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Four Candidates Vie for Two Seats on the OB-EN BOE

The Oyster Bay-East Norwich Board of Education has adopted a budget of $47,367,428 representing a budget-to-budget increase of 3.65 percent. The actual tax levy increase is 2.80 percent after revenues are used to reduce the amount needed to be raised.

There are four candidates running for two seats on the board. They are Dr. Michael Castellano, Dolores Greico, James Mattel and Rod Olivero. Each was asked to send a bio and answer four questions on their candidacy. There were no size limitations and therefore they are of unequal length. Ms. Grieco, the incumbent, added detailed information for readers.

Monday evening, May 11, was the Meet the Candidates night in the OB-EN auditorium, after the newspaper is finished, and because the next issue of the Enterprise Pilot comes out on May 21, coverage of that evening would not be in the newspaper until after the election which takes place on May 19 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Therefore, the following information presents the candidates for your consideration. Further budget information appears in the board of education story on Page 3.

Please meet the candidates below. They submitted the following bios and answers to questions.

 

Michael Castellano

We have lived in Oyster Bay since 2000. My wife, Richelli and I have three children: Francesca 6, Dante 4, and Quentin 3.

I am a general surgeon, affiliated with St Vincent’s Medical Center in Manhattan. I have been in private practice for 14 years.

I spent five years as a surgeon in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Major. I am a professor at Hunter College instructing nurse practitioner students.

In the past I have been a member of Big Brothers and have been involved with fundraisers for Friends of the Bay.

I also helped organize and participate in medical missions to the Philippines.

In my opinion, I have a wide range of experiences and talents that makes me well qualified to serve and contribute to the School Board.


1. Why are you running for a seat on the board?

I have always been involved in the community. I have volunteered for medical missions in the Philippines, I have worked with Big Brothers, so now I would like to get involved more on a local level. While there are many worthwhile areas one can contribute to, I feel the most important and rewarding is to work for the School Board. I have three children who will soon be entering the school system, so I have a strong interest in maintaining the quality of the education and be part of the decision making for any future changes that may be made in the school budget.


2. How do you feel about the Superintendent’s raise?

The Superintendent has done a fine job who is clearly respected and admired by the faculty. However, how can any raise, especially one that was given retroactively, be considered when we are in a unique economic crisis. I think many in the community are asking the question, why and why now? There are many people who have lost jobs, have lost retirement savings who can not understand the rationale for this action by the board. The board must be transparent and be more cognizant of the concerns of all the taxpayers.


3. What is your best asset for serving on the board?

I have had a unique set of experiences that prepare me for work on the board. I help teach and train medical students, nurse practitioner students, and young surgeons. I have worked with similar groups organizing and planning the development of wound centers. I also run my private practice which includes budgeting, scheduling, and hiring of personnel.


4. What knowledge do you have of the time commitment to be a good board member?

I have spoken to past board of education members and current ones and fully understand the time commitment required to be a good and productive member of the board. Luckily, I am able to set my own schedule and my wife Richelli feels this is important enough to handle the extra work load with the kids.

 

Dolores Grieco

I was born and raised on Long Island and graduated from SUNY Cortland with a BS in physical education and health. I earned my MS at Hofstra University in elementary education. After college, I taught at various schools in Nassau County, taking periodic leaves as I raised my family.

While living on the South Shore, I was one of the founders of a cooperative nursery school in Lynbrook. I also served as a Girl Scout leader for several years.

After moving to Oyster Bay, I became involved with the PTA at the old Birmingham School. I served on two different citizens’ committees for the board of education to study the district’s physical education and sports programs and facilities.

The second committee reported on the district’s responsibility to implement Title IX regulations, which brought equality in sports and athletics to girls. As a result, our girls have enjoyed and excelled in a variety of sports.

During the years when our school budgets were defeated, the district was forced into double sessions. Because of my family’s concerns about the situation, we placed our children in all-day programs in various parochial and private schools. Nevertheless, I have always supported the public schools and hoped for resolution of the problems. I have long been convinced of the importance of quality public schools for a community.

