With an incumbent and a newcomer vying for an open seat on the Long Beach school board, the Herald endorses Perry Bodnar.
Bodnar, who was first elected in 2016 to a three-year term, has proved through his voting record that he supports student programming, first and foremost.
He recognizes that the district faces a constant challenge to maintain and expand opportunities and resources for students while remaining under a tight tax-levy cap.
Bodnar, a retired teacher who taught at Long Beach High School for 30 years, is well-versed in the needs of the students and faculty members.
Anne Conway, a longtime Lynbrook teacher, would offer a solid perspective as both a parent in the district (she has children in the high school and middle school) and as an educator. She also serves as the co-president of the middle school Parent Teachers Association and has attended school board meetings, occasionally commenting on the proposed budget and district issues, such as standardized testing and air conditioning.
Conway is also aware of the struggles that local school districts face with decreased state and federal education aid, and recognizes that it’s important to keep taxes as low as possible.
While we believe Conway would be an asset to the board, Bodnar’s track record has proven his commitment to the betterment of the district.
During his time on the board, trustees have expanded programs for students, including increasing mental health services by hiring new staff, upgrading support for English as a New Language students and families, adding five new clubs to the list of co-curricular activities, increasing athletic opportunities and planning for a new culinary arts center, which aligns with the board’s goal to enhance vocational skills opportunities.
Some residents have criticized Bodnar and two former school board trustees for what many called a hastily arranged meeting in July 2016 to vote on an agreement with the Superblock developer iStar — showing the district’s support for tax breaks — while two other trustees were out of town. Current board President Dr. Dennis Ryan managed to return for the vote and voiced his opposition to the statement. We have shared Ryan’s criticism that the meeting was scheduled with little public notice and feel that it was irresponsible of the three trustees to vote so quickly without the full board present (only four were there in the end).
Bodnar voted against the proposal — he said he does not support tax breaks — and the board ultimately rejected it.
We encourage voters to choose Bodnar on Tuesday.
Support the school and library budgets
Residents are set to vote on May 21 on the proposed $142 million budget for the 2019-20 school year. Despite capital project costs and rising health insurance premiums, the district, we believe, produced a responsible spending plan that maintains and even increases programming for students.
The adopted budget incorporates staffing changes in the high school business department as well as athletics to support higher demand in those areas, as well as reading and math support at the middle school. The budget also addresses a priority in mental health services and social emotional skills — administrators and board members hired new social workers and guidance counselors to support younger students. We believe the district is right to prioritize these areas, as promoting healthy development in young children will create healthy adults.
Officials have also prioritized providing equal access for all students, and proposed having the district cover costs of all field trips, which they said would make a big difference for families who may struggle to pay for the trips. We agree.
With all of the proposed changes, including redoing the entrances and exits of the Lido and high school complexes for safety reasons, the district produced a responsible budget that holds the line on taxes as much as possible. We urge voters to approve it.
Residents will also vote on the library’s proposed $3.6 million budget, as well as two candidates running for an open seat on the board — MaryEllen Guarini and Joe Sinnona. The Herald endorses Guarini because she is a seasoned librarian.