When Seaford School District residents vote for Board of Education trustee on May 17, they will have four candidates to choose from in an at-large election, in which the two top vote-getters win the seats.
Incumbent Trustee Kevin Devlin is running for his second three-year term. For the past two years he has served as the board’s vice president. With Bruce Kahn stepping down, another seat opened up, and Lisa Herbert, Heather Umhafer and Ben Vogt joined the race.
Devlin, 30, a lifelong Seaford resident, noted the school district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as one of the two accomplishments he is most proud of in his term.
“We were one of the few districts in the entire state that was able to provide in-person learning for all students when most districts, even on Long Island, could only provide hybrid or online models,” he wrote in an email.
Students’ mental health was a priority, Devlin said, and he pointed to a report that State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released in April highlighting the growing health crisis in schools.
The district hired additional psychologists, Devlin said, invested in the wellness centers in the high school and middle school and created a partnership with Northwell Health.
Saying that he has gained lots of experience in the past three years, Devlin added that he wants to build on the district’s 99 percent high school graduation rate, a bond upgrade from Moody’s Financial Services that bolsters its financial standing, its expansion of academic courses, and its investments in athletics and other extracurricular programs and the new artificial-turf field.
If re-elected, he said, he aims to expand trade-career-related course offerings, and he has spoken with local labor leaders about creating a Labor Career Fair for Seaford High School students.
A 2009 graduate of Seaford High School, Devlin is U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice’s director of community outreach. He served in the Marine Corps Reserve when he was a student at Molloy College, where he earned a degree in history.
Herbert, 42, has two children attending Harbor Elementary School, is a member of the school’s PTA, is a team mom for Seaford Broncos football and is on the district’s Reopening of Schools Task Force Committee.
Being the daughter of a teacher and having school-age children, Herbert said in an email that she understands the importance of academic excellence in what she called “in an emotionally supportive environment.”
“While running for the Board of Education wasn’t something I ever saw myself doing years ago, my perspective has changed over the last few years,” she wrote, adding that last year, she volunteered for the reopening task force, and was chosen by district administration to be a member. The committee works to help the district navigate the ever-changing coronavirus regulations and state mandates.
“I’ve been advocating for parental choice, for the well being of our children, especially for their social, emotional and psychological choice, and a return to normalcy in our schools,” Herbert wrote, and added that she appreciated the committee’s collaboration and the chance to use her legal experience. She is a commercial litigator with a degree from New York Law School.
If she is elected, Herbert said, it is vital that the district uncover what she called “the educational and social gaps for each student,” and “ensure that teachers have the support, tools, materials and time necessary to correct those gaps.”
She said she would look to enhance the enrichment program and revitalize the gifted program at the elementary school level, and begin the teaching of secondary languages earlier.
Umhafer, 44, is also a lifelong Seaford resident and the owner of Downstage Dance. With three children attending district schools, she wrote in an email, “I have experienced many ups and downs over the years in education on a number of different levels. I feel my personal experiences can bring a lot to the table.”
As a dance studio owner, Umhafer said she would like to see increased opportunities for students in the performing and fine arts and aims to “fully restore pre-pandemic activities” throughout the district.
“I will also continue to fight for parental choice as we transition into the endemic stages of Covid,” she wrote, adding that fiscal responsibility is important, and parental involvement at all educational levels is key for student success.
“Our children come first. Their academic opportunities must continue to grow, along with their activities. There is no such thing as one size fits all. There must be opportunities for all our children to grow and achieve success.”
Umhafer graduated from Seaford High in 1995 and studied journalism at Quinnipiac University, graduating in 1999.
Vogt, 51, said he was motivated to run after feeling slighted when his son was not admitted to a special education program that Vogt thought his son, who’s now a freshman at the high school, was entitled to be a part of.
“I feel disenfranchised with the current district that slighted my son, and if he is falling through the cracks, others are falling through the cracks,” he said in a phone interview.
If he is elected, Vogt said, he would work to increase the district’s accountability and have administrators “stick to polices that more meet the needs” of its students. He said that students are “deserving” of the services they need.
As the executive director of development for fundraising at Hofstra University, Vogt has been instrumental in raising $77 million for the school. He holds dual master’s degrees in public policy and public administration, and is working on a doctorate in education administration.
A 16-year Seaford resident, Vogt is the immediate past grand knight of the Memorare Council 3476, Knights of Columbus and a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and is involved with the Terry Farrell Firefighter Fund, which was created after the Sept. 11 attacks.