For the past year, there has been a division in the community, with some claiming the Board of Education does not represent or listen to them. As a result, the group, North Shore Neighbors United, formed calling for transparency. They are supporting three Board of Education candidates in the upcoming election.
Scott Rudegeair, of Glen Head, moderator of at a Meet the Candidates event hosted by Neighbors United said the group is made up of parents and residents in the district who are not necessarily concerned with one issue, but rather an overriding theme: the state of the Board of Education and the school district in general.
“The people that are coming here are participating and want to share ideas, and that’s what it’s all about,” Rudegeair said. “Our strongest characteristic is we have different opinions.”
The group has had five meetings since their founding in 2021 holding discussions on a wide range of issues including: budget strategy and transparency, age-appropriate curriculum and curriculum transparency, handling of mandates, parental engagement and program fund allocations.
Those who attend the meetings live in the surrounding areas within the school district. The group has also has a Facebook presence and a website.
Gabby Mannuzza, of Glenwood Landing, the administrator for the Facebook page also helps run the website. She said the people who formed Neighbors United came together after she and others began attending more Board of Education meetings around the end of July in 2021. For Mannuzza, the main issue that inspired her involvement was the school mask mandate, which she opposed.
“There was just like a shared feeling that we weren’t really paying attention before,” Mannuzza explained. “And when we did start paying attention, we were not really happy with what we were seeing, in addition to not feeling heard.”
This has been a recurring theme this election cycle. At previous Meet the Candidates events, one organized by the Booster Club and at the district’s, several candidates highlighted their focus on improving communication and relations between the school board and the community.
“One of the reasons I’m running is because I want to be a voice for parents, the community and children,” said board candidate Anna Carfagno at the Tuesday’s event. “I know what is bothering people, what people are questioning, and I feel like I can be the voice for everyone.”
Neighbors United has endorsed three candidates: Anna Carfagno and Vanessa Grecky Marks, two candidates running for the first time, and Marianne Manning Russo, who is completing her ninth year as a trustee and hoping to be reelected.
While Carfagno and Grecky Marks could not be reached for comment, Russo said that while she is not a member of Neighbors United, she appreciates their concern and interest in improving relations with the community and wanting to feel heard by the board. However, she says this does not mean she agrees with them on every issue.
“On the mask mandate issue, I really didn’t side with them at all,” Russo said. “But I did chat with them and listen to them, and they told me they felt I was the only one willing to do that.”
Several residents of the district have taken umbrage with one event associated with the group, however. Three weeks ago, Neighbors United’s website had added a page listing complaints against the school. Some of these included claims the school was teaching Critical Race Theory, and was shaming white children for their race.
“Critical Race Theory is a radical belief that pushes the idea that America is an inherently racist country and white Americans are stained with the original sin of racism for which they can never be cleansed,” one of the bullet points on the website read.
Mannuzza disavowed these posts however, saying they had quickly been taken down. The posts had been put up by a community member who she would not name who did not let others the chance to vet the posts. The posts do not reflect the beliefs of the Neighbors United, Manuzza said.