Meet the 2024 candidates for Elmont’s education board


The Elmont elementary school district is preparing for its upcoming school budget vote and education board elections on May 21.

The district is comprised of six elementary schools: Dutch Broadway School, Alden Terrace School, Clara H. Carlson School, Covert Avenue School, Gotham Avenue School and Stewart Manor School.

Three seats are up for election this year: trustee Sharon Earley Davis’ seat, President Nancy Garlick’s seat and Michael Cantara’s seat, which is currently held by trustee Tania Lawes. The candidates include Rashal Mahamud, Kathleen Murtagh, Dwayne Palmer, Nancy Garlick, Fatima Bhalli, Lynette Battle, Tania Lawes, Trecia Wong and Aysha Akter. Earley Davis will not be running for her seat.

Additionally, one seat on the Elmont Memorial Library Board is up for grabs on the ballot. The candidates are incumbent Natasha Warburton-Welch and newcomer Saira Chaudhry.

Here is a brief synopsis of each of the candidates:

Rashal Mahamud

Mahamud has lived in Elmont for the past 8 years. He was attracted to the neighborhood because of the “vibrant community and excellent schools.” He has two children in the school district.

He is a professional engineer who has worked for Con Edison, PSEG and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He has been involved with leadership and community initiatives with PSEG.

“I bring leadership and management skills that are very transferable,” he said.

He feels he can bring his own leadership skills to the board. He was an active member in his community growing up in Brooklyn as a youth leader.

As a parent in the community, he has seen neighbors frustrated with the education board in recent years. He believes it is important to increase transparency and communication between the community and the board to rebuild trust. If elected, he would like to focus on recovering from the learning loss sustained during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He is running for the seat held by Earley Davis.

Dwayne Palmer

Palmer has lived in Elmont for the past 28 years. Three of his children and two of his grandchildren have attended school in the district.

He has coached basketball, baseball and soccer leagues in the community. He has been a strong advocate for the repair of the Elmont water tower and is involved with PTAs in the community.

He spent eight years in the Marine Corps. and was activated for active duty during Desert Storm. He joined the New York City Police Department in 1989 until he retired in 2019. Over the last 10 years with the NYPD he worked in the school safety division, focusing on issues like bullying, social media and conflict resolution. For the last three years of his tenure, he commanded a school safety counterterrorism unit that addressed any threats made to the city’s school system.

Palmer believes that “education is everything,” and hopes to bring an increased transparency to the education board if elected. He is a strong proponent of accountability, and said that he would hold others accountable to the best of his ability if elected.

He is running for the seat held by Earley Davis.

Fatima Bhalli

Bhalli has lived in Elmont for the past 18 years. She considers herself a proactive member of the community, working as a tutor, organizing teach-ins with local representatives and participating in youth programs.

She is a college senior pursuing dual degrees in biology and politics, economics and law. Bhalli was vice president and president of two large student organizations and feels she has developed a sense of responsibility and accountability.

As a firm believer in the potential of all students, she feels that the community has a duty to nurture this potential, regardless of individual background, experience or circumstance.

If elected, Bhalli said she will work with fellow board members to ensure transparency, adaptability to community needs and inclusivity of all voices.

She would like to implement initiatives such as professional growth and development programs, mental health counseling and support, and facility modernization. Additionally, she would like to collaborate with local businesses to see what opportunities there are for young scholars.

She is running for Garlick’s seat.

Lynette Battle

Battle has lived in North Valley Stream, a neighborhood in the school district, since 2005. Her son is a senior at Elmont Memorial High School and is a product of the school district.

She has been president of the Elmont Memorial PTA for the past two years where she advocates for all students and parents in the community. In this role, she also teaches students and parents how to advocate for themselves. She has also been president of Alden Terrace PTA.

Professionally, she has a certification in nonprofit management and is also a certified meeting and events planner. She does a lot of board training and development, works with small businesses and educates people on how they can get involved with philanthropy.

She feels there is room for improvement on the board and believes she can make a positive impact with her skills. She feels that room can be made for neighbors to better advocate for themselves with the board.

“I want to be able to help the school board as we look to do better and be better for the community in which we serve,” she said.

If elected, she would like to introduce a gifted program to the district.

She is running for Garlick’s seat.

Tania Lawes

Lawes currently holds Cantara’s seat, which she was appointed to in December 2023. She has lived in Elmont for 45 years and went through the school district herself. Her two children are also products of the district’s education.

She sat on the library board for five years between 2006 and 2011, serving as president for two years during that period before she stepped down from the board.

Lawes considers herself a voice of reason and wants to get back to supporting the scholars of Elmont to ensure their success. She believes she has the skills to do so.

Professionally, she has a diverse background — working with the foster system, senators and after school programs. She has worked with the New York Islanders for the past five years. Her current title is director of external affairs and community engagement.

A main concern of hers is finding leadership for the district that will support its students.

“We have to be able to give our students and our staff everything that they need in order for everyone to be successful,” she said.

She is running for the seat she currently holds.

Trecia Wong

Wong is a lifelong resident of Elmont. Her two children have gone through the school systems in the community and is a graduate of Elmont Memorial herself.

She taught math in the Sewanhaka school district between 2000 and 2003, and has been an educator for 26 years across various Long Island school districts. She has been the mathematics coordinator in the Lindenhurst school district for the past 12 years and has worked with a diverse group of students in grades k-12 throughout her career.

She feels that the current board does not represent the district’s values and believes that it would be good to have a k-12 educator’s perspective on the board.

“I would love to partner with all of the different heads of the unions to hear their concerns and what we can improve upon,” Wong said.

If elected, she’d like to livestream board meetings and allow neighbors to submit questions in real time online so that more people have access to the board.

Issues Wong would like to focus on include holding New York Arena Partners accountable for promises made regarding the Belmont Park Redevelopment Project and bringing a wholistic curriculum overview to the district.

Wong is running for the seat currently held by Lawes.

Aysha Akter

Akter has lived in Elmont for nine years and decided to settle down here because of the diverse community and good school system. Two of her children have attended school in Elmont, with her youngest slotted to start kindergarten soon.

She is involved in the PTA and is on the school advisory board for Covert Avenue. She volunteers at her local place of worship, participates in community election campaigns, and provides guidance to new and immigrant parents regarding educational matters.

Akter has spent the last decade gaining experience in effective communication through her transformative technology career. She believes parents are stakeholders in the governance of their school boards, and feels that feedback is crucial to its successful operation.

She would like to implement specialized classes, such as enrichment programs, for gifted children if elected. She also feels that community feedback is important, and said she will actively seek input from parents to identify areas where there is room for improvement.

Another item she would like to focus on is increasing funding for school trips. She believes these are experiences that play a pivotal role in a child’s education.

Akter is running for the seat currently held by Lawes.

Garlick and Murtagh did not respond to the Herald’s request for comment regarding the education board elections.

Garlick’s children grew up in Elmont. She previously told the Herald that she has “always helped the children in (her) community.” She was chosen to be education board president in July.

To learn more about Mahamud, Palmer, Bhalli, Battle, Lawes, Wong and Akter, community members are invited to join them in a Meet the Candidates Night at Elmont Memorial Library on May 16 at 7 p.m. Neighbors can also learn more about library board candidates Warburton-Welch and Chaudhry at this event.