Next week, four candidates will vie for two open seats on the Bellmore Board of Education.
Incumbent Vice President Janet Goller and Trustee Maryanne Kelly will face opposition from challengers Michael Demetriou and Ellen Brach.
Goller has the longest tenure, having served on the Bellmore board for 27 years and on the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District board for 22 years. Kelly has been on the board for 12 years, and both Goller and Kelly have served as vice president and president.
Demetriou is a senior executive at one of the largest title insurance companies in the world, as well as an entrepreneur and founder of the startup company Pano Med, a personal digital health application. He is running with Brach, a retired New York City Department of Education health and physical education teacher, who currently works as a fitness instructor at a gym in Melville.
Ahead of the election, which will take place on May 17, the Herald asked the candidates about their goals and the issues facing the district.
Herald: Why did you decide to run (or run again) for the Board of Education?
Goller: As a Board of Education trustee, I will continue to work with our parents, teachers, and administrators to provide quality learning environments for our students to grow, learn and reach their highest potential. I will do this by maintaining and enhancing our programs while being sensitive to the needs of our taxpayers. With the recent rises in transportation costs, higher utilities and health insurance costs, coupled with a higher CPI, it will be more challenging to present a budget below the tax cap to our community. This is where experience is necessary, as I have helped implement cost-saving solutions and understand that we must be sensitive to the needs of our taxpayers in difficult financial times. I remain committed to spending money efficiently in ways that best benefit our children. Our schools are not only an investment in our children, but they are an investment in our homes and community.
Kelly: As an incumbent, I think it is important to know why I first chose to seek a position on the Board of Education 12 years ago. I had been an active member of the school community (PTA) and local community in a number of roles. As my children began graduating one by one from the Bellmore Schools, I felt a desire to continue my involvement and give back to the Bellmore School District. I had the experience of being a high school teacher, a parent, and a Bellmore resident . I am grateful for the solid educational foundation my children received from the Bellmore Schools. Our school district is the heart of Bellmore. As a Board member I am willing to put in the work and to show up. Our success as a school district is evident to the community, students, and parents . Our district has flourished. We are consistently being looked at by other school districts as a model for excellence. We are a Lighthouse District and have an award winning music program. Our facilities are state of the art. These achievements are only possible through hard work, commitment and dedication to providing the best education and opportunities possible to our students while remaining fiscally responsible to our neighbors.
Demetriou: In 2020, I began the fight against the war known as covid being waged on our schools and children, and defeated the State of New York in Supreme Court eliminating the mandates in NYS and other states across the country where now we will set the precedent in our constitution to never allow an executive branch of any political party to act as a king and now we must continue protect our local schools and I am here for that to the end; we see how quickly choice over our bodies can be taken away from us in recent events. Fighting, perseverance, grit, forecasting and overcoming the toughest of times with solutions to allow us to not only bounce back but progress stronger are my greatest strengths including overcoming childhood homelessness and abuse. I ask for your vote as Bellmore Board of Ed Trustee, as I know I am needed for this fight of today and I am here to let our board know thank you, you did it for 20 years, I look forward to your advice and friendship in the coming days/years to come but I would humbly like to take it for you, our taxpayers and most importantly my greatest of passions, for our children from here.
Brach: I have been listening intently to the concerns of my friends, neighbors and church community about the direction of our education system. Many feel that parents are being excluded from having a role in the education of their child. I wanted to help as I’ve always believed that schools and parents should be partners when it comes to educating children. In the past, I organized many parents to advocate for the safety of student athletes in the BMCHSD. Wanting to serve my community in this manner seemed like a natural progression.
Herald: What are the main goals and issues you wish to address if you are elected?