My convictions have been confirmed further over the past decade when my two grandsons have become students in our district.

Around that time, I began teaching one day a week in Syosset while my boys were babies. Eventually, I taught full time in Syosset’s elementary school physical education program, later becoming district coordinator for elementary physical education.

I specialized in movement education and dance, in which I made presentations at county, state, and eastern district conferences. In time, I became the adaptive physical education teacher for Syosset’s elementary and middle schools. When some of my students competed in the Games for the Physically Challenged, I got involved in the games as well.

In addition, I have also been active in various church activities. I have served on boards at the local and diocesan level and participated in ministry at Winthrop University Hospital for 25 years.

For the past seven years, I have cared for my mother, who, at 106, recently entered a skilled nursing facility.

In the little spare time that I am able to find, I’m a proud member of “Terry’s Terrific Tappers” at Doubleday Babcock Center. It hurts, but it’s fun.

During my two terms as a trustee on the board of education, I have seen so much progress in our programs and so many successes by our students — despite many of the difficulties that we have faced. I look forward to continuing that work in the future.


1. Why are you running for a seat on the board?

I have served on the board of education for the past eight years. During that time I have worked very hard to see the district make appreciable gains in both student achievement and improvements in districtwide facilities and I want to ensure that all of that continues. I am a great proponent of our public schools and feel that they are the backbone of the community. I believe in excellence in the schools because they are obligated to educate every child in the district no matter what their skill level may be. Our district has become highly regarded and I will serve as trustee to see this growth continue and become the epitome of what an educational system should be.


2. How do you feel about the Superintendent’s raise?

The superintendent’s salary increase was, I consider, a wise decision and for many, many reasons. First of all, it was the result of negotiations that went on for a long period of time. There was a considerable amount of discussion that took place and was not arrived at will-nilly or as a “rubber stamp” as suggested. It was a decision made thoughtfully, carefully, and in the best interest of the school district and community.

The school district encompasses all aspects of the total educational program. It is always the children first, the teachers, staff (all of them), and administrators. In order to have each group work to its fullest potential and to fulfill the goals of an excellent and superior educational system, there has to be very strong leadership. It does not work without it. It would be like a “ship without a rudder” as an old song says. The superintendent and assistant superintendent have been just that. They have taken a district that was looked upon poorly and raised it to excellence and a very desirable district. Just recently a family enrolled in our schools purposely moving here instead of a neighboring district with a very high profile. Our test scores have risen dramatically. There is an enthusiasm in learning by the students and staff that is confirmed by the fact that districts from all over Long Island come to our schools to observe our programs. On April 8, 2009, EdNews.org wrote an article entitled “In Oyster Bay Schools, the Classroom Becomes, well, a Classroom” which speaks about visitations at the Roosevelt School. Within the first sentence, it explains the headline and illustrates the depth of education going on in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District. The pursuit of excellence in education encompasses all grades from pre-K through grade 12.

Our eighth-grade math scores were fourth highest on Long Island. In 2001, 67 percent of seniors graduated with Regents diplomas and for the past four years have been consistently high with 98 percent, 92 percent, 98 percent and 97 percent obtaining Regents diplomas. In the last two years, 100 percent of students taking French and Spanish Regents have scored with proficiency. We are consistently higher than state standards in all areas and comparable to other Long Island districts. We’ve had so many achievements and awards too numerous to enumerate. Our students are getting into fine colleges. None of that happens by chance. It can only happen with strong leadership. A strong leader must have people who want to follow. Without followers, one is not a leader. Our staff follows with enthusiasm always striving to improve. We have attracted strong supervisors and strong new teachers. Their success was applauded at the recent tenure appointments. Very often these professionals are drawn to Oyster Bay by the reputation of the superintendent and assistant superintendent and many times take a cut in salary just to work in Oyster Bay. Don’t think that will continue if we don’t have these esteemed leaders. I mean esteemed in the Long Island educational community. We have that strong leadership and I, for one, do not want to lose it. They are near to the lowest, if not the lowest paid in the K-12 districts in Nassau. Their fine reputation will be enticing to other districts in their search for strong proven leadership. The raise in pay is very small compared to the cost of advertising in The New York Times. The charge is $6,000 for each ad. It usually has to be placed twice, plus the cost of a superintendent’s search which can run $25,000 to $50,000. We know what we have, a superior administrative team. We don’t know what we can get. We do know that we will not be able to attract anyone for less than $250,000 per year plus additional benefits. That’s the going rate, that’s just what it is; some may think we can do better, but it just is not that way. I am a realist, I know what we can and can’t get. I don’t want a revolving door of leaders. The district would have no direction and would revert back to the mediocrity we were known for before. I believe that the board used prudence and gave the increase in the best interest of the district and the community. I truly believe that we saved the community thousands of dollars not just to keep our superintendent and assistant superintendent but to keep the best on Long Island. The entire community should be proud of what our students and staff have accomplished and I am very proud of all of them.


