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East Rockaway Board of Education facing shakeup as president won't seek re-election

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The East Rockaway Board of Education is in for a major shakeup after President Keith Gamache announced that he would not seek another term, while longtime Trustee Neil Schloth said he had not yet decided if he will run again on May 19.

At the end of the board’s Feb. 11 meeting, Gamache informed attendees of his decision. “Two terms are ending this year. Mine is one of them, and I will not be running again for the board,” he said, encouraging other candidates to run for his seat. “If anybody has questions about board experience and what it’s like serving on the board, you can always contact me.”

Gamache has served on the board for six years, and has been its president for the past two. Schloth, who has spent 12 years on the board, told the Herald that he was still deciding about another run. He said he was torn because he has a great deal of experience, having spent more than a decade advocating for students and parents, but he has also contemplated stepping aside so a parent with children in the district could have a voice. Schloth also noted that he was saddened by Gamache’s decision not to run.

“I was very disappointed that Keith is stepping down,” Schloth said. “He is a very dedicated and smart person.”

During his six years as a board member, Gamache helped the district formulate its strategic plan, which focuses on achievements, opportunities, communication and technology. He also helped school administrators usher in the one-to-one tablet initiative as well as the district’s science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, or STEAM, program. He also supported the high school’s robotics club. 

Gamache is one of 16 honorees set to reeive the Nassau BOCES Education Partner Award at a gala on March 31. The award recognizes individuals who have made a substantial impact on public education in Nassau County. 

Gamache earned a bachelor’s in education from New York University, a master’s in fine arts from Johnson State College in Vermont and an administrative certificate from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He was raised in Massachusetts, but later moved to Long Island. He has been an art teacher at South Side High School in Rockville Centre for more than two decades.

He was not available to comment further.

Over his 12 years on the board, Schloth has worked to involve parents in their children’s schools. He is also a volunteer firefighter with the East Rockaway Fire Department, and an active member of its fire prevention program, for which he visits schools to educate students about fire safety. He is also involved with St. Raymond’s Parish, and works as a court clerk at Nassau County District Court.

Though Schloth and Gamache each ran unopposed and were re-elected to three-year terms in 2017, there have been two straight contested races in the years since, and three new faces have joined the five-member board in that time.

In 2018, Dom Vulpis defeated Theresa Devlin to win the vacated seat of John Giannotti Jr., who had served on the board since 2012. Vulpis left the district in June 2017 after serving more than two decades as its athletic director. He now works as the assistant to the executive director of Section VIII athletics in Garden City.

Last spring, Kristen O’Hagan and Peter McNally joined the board after defeating fellow challenger Devlin and incumbent Kristin Ochtera, who had served on the board for nine years before the election. There were three challengers in the race, because Trustee Patricia Nicoletti did not run for re-election and opted to retire. O’Hagan, a Malverne High School English teacher, and McNally, a technology teacher at Lynbrook North and South middle schools, ran jointly for the board and won.

In the May 19 election, voters will elect two candidates for three-year board terms, which will begin on July 1. Board candidates run at large. Petitions to run must be filed with district clerk Tina Fazi by April 20, and are available in her office. At press time, Fazi said, no petitions had been requested or submitted.

Gamache told attendees of the Feb. 11 meeting that he was pleased with all the board accomplished during his time on it. “It’s been six wonderful years,” he said, “and I thank everybody who’s come here.”