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Three vie for East Meadow Board of Ed. seats in first at-large race in decades


East Meadow voters will elect three candidates to the Board of Education in its first at-large race in decades, which is uncontested.

Last year, district voters passed Proposition Three of the 2018-19 budget, which altered the board election process. Under the old voting system, new candidates named the incumbents they wanted to challenge. The new method, at-large voting, pits all candidates against one another for all open seats.

Trustees Joe Parisi and Marcee Rubinstein are vacating their seats, and board President Matthew Melnick is up for re-election. Dr. Jodi Luce and Allyson Benowitz are vying to fill the two empty seats.

Matthew Melnick

Melnick, 41, was elected to the board in 2016, was its vice president in 2017 and became its president last year. He and his wife have three children in East Meadow schools and have lived in the community for 11 years.

“Each year as a board member, I have increased my knowledge base,” Melnick said. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to continue learning and serving the community.”

Melnick, a real estate attorney, is a partner at Romer Debbas LLP, a Manhattan law firm. He earned an undergraduate degree in accounting from the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a law degree from Hofstra University. He is a member of the New York and Connecticut bar associations, a recipient of the Super Lawyers Rising Stars Recognition award for 2015 through 2018 and a licensed continuing education instructor for real estate professionals. He is also member of the district’s 10 PTA units, and is active in the East Meadow Jewish Center.

“I believe that over the last few years, the board has made strides to stabilize the district and put us on a positive path,” Melnick said, citing the board’s hiring of Superintendent Kenneth Card in April 2017.

He added that he was proud of the district’s accomplishments during his tenure, including the naming of W.T. Clarke High School as a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School by the New York State Education Department for its overall academic performance.

Another achievement Melnick cited was the passage of the district’s first capital reserve fund last year, which is financing needed repairs and upgrades at all of the district’s buildings and athletic fields.

His goals for the coming year include increasing educational opportunities in and out of the classroom, while “making sure that the board, as fiduciaries, is acting in the best interest of our taxpaying community.”

Dr. Jodi Luce

Luce, 45, has lived in East Meadow for 16 years with her husband. Her son, Joshua, 14, is a student at Woodland Middle School and her daughter, Sophie, 9, is a student at Barnum Woods Elementary.

Luce has been a school and clinical psychologist in Nassau County for 18 years. She earned degrees in music/vocal performance and psychology from Ithaca College, and a doctorate in school and clinical/child psychology from Pace University in Manhattan.

She was a founding member of East Meadow Parents for Full Day Kindergarten, which worked with the board and district officials to create the district’s full-day kindergarten program in 2015-16. Its funding was included in the budget voters had approved the previous spring.

Luce is a member of her local synagogue, and both of her children have played in East Meadow’s Police Activity League lacrosse and are active participants in community events. She is a member of East Meadow’s PTA and is a strong supporter of the standardized test opt-out movement.

“I want to continue to make an impact on my community,” Luce said. “I believe strongly in transparency, and working with the community to provide the best for our students while keeping the needs of the taxpayers in mind.

She looks forward to helping the board improve district infrastructure, facilities and general and special-education programs, she said, “making sure that all of our schools continue to be among the top in our state.”

Allyson Benowitz

Benowitz, 53, is a 17-year resident of Salisbury. She and her husband have a son, Tyler, 15, who is a freshman at W.T. Clarke High School, and twin 10-year-old sons, William and Matthew, who are fifth-graders at Meadowbrook Elementary.

A school district monitor, Benowitz earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Nassau Community College. For four years, she was president of Meadowbrook Elementary’s PTA, and she is the incoming treasurer of W.T. Clarke’s PTA.

“Four years as PTA president has given me a lot of experience with dealing with administration as well as parents,” Benowitz said. “This is key to being a good board member — to be able to hear and listen firsthand to what’s going on in our schools and what the needs are.”

Benowitz has been a den leader for Cub Scouts Troop 362 for 10 years, and was its treasurer for three years before that.

Increasing mental health education and awareness is a priority of hers, along with continuing to introduce advanced technology and improving district athletic fields. “I’m running for the Board of Education because I want to continue the work that the board has started in the past few years,” she said. “I love the East Meadow School District. I moved here for the school district.”