3. What is your best asset for serving on the board?

I come to the table wearing multiple hats. First and foremost, having lived in the Oyster Bay community for over 43 years, I bring a sense of maturity and sensibility to the position. During this time I have been enthusiastically involved in all aspects of serving this wonderful community. As a senior citizen and taxpayer, I am also extremely cognizant of the demands this role plays for all taxpayers and I take it very seriously, especially because of the state of the economy. I am the mother of five children, one of whom has two sons who have the good fortune of attending our wonderful schools and simultaneously I serve as caregiver to my 106-year-old mother. My life’s career as an educator clearly adds to what I bring to the table. Finally, my eight years of experience as a board of education trustee makes me an excellent candidate. I use all of these experiences collectively so that I approach each challenge through multiple lenses and will continue to do so when re-elected.


4. What knowledge do you have of the time commitment to be a good board member?

I am aware of how much time is involved if you want to be a good, effective board member. There are not just two meetings a month to attend. There is much reading and studying prior to the meeting in order to be well prepared. There are school board association meetings and workshops to attend, especially if you want to keep abreast of what is going on throughout New York, as well as the Federal Government. Mostly, there are all the activities that occur almost on a daily basis in one or the other of our schools. It is important to attend these activities not only to see the results of programs, but to encourage the students and staff to continually reach higher and strive for more. It affirms them. Board members attend sporting events, shows, music programs, art and science fairs, multiple graduations and everything else connected with the schools. As a retiree, I have more available time than others and I do my best to use it wisely.

 

Jim Mattel

My name is Jim Mattel and have I lived in Oyster Bay for 15 years. I received my Bachelors Degree in Physical Education in 1974 from Lehman College, and completed the Masters Program in the same discipline in 1978. In 2000, I received a Masters Degree in School Administration from Massachusetts College. I have been teaching since 1974 including 18 years at the Manhattan Children’s Psychiatric Center, and 16 years at Bayside High School, Queens. During my tenure at Bayside High School I was the Assistant Principal and Athletic Director. Bayside High School has over 4,000 students and I was responsible for managing the daily educational programs, security, and budgetary demands along with my colleagues. We were instrumental in leading the school to receive special recognition from the Chancellor as a School of Excellence. I am also proud to have received the NYC Board Of Education, Queens Superintendent’s Office award for “Outstanding Service”.

I retired from Bayside High School in 2008, and am presently a part time adjunct professor at York College supervising graduate level education students. It is very gratifying to know that I am able to mentor and teach educators of tomorrow.

I have coached public and private high school basketball, baseball, tennis and track, as well as coaching soccer, Little League Baseball and basketball for the Oyster Bay Police Athletic League. In 2008, I was the Girls CYO Basketball Coordinator at St Dominic’s and am looking forward to continue volunteering.

I have been married for 20 years to Pam. We have two children in Oyster Bay Schools; Evan is in the 4th grade at Vernon, and Bret is in 7th grade at the High School.


