Written by Daniel Offner Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00
On April 8, members of the Levittown Property Owners Association invited all seven candidates in the running for Island Trees School District Board of Education to a “Meet the Candidates” forum. Of the seven only four attended, and only three spoke on the dais.
According to Levittown Property Owners President Diane Kirk, members of the Island Trees School District were invited to attend the forum, but declined stating that they were going to attend their own forum on May 12.
Challenger Brian Fielding, a 1995 Island Trees High School graduate, opened the forum with the promise of more transparency.
“I am looking to make the board more transparent,” Fielding said. “I believe they are far from that.”
Amid several issues facing the school district, the challengers forum primarily focused on the proposed sale of 11.3 acres of school district property that is currently used to house the Stephen E. Karopczyc and Geneva N. Gallow schools.
Although the district plans to go back to the drawing board, school officials have continued to keep mum on the identity of the developer.
Challenger Paul Giambona has lived in Island Trees for the past 34 years, the last 20 years of which he has worked in law enforcement. From his experience, he said, while certain things should not be made public, residents shouldn’t be required to put in a Freedom of Information request for access to public information.
“Why weren’t we all involved in the process?” Giambona said.
According to Giambona, Island Trees Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy has said in the past that he would not reveal the bids because he didn’t feel it was a smart business move.
Michael Rich, a 1992 Island Trees High School graduate, will also run for school board this May. Rich said that after speaking with Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, he learned how to appropriately use executive session.
“It's a shame it takes an issue like this to get the community involved,” Rich said.
Running independently, but in support of the three challengers, Dominic Ciaramella also staked a bid for school board president. According to Ciaramella, after attending the community forum on Feb. 10, he decided to pick up petitions to run for school board president.
Following the meeting, Island Trees School Board President Kenneth Rochon said he was unable to attend the forum due to other commitments, but will be attending the upcoming League of Women’s Voters Meet the Candidates night on May 12. School Board
Trustee Pat Mahon reiterated that the LPOA was already notified that they planned to hold a separate event at the high school. School Board Trustee George Storm could not be reached for further comment, as of press time.