Four candidates are running for two open Board of Education seats in the West Hempstead School District in the June 9 election. The Herald sent brief questionnaires to the candidates, and their answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Incumbent Vincent Trocchia is running for re-election, and is being challenged by Jason Miller. Trocchia, who has been a trustee for nearly 30 years, said that he was running again because he wants to help the district complete its $35 million bond referendum for capital improvements of schools.
“I’ve been meeting with the architect almost weekly throughout the school year to try and move things along, and to follow this bond issue to its fruition,” Trocchia said. “We want to install a pre-K center as well, so we’re hoping to bring more families into the district.”
He also said he hoped to improve children’s education, and to help make informed decisions on hiring of personnel, and formulating budgets and policies, if re-elected. Helping the district reach its goals after the coronavirus pandemic, he said, would be dependent on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s guidance.
“Our superintendent is forward-thinking, and I have full confidence in our administration,” Trocchia said, “but no one can really tell you what’s going to happen in September, because the governor and the county haven’t given us any directions yet. It all depends on what latitude they give us.”
Miller, who has worked as a technologist at Amazon for the past six years, said that the district was in need of new ideas and perspectives to educate students in a post-pandemic world. If elected, he said, he aimed to improve students’ literacy skills, develop a three-year technology plan and help establish a safety protocol for staff and students while the pandemic continues.
“I intend to contribute my managerial skills to drive results,” Miller said, “coupled with an understanding of the educational needs of the 21st century in order to help our students succeed in an uncertain world.”
As a former educator — he began his career as a special-education teacher in the South Bronx nearly a decade ago — Miller said he understands the effort teachers have made to continue educating students online. He added that he hoped to use his experience in both education and technology to help provide students with the best educational tools.
“I want to ensure that our students have access to all the most updated tools and systems that will ensure a lifetime of success,” he said.
Incumbent Joseph Magaraci is running for re-election against challenger Alan Skorski. Magaraci said he wants to continue the board’s initiatives, such as its capital improvement program, and to promote new learning opportunities.
“I want to make sure that all the children of West Hempstead get the best education, because they deserve nothing less,” Magaraci said. “I also want to make sure that they have the opportunity to participate in any of the after-school programs that West Hempstead offers.”
As for making adjustments in educational programs due to the coronavirus, Magaraci echoed Trocchia’s sentiments, saying that school administrations can’t make plans without direction from Cuomo.
“Nobody wants to home-school, and that’s not something we hope that happens come September,” Magaraci said. “But it’s been amazing to see how hard our teachers work. They have their own families to take care of, and yet they still find the time to care of their students.”
He added that if re-elected, he would like to help establish a pre-K center, complete the bond referendum and update the district’s playgrounds.
Skorski said that his main objective, if elected, would be to develop higher goals and standards for district students to better prepare them for the real world. Another of his goals is to increase partnerships with colleges to incorporate pre-college courses for high school juniors and seniors.
“With new talk about the adoption of online education as a result of Covid-19, this might be an opportunity to explore new ideas to help our students with tutoring and mentoring,” Skorski said.
Years ago, he added, he immersed himself in positive-thinking books, tapes and education, which gave him a new outlook on the best ways to approach learning. Going forward, he said, he would like to incorporate those kinds of educational resources in the classroom.
“I believe that a solid and well-rounded education is the most important gift we can give our children and future generations,” Skorski said. “We, as parents and adults, have a moral obligation to make sure that every student has the best chance to achieve their dreams and reach their potential.”
This year’s budget vote and trustee election are taking place by mail. Ballots have been mailed to residents, and must be returned by June 9.