents in case of an emergency. “This is the kind of stuff that I think about as a parent,” he said.
Lives in: Lynbrook
School board experience: None; first time running
Family: Wife, Saundra, sons Joseph, 17, Nicholas, 13, Michael, 8
Career: Owners, Gym 4 Kidz
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Hofstra University
Other: Vice President of travel baseball for the Valley Stream Baseball League
After serving three years on the District 24 Board of Education, Lisa Pellicane says her work has only begun. With three candidates for three seats, she is a shoo-in for a second term, one that she hopes will also garner her a spot on the Central High School District board.
Pellicane says she enjoys working for the children of the district, and trying to ensure that they get the best education. She also likes working with her fellow board members and the district administration.
She said it is important that District 24 have a strong academic program with offerings beyond the mandated curriculum. “All the programs are important to me, so I’d rather not cut any if I had a choice,” she said. “Each program touches different kids in different ways.”
Program cuts were on the table as recently as a few weeks ago, but district officials were able to put through a proposed budget that kept the curriculum in tact. Pellicane said the board worked very hard to overcome a bad set of financial circumstances.
“We work with whatever we’re given,” she said, “and we make sure we have the kids’ best interests in mind.”
Pellicane is a native of Valley Stream, having attended the William L. Buck School and South High School. Her two daughters graduated the Robert W. Carbonaro School and now are in South.
With her daughters in high school, Pellicane said she would be interested in serving as one of District 24’s three representatives on the Board of Education there, an appointment that requires attending two additional meetings per month. Pellicane said after getting her feet wet on the elementary board, she is ready to take on the same role with the high school district.
She already serves on the Shared Decision Committee at South, is vice president of the PTSA, and is a past PTA president at Carbonaro.
Pellicane said she sees herself as the voice of parents, and wants to ensure that their concerns are both heard and addressed.
Growing up, Pellicane said Valley Stream was a close-knit community and she wants to preserve that. For the next three years, she also wants to work to ensure that residents are getting good value from the their tax dollars.
Lives in: Valley Stream
School board experience: Three years
Family: Husband, Brian; daughters Alyssa and Breana
Education: Graduated South High School, 1993
Career: Medical biller
Other: South High School PTSA vice president, Carbonaro School PTA past president