Written by Jaime L. Tomeo Thursday, 14 May 2009 16:26
There is one incumbent and three challengers running for two available trustee positions on the Levittown Board of Education. The incumbent, Hector Santiago, is vying against Ed Powers, Kevin Regan and former Trustee Diane Shapiro. Trustee John Garvey is not seeking re-election.
The positions are for a three-year term and are at large. The budget election and trustee vote will be held on Tuesday, May 19 from noon to 9 p.m. at several polling places in Levittown. Visit www.levittownschools.com to view your polling place.
All candidates were asked a series of questions. Their answers appear in alphabetical order.
A 17-year resident of Levittown, Ed Powers is currently employed as a vice president of financial planning at Cablevision, where, he says, he administers $1 billion budgets. Powers has a BA from Hofstra University.
Powers has been a member of the Levittown Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee for the past three years, including serving as chairman this past year, member of the Levittown Property Owners Association, Friends of the Levittown Public Library, Levittown Community Council, Levittown Historical Society, and a family member of the Summit Lane PTA. As time permits, Powers also helps out with his son’s Levittown West Tee Ball Little League team.
According to Powers, he is seeking a spot on the board to deliver on three main objectives.
“My first objective is to reduce wasteful spending and duplicity,” he continued. “The board did excellent work drilling into expenditures this year, but many of them admit, and I agree, more needs to be done. As a member of the board, I will cull through every line item to find whatever can be done to reduce the cost of running the schools. Secondly, I will seek to institute a process whereby every decision the board makes clearly and openly evaluates the impact on the three constituencies the board’s decisions affect the students, the staff and the taxpayers. Often times decisions are made with the goal of resolving an issue for one group, but the resulting solution negatively impacts one or both of the others. More often than not, the taxpayers are the group most negatively impacted. As a board member, I will look to implement a formalized process to assure each financial decision evaluates the impact on all of these groups. Lastly, I aim to make the districts’ budget process easier to review and more open to the public to understand and evaluate. Leveraging my 15 years of experience managing and compiling budgets, I look to work with the administration to create a group of reports that will enable a much faster, yet more thorough review of the financial drivers.”
Powers cited “increasing costs resulting in ever growing property taxes” as the most important issue facing the Levittown School District.
“This is a very difficult situation,” he added. “We need to try to balance improving educational quality, but making the community affordable for everyone including low income families with children in school and senior citizens who built the community we are so grateful to have. It is a difficult challenge to reduce or contain costs since school budgets are driven by salary expense, which is a contractual obligation. If elected, I look to drive tighter adherence to the terms of all employment contracts for educators and administrators.”
If elected, Powers said he has specific suggestions to help facilitate the required changes.
“My suggestions are to review adherence of the agreed terms or all service and employment contracts, centralize ordering, distribution and inventory of materials and supplies for the district, cap the amount of balance transfers to or from any account to the lesser of 5 percent per annum or $1,000 to eliminate the excessive over-budgeting in various areas, re-audit the actual performance of vocational education after this year to track performance against the reduced budget and establish one, three and five-year quantitative performance goals for all directors and above, to create a glide-path to increased academic performance.”
Kevin Regan is a 38-year resident of Levittown and currently works as the deputy commissioner in the engineering department of the Town of Hempstead. He is also a retired police detective for the New York City Police Department. Regan obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration from St. John’s University and a master of arts degree in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of the City of New York. A married father of three adult children, Regan is actively involved in the community. He has been the executive director of the Levittown/Island Trees Youth Council for approximately 25 years, served as past president of the Levittown Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Levittown Kiwanis Club and past lieutenant governor of New York District of Kiwanis. Regan also served as financial director for Levittown’s 50th Anniversary as well as co-chair of the 60th anniversary celebration. Currently the treasurer for the Levittown School District Dollars for Scholars, Regan is also president of the Levittown Business Corridor Improvement Association.
Regan said he is seeking election to the board “to ensure that our educational standards remain high and will continue to improve.”
“I am also concerned that our residents can continue to afford to live here,” he added. “I believe our most important concern is that our children receive the best education we can provide, it is the most important thing a community can do for its residents. If elected I will do the best I can to see that no child is left behind, our standards continue to remain high and that the taxpayers interest will be protected.”
An 18-year Levittown resident, current board trustee Hector Santiago is a married father of two children. He is a loss control area manager/assistant vice president with a BS in Community & Human Services and an MBA in Risk Management.
Santiago’s involvement in community activities and organizations include member and co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee, Summit Lane PTA member, including holding executive positions and serving on various committees, PTA Honorary Life Recipient 2009, Cub Scout Den Leader Pack 318, Levittown West Little League Baseball coach and a Nassau County Community Emergency Response Team member.
Santiago, who was a board appointee, said he is seeking re-election because he is “hoping to continue helping all stakeholders of the community enjoy a quality of life.”
He listed the “economy, costs of education and communication between all stakeholders” as current issues facing the district.
“Communication, this is an area the district must continue to get better at communication between all stakeholders,” he added. “The administration must continue to speak with all stakeholders and brainstorm new ideas. They must think out of the box.” This year the board had student liaisons which was very helpful.”
During his tenure on the board, Santiago said he is proud of many accomplishments.
“The first is a reduction in operating expenses of $6.1 million,” he said. “Another one is not accepting of the initial goals of the superintendent. We need to ensure the leader of our district continues to lead.”
Diane Shapiro has lived in Wantagh for over 35 years. She works as a secretary and has an AAS in Dental Hygiene, a BA in education and a Masters in Liberal Studies. A mother of two sons, Shapiro is a former board member who lost her seat in the 2008. She has served on PTA committees and held executive positions, Salk MacArthur Legislation and other committee chairs, Legislative Network for School Boards, Nassau Region Board-Legislation Network, SEPTA committee chair, Parent Center-Charter Member, Teacher Center Representative, Senior Citizen Prom, Dollars for Scholars and Community Council charter member, past Kiwanis member, 50th anniversary co-chair publicity and the Levittown 2000 Task Force Education chair.
Shapiro said she thinks the most important issue facing the school district is “to maintain our high student achievement levels that we have worked so hard to attain.”
“We have to find a way to balance the cost of quality education with the ability of our residents to pay for it,” she added. “We need quality education at an affordable price. We must work together to reduce spending and develop strategies to contain costs. The state needs to reassess its formula for state aid and develop a more equitable system. As a community we must come together to form a committee to pressure the elected officials to ensure that more revenue is received from the state to offset the tax burden. We need to create positive feelings in the community about our district and work together to meet our children’s needs and our community’s needs.”
Shapiro also mentioned her pride for Levittown students.
“Over the past 20 years, measures of educational quality such as enrollments in Regents level courses, AP level courses, and rates of college attendance have risen dramatically,” she added. “I am very proud to have initiated the Senior Citizen Prom and have it continue for 17 years. I am proud to see that our buildings are in great shape due to past bond issues.”