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Two vying for Long Beach Board of Education seat

Longtime teacher challenges an incumbent

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A longtime educator has joined this year’s Long Beach school board race, challenging an incumbent.

Long Beach resident Anne Conway, co-president of the Middle School Parent Teachers Association, will face incumbent Perry Bodnar, a former Long Beach High School teacher, as he finishes his first term.

Residents will vote on May 21 for their preferred candidates as well as the proposed $142 million budget for the 2019-20 school year.

Bodnar, who was elected in 2016, is seeking re-election with a platform that focuses on continuing his accomplishments on the board, including maintaining and expanding programs, courses and other opportunities for students and families.

His challenger, Conway, who has been teaching for more than 20 years and now works in Lynbrook, said that her main goal would be to increase transparency with the public and prioritize saving money wherever possible.

The Central Council PTA will host a Candidates Forum on May 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Lindell Elementary School, at 601 Lindell Blvd., to give community members the opportunity to ask school and library board candidates questions.

Bodnar, who is finishing a three-year term, noted the board’s accomplishments during his time as a trustee, including staying below the tax cap each year while expanding programs, courses and other opportunities for students, as well as producing a fiscally responsible budget with the help of district administrators. He also said that he and the board increased support for non-English-speaking students, added mental health services, focused on developing students’ vocational skills (including planning a culinary arts center), worked to provide equal access for all students and increased security measures district-wide.

“We’re beginning to shift the paradigm a little to make sure all students have equal access and are equally included,” Bodnar said. “I’m cognizant of the mental health needs of the community . . . and we’re helping students develop better coping skills.”

Bodnar, who has worked in the district for more than 30 years, said that he and his fellow trustees are working to reduce the district’s energy footprint by implementing solar panels and other green-energy tools that will reduce energy costs, and recently sought estimates for air-conditioning options after parents shared concerns at school board meetings. The board has also proposed that the district cover the costs of field trips, added assistant coaches for several sports teams, and worked to upgrade auditorium sound systems to enhance student performances.

“Another area that’s important is security,” Bodnar said. “We’ve done a lot of work — all of our buildings have single-point entry. Nobody gets in without seeing a guard and having a photo taken — we’ve increased security cameras.”

He also noted that the board and administrators are working with the Town of Hempstead to redesign the entrances to the Lido and high school complexes to make them safer and more accessible.

Conway, who said she has been an active parent for many years and regularly attends school board meetings, said she would add an important perspective to the board as a mother of students in the middle and high schools in the district.

“I know that I can make a positive difference in our education system and in our community,” she said. “I understand how important it is for the district to be fiscally responsible and have discipline. We have seniors who want to stay here and are finding it very difficult because of how high the taxes are. I worked in other districts, and I know certain places where we can be more fiscally disciplined and prioritize.”

Conway said that one of her main goals would be to increase transparency and ensure that the community would be aware of programs the district offers. She said she would ensure that “the community understands the different programs the schools are involved with, such as the rec program. . . . It would be much more beneficial to our community if we knew more about it.”

She commended the district for adding assistant coaches for some of the teams and expanding the athletics program.

“I think when you give children something to involve themselves with,” she said, “it helps with mental health issues we’re seeing these days.”

Conway said she believed the proposed budget was a responsible one, but disagreed with the addition of a new K-12 director. “We don’t need another administrator,” she said.

“Whenever you look at your money, there’s always ways you could save more,” Conway said. “When you look at a school district, a budget should tell a story of how we’re helping our students be successful, and that’s a goal — to make sure we have that vision. We want them to be successful in our schools socially, and when they go off to college.”

She also said she aimed to make the community aware of how the federal government disperses funds and how the state spends tax dollars. “It’s just not fair to the average taxpayer that so much money is being taken away from public schools,” she said.

Conway added that she believed the district should research safety measures to ensure that the schools are following the latest and safest protocols for students and faculty, and that she would prioritize installing air conditioning systems.

“Some of the windows can’t be opened because of safety reasons,” she said. “We have to make the environment comfortable for students to learn in. When the classroom is too hot, you can’t really think.”

She also commended the district for focusing on equity among students, as well as vocational training and career readiness programs for students who are less interested in academics and more interested in hands-on training.

The Board of Education will hold a budget hearing on Thursday, at 7:30 p.m., at the Long Beach Middle School, 239 Lido Blvd.