After 25 years, Oyster Bay East Norwich School District Board of Education member Robin Dando has decided not to seek reelection. Candidates Michael Lacapria and Darren Gerbosi are hoping to fill Dando’s seat.
A mother of two daughters who graduated from the district in 2003 and 2007, Dando said she decided to run for the school board in 1995 after attending countless school board meetings and work sections. “I met a lot of nice people along the way,” she added.
When asked what advice she has for the board and the new trustee, she said simply, “To always do the right thing and put the children first.”
This election residents will receive ballots in the mail. Completed ballots must be mailed back and received by the district clerk no later than 5 p.m. on June 9 in order to be counted.
Oyster Bay Guardian: What inspired you to run?
Darren Gerbosi: I’m constantly volunteering my time in Oyster Bay since 2004 when I moved here, so in the last 16 years I’ve done a litany of volunteer work. I’m the president of the Little League and currently a vice president of the elementary PTA. I’m just very actively involved with my kid’s education. My oldest is 21 and my youngest is 10, so I’ve seen them go through the schools and what is missing and what they need. What inspired me to run was I wanted to continue volunteering at the highest level and I think there’s some significant curriculum changes that I’d like to see based on what I do for a living.
Michael Lacapria: We have three kids; a 10-year-old, an eight-year-old and a three-year-old, so I’m invested in the school district and I’m very interested in doing what I can to help the community.
Oyster Bay Guardian: What changes would you like to bring to the district?
Darren Gerbosi: I see a very small percentage of the population going [to the Board of Education meetings], and I always wondered why. Then you realize that people have jobs and daycare issues and they can’t always just trek to the high school for three hours on a given Tuesday night. So, I would love to see kind of a virtual meeting . . . be able to watch a board meeting from your home, be able to ask questions.
I think it’s a scary time and I believe that it’s critical that all decisions with economic terms in play should be taken very seriously. I’m a data driven person and I’d like to send out questionnaires and get data and make decisions based on that data as opposed to guesswork.
I’d also like to see an increase of science, technology, engineering and mathematics instruction, along with foreign language education, for the younger grades.
Michael Lacapria: There’s six components of my platform — cost management and stakeholder accountability, proper transition from distance learning to the classroom, student and teacher safety, smaller classroom sizes and an enhanced profile of the school district.
One of the key things that has been a crusade of mine over the last couple of years was to expand bus service. Bus service in Oyster Bay, as far as ranking the 10 neighboring school districts, was dead as far as the availability for students. I took it upon myself, along with other concerned citizens, to lobby the board and provide data and analysis to show that we are an outlier and we need bussing due to the child safety risk associated with not having a bus and also the economic hardship, when you think about daycare and transportation costs, for our hardworking families. So that was a key initiative of mine the last couple of years and it is going up for budget vote this upcoming budget.
Oyster Bay Guardian: In terms of professional experience, what can you bring to the table?
Darren Gerbosi: I’m watching my little ones now at Vernon [and Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School] and they receive only 45 minutes in tech education once every six school days, same with science. Being that I do that for a living, I’m in this field and I see how successful it is going. Seeing how technology is helping communicate and transact during this pandemic, I think it needs way more focus.
Michael Lacapria: In these uncertain economic times, the district needs a person with financial expertise. The decisions that we make over the next two years will have a long-term impact on our school district as well as our town.
Oyster Bay Guardian: In what ways would you help the district and the community move forward in the pandemic’s new reality?
Darren Gerbosi: We don’t know if our kids will go back to school or what that would look like. We don’t know how much money we’ll spend on additional bussing to space kids out or additional cleanings of schools. I’d be prepared to deal with anything. I’ve suggested to the board on multiple occasions to start a reopening committee.
Michael Lacapria: We’ve all been dealing with this distanced learning. Teachers have been doing a phenomenal job. [But] it’s critical that we get our kids back in the classroom because that is the best way to learn. With that, it’s very important that we transition properly, that we do it properly where we don’t find ourselves in the same situation we are now, where everybody has to be essentially self-quarantined. We need to listen to all respective authorities.
Oyster Bay Guardian: Do you think you will be able to work effectively as a team with the other board members?
Darren Gerbosi: I think the current board is filled with some very intelligent people. There’s a CPA, there’s two attorneys, the head of HR, a PhD, an educator . . . I plan to bring in my sales and technology background and I think it would compliment the board very well. I’ve been on teams at work and played sports my whole life, even in college, so working as a team comes natural for me.
Michael Lacapria: The whole reason why I’m doing this is because I want to help the children in our community. As far as collaboration, I’ll go back to the school bus initiative. It took a number of folks in the community. We collaborated together on the matter and then separately we then collaborated with the board on figuring out what the best methods were to actually evaluate the situation.
To hear more from the candidates, watch “Meet the Candidates Night-OBEN Schools BOE Election” on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToTzCOI9IuA&t=1s.