The race is on for two trustee seats in the East Meadow School District Board of Education. Incumbents Eileen Napolitano, who was elected to the board three years ago, and Melissa Tell, first elected to the board in 2015, are up for reelection. Their challengers are Colette DeVito and Rosalba Danielo.
The East Meadow Herald reached out to all candidates to ask how they would be an asset to the district, considering that this upcoming school year will become crucial amid the financial impact of the pandemic, as well as the beginning of a new normal.
East Meadow Herald: What inspired you to run?
Colette DeVito: I want to see some changes be made. I’d like to see better communication for the community and a better quality for our kids.
Eileen Napolitano: I think we still have more work to do. We have a very diverse and cohesive board that work well together and I think also coming out of a pandemic, we need individuals with knowledge so that we can get boots on the ground and get the school year off on a strong foot rather than having someone still on a learning curve.
Rosalba Danielo: My daughter graduated last year from W.T. Clarke High School. Granted it was a pandemic, but things need to change. It’s the same old system and things need to be updated, beginning from pre-K all the way to being a senior, helping them prepare for college. You need to build them from little until they get older and I feel like I have an opportunity to do that.
Melissa Tell: In 2014 and 2015 the East Meadow School district needed a change in leadership. I became involved in the campaign to have full day kindergarten brought to a vote by the community. Certain things that I saw happening in the district didn't sit well with me, so I decided it was worth a try.
East Meadow Herald: What skills do you bring to the table?
DeVito: I have management skills.
Napolitano: I would say that I bring a different perspective than some of the other trustees. Both of my children have graduated already. I can sometimes view things more from a community perspective, where one of the other trustees may see something and focus on a particular grade or academic.
Danielo: Being a mom. Sometimes you get these guys or ladies that have all these degrees and they forget sometimes that you need to be nurturing, you need to know what these kids actually need at a mom level.
Tell: Passion, commitment and honesty.
East Meadow Herald: What would your goals be if elected?
DeVito: I would like to see the kids get the maximum of everything, while staying in the budget. For me the communication is key. I feel that is lacking at the moment, in my personal opinion. The five goals I hope to achieve should I be fortunate to get elected is to improve communication, quality of education, budget allocation and technology, sports and arts infrastructure.
Napolitano: One of my priorities has been to ensure that we have equity among all students. That is inclusive of students who choose to go into labor rather than go onto higher education. We are seeing more students choose that direction and I still think that there is still work to be done to bridge the gap to give them resources. Another goal would be to continue to work our budget efficiently and effectively and to continue the programs that we have established with our students without an increase to taxpayers. During this pandemic, we had to be reactionary, in the moment. Another goal would be to better prepare or have an expanded plan, should a situation like this arise again.
Danielo: To improve the pre-K system. It’s very minimal and I think that needs to be helped and we need to get the teachers help and the right resources. Again, helping graduating classes get set for college. There is something in place with the guidance counselors but we need to prepare them more for when they get into college. And communication is important. I think a community needs better communication between the districts and the parents. The parents should be able to get more involved with the decision-making. Also, I would try to keep the taxes as low as they could be.
Tell: My main priority is health and safety of the student and employees of our district. One of the responsibilities of being a trustee means that you ensure that the administration of the school district follows the state and legal guidance. Most people don't understand that. Another goal is to continue bringing the best education possible to each and every student, as well as continue to be transparent as a board. I also believe in #oneeastmeadow. We are a very large district. Somehow, some way, we need to keep individuality amongst each school with the same concept and mission behind it all. We have made huge strides, but as a district we still have a long way to go. Finally, we have to remain fiscally sound.
East Meadow Herald: What is your greatest concern for the upcoming school year in regards to the pandemic?
Napolitano: We have to place an emphasis on emotional, mental and transitional support for students. In addition, we’ve had kindergartens who have had only one learning experience and that has been behind plexiglass. So we have to be prepared to have resources available for students who are struggling and adapting. We need our guidance counselors, our principals, our administrators and everyone really ready to address any situation that might come up pertaining to what a child has loss during this pandemic.
Danielo: I know the school was tied with the pandemic and they tried to do the most they could as far as the governor’s rules, but hopefully they can get these kids in full time next year from day one. Get them back to normal. These kids need to be in their surrounding, they need their friends, they need their sports.
Tell: As a world, this year has been very difficult. Society has been changed forever. We as a district need to continue to move forward and not go backwards. We have worked very hard to come this far and it would be a shame if we returned to the prior mentality.
East Meadow Herald: Why should the community elect you?
DeVito: Their kids are my kids.
Napolitano: The community knows me and knows my passion for always doing the right thing and doing the right thing for all and not some. I think the experience that I bring with my many years of being in the school system. With regards to PTA, supporting our teachers and what I’ve learned these past three years as a trustee, I will be a strong trustee going into a new year where we will rely on our strengths.
Danielo: I’m one of them. I’m a mom who had the kids start from pre-K for the two hours all the way up to high school, and I have one kid graduating college now. I’m representing them and would love to be their representative.
Tell: Being a board trustee isn't what many think it is and once they become a trustee, they are left like a deer in headlights having no clue how to handle themselves. Training is plenty but it isn't an overnight learning curve. It is important that we have one goal and that is to hit the ground running and get everything back to normal, all depending on state guidance. We are a policy making body. We are not micromanagers of the school district, nor should we ever be. I feel that what we have is amazing and with what we have been able to accomplish this year, even with the limitations set forth by the government and Section 8, we have been able to move mountains. I would love to continue to move East Meadow School District onward and upward.