Who's running for the North Bellmore board of ed.?


Four candidates will vie for two seats on the North Bellmore School District’s board of education next week. Polls are open on Tuesday, May 21 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Newbridge Road School, at 1601 Newbridge Road, North Bellmore.

Ahead of the election, 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?


Nina Lanci (incumbent): I continue serving to provide a voice for the 21,000 North Bellmore residents who have a vested and financial interest in the decisions this board makes. Our community’s ideas, challenges, and concerns must be considered as essential as the needs of our staff, students, and parents. Serving as an integral part of many organizations that contribute to this community, including the Bellmore Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce, people know me in North Bellmore. They feel comfortable approaching me at fundraising events, community projects and school functions. They share their ideas and concerns with me because they know they are being heard, and the financial burdens of this community are taken into consideration, along with the needs of our students. I want to run for re-election because I want to continue to be their voice.


Melissa Cmar-Grote (incumbent): I am running for re-election for the Board of Education in North Bellmore because over the past nine years we have made tremendous progress in taking our district from good to great. Helping to improve the lives of children has always been my passion, this became apparent to me when I began volunteering with the Saw Mill Road School PTA where I served two terms as co-president and two terms as advisor. I continue to work on the behalf of children through the Bellmore Lions Club’s annual Polar Express Party. 


Elizabeth Rolston: I am running for the North Bellmore Board of Education to bring a new and fresh perspective to the board. I have two children in the area districts, a fifth grader at Park Avenue Elementary and an eighth grader at Grand Avenue Middle School. I have been a member of the PTA board since 2016, a member of the North Bellmore SEPTA board and Coordinating Council and I am actively involved in our schools.


Alex Kushnir: I’ve been considering running and have been actively attending meetings to better understand the district’s operations and areas for improvement.  My wife and I have been dedicating more time to volunteering, and we find it extremely rewarding. We are motivated to offer our time and expertise to improve our community.  I think it’s extremely important to have parents with active kids in our schools on the board because of the connection to the children, parents, and teachers that it brings to addressing issues. Recognizing the importance of strategic planning in schools, my experience gives me the understanding and skills necessary to contribute and avoid the many pitfalls that other districts are facing by simply spending down their grants, and reserves, followed by painful cuts. I have experience in budgets, capital projects, programs and believe there may be room for improvement in the oversight and finding efficiencies within our capital programs.


Herald: What are the main goals and issues you wish to address if you are elected?


Lanci: I plan to continue working on the initiatives of the district and the goals set by the board. We have a strategic plan consisting of capital projects to improve our buildings and grounds. We are expanding opportunities within the computer science program by offering advanced innovative instructional experiences for students, aligning our curriculum with current research and best practices, and strengthening our mental health and wellness program, which has already received State accolades. In addition, I look forward to partnering with local law enforcement and personnel to continue to foster the relationship our district has with our police department and keep our staff and students safe.


Cmar-Grote: My goals for my next term include continuing to improve our safety and security measures and focusing on the mental health of our students.  Over the past few years, we have enhanced security by adding security guards, security vestibules, exponentially increasing the numbers of cameras in and around our buildings and installing door alarms to further ensure the safety of our students.  I will continue to continue to add mental health and wellness resources and personnel to our already outstanding program to address the needs of our students all while presenting budgets under the New York State tax cap.


Rolston: I believe in a stronger emphasis on Special Education, especially in reading disorders such as dyslexia. We need more certified teachers in Wilson and Orton Gillingham reading strategies to help our students succeed. We also need better strategies dealing with student mental health to prevent bullying and social isolation.


Kushnir: Improved transparency and communication to parents and the community, improved efficiency in our capital projects and budget programs, and strategic planning for our budgets and sustainability mandates. This is not about just the next year, or the full three-year term. It’s about setting up the district for continuous success and improvement. We can’t just settle for being good. That’s stagnant, we should always be looking for what we can do better. Even just a fraction better each day, will make a tremendous lasting impact.


Herald: Why do you feel you are qualified for the position you are running for?


Lanci: Most successful and impactful school boards are comprised of school parents and active members within the community. I have dedicated myself to this position. My relationships with residents, North Bellmore school families and community leaders are all rooted in building a better school district and better community, reflecting the voices of all those I serve. I have an unyielding work ethic, hold myself to the highest standards, and seek to enrich the lives of our students who are the future of this community. My experience on the North Bellmore and Bellmore Merrick Central High School Boards has helped build the relationship between the districts to foster the growth of our students to achieve a 99 percent graduation rate. I embrace the diverse community that is North Bellmore and I look forward to making sure our mission and core values continue to remain at the heart of all decisions.


Cmar-Grote: I am highly qualified for this role. I have a vast amount of knowledge and experience from serving on the North Bellmore and Bellmore-Merrick CHSD boards of education. I have extensive knowledge and deep understanding of school district budgeting, strategic planning and capital projects. This knowledge has supported the district in presenting budgets within the tax cap, enhancing buildings and grounds, creating innovative instructional programs.  My voice at the table represents all constituents. I am well-versed in the regulations that guide school boards in relation to policy, finances and best instructional practices. Every decision I make is viewed from all perspectives including that of retired community members, current district families, students, faculty and staff. While it is a delicate balance to ensure the needs of all stakeholders are met, my voting record proves I have done so. I vow to continue serving the community with the best interest of all constituents in mind.


Rolston: I believe in a strong curriculum including strengthening social studies and science. I also believe in more art, performing arts and foreign language programs for our students. I am passionate about helping others and hope to be a voice for the parents in the district. 


Kushnir: I believe it is increasingly important to have parents with children currently attending the schools actively as Trustees. This fosters proper connection of the current educational landscape, given the changing nature of society and technology. I enjoy being part of the PTA, volunteering, and also coaching my daughter’s PAL team, which has been an inspiration in my consideration to run. The presence of practical experience and perspectives on the board is vital to success. We have an educator and a finance professional currently serving and my unique professional and education experiences will contribute to a better North Bellmore School Board. I’m experienced in budgets, capital projects, and a network with the community and elected officials. Both will be vital as we look to navigate our academic excellence during a time of increased mandates, costs, and the uncertainty of what the State’s funding commitments will be in coming years.