Goller: As a member of the Bellmore Board of Education for 27 years and the BMCHSD Board of Education for 22 years, I bring the perspective of an involved parent and business person dedicated to working on behalf of our children and community. My many years of working with our administrators, parents, teachers, and staff at the elementary and secondary levels have given me the experience, knowledge, and insight needed to make thoughtful decisions to benefit Bellmore’s children. I prioritize being a visible and involved school board member so that I genuinely understand and am familiar with the day-to-day workings of our schools. This experience equips me with first-hand information to continue raising thoughtful questions, constructing practical suggestions, and making informed decisions. My background with both districts gives me the knowledge and understanding of our entire school system, from pre-K through 12th grade, making me uniquely qualified to make the right choices for our schools.
Kelly: My goals as a board member have always been the achievement of our students — advocating for public school education through work with the fellow member, and the community to provide excellence in our school to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all.
Demetriou: I would like to unite our community again. I am a local coach of sports to our children and take great pride in building their strength in mind. I would like to strongly focus on the special needs of children as I sense the times of today have expanded the definition of what is special needs and we must adapt to this with proper thought and execution. Additionally I would like the parent voice valued and the boards returned to the them- we are their representatives and were elected to work for them, not tell them but be the trusted extension to their homes and children, their greatest advocates. Most importantly, I am the only person of any of the candidates with children in our elementary school district and I have a vested interest beyond my passion for children to assure our schools are in the best position for excellence today and to protect our children as I have proven too with action time and again.
Brach: I would like to see more transparency in the budget so that the community can trust that their tax dollars are being used responsibly. I would also like for the parents to view our school board as approachable and accessible. Therefore, I will advocate for meetings to be live streamed to cast a wider audience of community members to optimize engagement and transparency. Curriculum should also be transparent as many parents want it to be age appropriate and valuable.
Herald: Why do you feel you are qualified for the position you are running for?
Goller: Bellmore holds a special place in my heart. I grew up here, raised my children here, and my grandchildren attend our elementary schools. I have devoted much of my life to volunteering as a parent, PTA leader, and BOE member. I have worked with our school community to build outstanding educational programs that allow our children to reach their highest potential. I am seeking re-election to the BOE because I believe my continued knowledge, experience, and dedication are needed to ensure our school district's future success and educational program. More work is to be done, and I want to ensure that my grandchildren and all Bellmore’s children progress through Bellmore School’s with the greatest opportunities for success. As a strong advocate of parent education and involvement, I remain committed to working in partnership with all our parents and community based on honest, open communication, trust, and shared decision making.
Kelly: I have served on the Bellmore Board of Education as a trustee, vice president and president, as well as serving on the community relations and purchasing committees for the board. I have had the pleasure of working with a remarkable board with a shared vision of providing a quality, safe, learning environment for our students and maintaining and enhancing our successful programs. We continuously work with our administrators to ensure that all students have a pathway to success and opportunities to shine. I look forward to continuing my work as a board trustee working with administrators, teachers, students, parents and the entire Bellmore community. I am proud of the achievements of our students and take pride in knowing our board played a part in providing those students with the tools to help them succeed. It would be an honor to continue to serve .
Demetriou: As you can hopefully see fighting, perseverance, grit, forecasting and overcoming the toughest of times with solutions to allow us to not only bounce back but progress stronger are my greatest strengths. I ask for Bellmores vote today as I know I am needed for this fight of today and I am here to let our board know thank you, you did it for 20 years, I look forward to your advice and friendship in the coming days/years to come but I would humbly like to take it for you, our taxpayers and most importantly my greatest of passions, for our children from here. Also I cannot stress this enough, I think its important and imperative someone like me who has kids in the elementary school district be part of the board making decisions which effect our children in that very district.
Brach: I’m the only candidate and will be the only trustee who has the perspective of a teacher who taught during Covid and saw first hand the impact and lasting effects it had on students. My department’s budget was often cut and I had to find creative ways to use what I had and still give the students quality instruction. As a New York City school teacher, budgets were tight so I became a skilled grant writer to offset costs. I’d like to see the Bellmore Public Schools apply for grants to offset costs rather than continuously raise taxes and burden the taxpayer.