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Meet West Hempstead’s Board of Education candidates


Three candidates are running for two open Board of Education seats in the West Hempstead School District’s May 11 election. The Herald sent brief questionnaires to the candidates, and their answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Incumbent Andrea Shinsato is running for re-election, and is being challenged by Barbara Hafner. Shinsato, the board’s vice president, said she was running again with the hope of pushing for more collaborative efforts between the district and colleges and universities. She said she would specifically like to focus on mental health awareness and strengthening the district’s partnerships with Syracuse University, Adelphi University and Nassau Community College.

“I believe that we need to continue to push our expectations and challenge our students and teachers to reach out of their comfort zones,” Shinsato said. “By continuing to focus on a desire to improve our academic standings and opportunities, the district can keep up the forward momentum we started a few years ago.”

Shinsato also said she was excited to help the district establish a pre-kindergarten center at the Chestnut Street School, with construction expected to start this month. She noted that, if re-elected, she would be the only trustee with children who attend district schools.

“The current board is made up of a diverse representation of our community,” Shinsato said. “If I were not re-elected, there would be no parent representation on the school board. I believe this representation is important because as a parent, my children and I are directly affected by the decisions made by the Board of Education.”

A retired teacher who worked in the West Hempstead School District for 25 years, Hafner said she chose to run because she believes that the voices of parents, teachers and district residents are not being heard.

“I believe I can learn something new every day, and I believe in asking questions,” she said. “I hear questions about some of the practices of our district, yet I do not hear the members of the Board of Education questioning those practices.”

Hafner, who declined to give her age, said she would aim to improve accountability, communication and transparency in the district if elected. She said she also hoped to promote more community involvement throughout the year, and not just during budget season.

“Years ago, we had a Strategic Planning Committee where the entire community was invited to participate in the planning and vision of our school district,” Hafner recalled. “Many people actively participated in school planning. We’re a diverse community. I would like to embrace our diversity and bring people together to learn and grow from each other. Community involvement is the key to successful schools.”

Candidate Kurt Rockensies is running unopposed for the seat of Trustee Tony Katrakazis, who chose not to seek re-election. Rockensies, the deputy commissioner of occupational resources for the Town of Hempstead, said that his experience in managing federal grants and budgets would be an asset to the board.

“Some of the best decisions I made when I attended West Hempstead [High School] were taking business courses that earned college credits,” Rockensies said. “I want to make sure students in our district get the most from our schools.”

This year’s budget vote and trustee election are taking place at West Hempstead Middle School, at 450 Nassau Blvd., on May 11 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.