One contested trustee race in Lawrence School District


Familiar faces abound in the Lawrence Board of Education trustee race as Dr. David Sussman, trying for his 10th three-year term and Michael Hatten, going for his third consecutive term are running unopposed, and Tova Plaut, seeking a third term, is being challenged by Asher Matathias, a candidate in the past six elections.

Plaut, 48, a Cedarhurst resident, is the director of a private nursery school in Commack. She said that she “cares deeply about the success of the students” and “as an educator makes meaningful contributions.”

Keeping tax increases down, expanding STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and vocational programs to help ensure students are work ready are part of her board resume.

“The education of all the students, maintaining programming and finding ways to enhance programming,” Plaut said are her priorities, along with improving the high school graduation rate and transparency.

Matathias, 75, from Woodmere, has been a constant present at board meetings over the last several years. Previously at odds with school district officials and the local media, Matathias has toned done his rhetoric and been more conciliatory.

He continues to push for more “open-ended debate” on vital issues and wants the district to adopt the at-large system, where the top vote-getters win instead of what he calls the “anachronistic style, having to target a particular incumbent.”

A teacher, who has taught at St. John’s University and Lawrence High School, Matathias wants to know, “how do we express respect and appreciation, even gratitude for the multifaceted work performed by our professional staff (the teachers), while wantonly denying them a new, multiyear labor contract?” Lawrence teachers last new contract expired in 2011.

He supports the school and library budgets, and believes collaboration will aid in achieving more for the district. “And in our toxic political environment, let’s aspire to interracial and inter-ethnic dialogue and cooperation; to learn, while combating intolerance and bigotry.,” he said.

Hatten, 74, the president of Far Rockaway-based Global Business Institute, a vocational training school, was also on the board from 2006 to 2009. As a professional educator for 49 years, he believes retaining the board’s composition helps serve the community.

“As a board we hired professional educators who have the ability to do their job and we have given them the necessary tools,” the Cedarhurst resident said, adding that all the faculty is at the “top of the educational ladder and student outcomes are nothing short of spectacular.” Hatten said that when students remain in district schools they graduate high school.

Saying he wants a resolution to the stalemate over the teacher’s campaign for a new contract, he trusts in the district negotiating team. In response to changes in district demographics, he said: “Our district is functioning an incredible high level. We serve a diverse population of students and we are giving them the best opportunity for success.” Hatten pointed to the Universal Pre-K program that offers students an educational start.

Sussman, 69, a urologist, lives in Lawrence and is completing his 24th year on the board. “The teacher’s contract and how we are moving ahead, giving the kids Chrome books and responding to the demographic challenge,” are the reasons for running again, he said.

He said he wants the next teacher’s contract to, “reflect the needs of the kids and the needs of the faculty,” saying “in the previous contract that was not addressed.”

The priority going forward Sussman said, is doing more to prepare student for good jobs that do not require a college education, more emphasis on nutrition and healthier lifestyles and an increase in computer driven teaching.