Members of the North Shore School District met for a Meet the Candidates forum in person on April 27. The two-hour event had six of the eight candidates vying for a seat on the Board of Education present to share their opinions with residents in the high school auditorium, which was filled to roughly two-thirds of capacity. Board candidates Marianne Russo and Anna Carfagno were unable to attend the evening’s event.
The evening, hosted by the coordinating council of the North Shore PCA/PTOs, addressed a variety of topics, from concerns from students’ mental health, to the LIPA decision.
The League of Women Voters moderated the forum. “One of the important pieces of our mission is making democracy work,” Regina Goutevenier, league president, said. “This includes a lot of voter services work, and letting candidates speak directly to voters on issues that matter through forums like this.”
Michele Lamberti, the league’s moderator, received questions online, as well as in person from the community to present to the candidates.
One resident questioned the district’s responsibility to hire a more diverse faculty, alluding to Newsday’s findings of high segregation among Long Island school districts.
“I think we can only do so much to try and hire people that don’t want to work here for various reasons. If we’re not getting applications, what we need to do is make this a place where people want to work,” responded candidate Vanessa Grecky Marks said. “And unfortunately, from teachers that I know outside of North Shore, we have a reputation where they don’t all want to come here for a variety of reasons.”
That needs to change, she added.
Grecky Marks, a small business owner, entrepreneur and active member of the Sea Cliff School Parent Community Association currently serves on its executive board as vice president of events.
Greg Felice, of Sea Cliff, the father to two children, asked Grecky Marks for clarification.
During the search for a middle school principal, Grecky Marks said the members of the hiring committee did not find the candidates appealing. Other candidates, she said, were discouraged from applying because they would not get the position. “And others felt that some people in this district were dismissed unfairly, and so just didn’t bother putting their careers on the line to apply for positions within our district,” she said. “If that’s what’s happening and there’s a reputation out there that we’re hearing about, it should be noted and be addressed.”
Candidate Courtney Citko shared her own experience applying to the district as a family and consumer science teacher. The district’s reputation, she said, is that it will hire teachers for a three-year cycle only, and then let them go.
“I think it’s dangerous to start gossiping on this panel, and to start talking about hearsay,” said Lisa Cashman, also a candidate. “I can tell you there’s objective measures for this stuff.”
Cashman said that on niche.com, a site that analyzes public data to produce rankings, there were high rankings for the district in teacher satisfaction.
“I agree with Mrs. Cashman; I think it’s very dangerous to think that you can be a trustee and focus your decision making based on anecdotal hearsay,” candidate Dave Ludmar said. When he led the search for the school’s superintendent, he said he didn’t hire him for lack of applicants, but rather through thorough research of applicants.
“I’ve been in education for 30 years and I’ve never heard that statement, and I’ve been on many many, many interview committees … including the middle school principal committee,” candidate James Svendsen, said. “You want to make the process difficult so you get the best people.”
After the meeting, Greg Felice said he was happy he came. He was encouraged, he said, to see that some of the candidates were able to respond with facts to an accusation that North Shore wasn’t attracting teachers.
“I wanted to be an informed voter,” he said. “My experience with the candidates tonight left an impression.”