1. Why are you running for a seat on the board?

I have lived in Oyster Bay for the past 15 years and have been a teacher and school administrator for 35 years. I have volunteered for the PAL and CYO because I love to coach and support the kids in the community. Becoming a member of the school board will allow me to share the vast experience I have collected over the years, influence decisions which benefit all of our children and give back to the school community the time and effort they put into our children.


2. How do you feel about the Superintendent’s raise?

I prefer to study and research decisions like these before I formulate my “own” opinion. However, I have mixed emotions and certainly understand the pros and cons the community has shared in the papers and at meetings. We all know these are tough economic times and raises seem to be viewed negatively and sometimes rightly so, but factors to be considered are; are our schools improving, is the raise out of line with comparative districts, and what is the alternative?


3. What is your best asset for serving on the board?

My best asset is the ability to communicate and share with people. At Bayside High School where I was a teacher, athletic director and assistant principal I was in constant contact with many of the parents of the 3,500 students. I was the principal’s liaison with the community serving as the security chief and administrative representative to the PTA.


4. What knowledge do you have of the time commitment to be a good board member?

My experience in the school system has provided me insight into the time commitment. As a member of the Bayside High School Principal’s cabinet I attended weekly meetings that would often last 2-4 hours. There were numerous evening commitments for community meetings and parent conferences. Many weekends were spent researching important topics to the school community. I am fully aware that to hold such an important function as a school board trustee and do the job well demands enormous energy and time.

 

Rod Olivero

Rod Olivero, CPA moved to Oyster Bay in 1998 with his wife Diane. As a strong believer in education, Rod earned his Bachelor of Business Administration from Hofstra University and an MBA from Cornell University. In 2002, due to work commitments, Rod moved to New York City. In 2004, Rod and Diane started a family and made a decision to raise their family on Long Island. They both viewed Oyster Bay as a wonderful community to raise children. As they met people in the community with lifelong ties to Oyster Bay, they felt that they would like nothing more than their daughter, 4, and son, 2, to enjoy the same experience of lifelong community. In 2006, Rod and Diane started to work towards that commitment to their children and moved back to Oyster Bay.

Rod believes the most important issue facing our district is achieving a balance between providing the maximum benefit to the students and keeping a watchful eye for the concerned homeowners. He believes the current administration has been successful in increasing the status of our district by building a stronger education program for our children. A solid public education has a cost and the responsibility to fund that cost falls upon all the homeowners of Oyster Bay and East Norwich. How do we keep that continued success and manage the other side of the equation?

With over 16 years of financial services experience, as both a CPA and investment banker, Rod offers a unique financial skill set to help create future budgets that maintain the quality education our children deserve while minimizing the tax levy assessed upon the homeowner. Rod believes the student should receive the maximum benefit of a homeowner’s tax dollar. He believes he can help weed out the unsuccessful programs, while seeking cost effective solutions for successful programs to benefit both the students and homeowners.


1. Why are you running for a seat on the board?

I believe an important issue facing our district is achieving a balance between providing the maximum benefit to the students and keeping a watchful eye for the concerned homeowners. I believe the current administration has been successful in increasing the status of our district by building a stronger education program for our children. A solid public education has a cost and the responsibility to fund that cost falls upon all the homeowners of Oyster Bay and East Norwich.

How do we keep that continued success and manage the other side of the equation? I am running because I feel that I can make a difference. Everyone speaks of the balance between the best for the student and being fiscally responsible. With 16 years of financial services experience, I am in a position to provide advice on fiscal responsibility.

2. How do you feel about the Superintendent’s raise?

When I hear members of the community speaking on the topic, I get the sense people are not happy. This was evident at the East Norwich Civic Association meeting when people voiced their views. I think in a time when not only members of our community, but also our country were (and still are) in financial turmoil, something different could’ve been done.

Whether our superintendent deserved the raise is a different issue. I think people believe she is doing a good job. I think the issue arises when we see difficult times in front of us, we should ask the question, “How can we be creative to provide an incentive to our administration that is satisfactory to our community members?” Maybe there could be a deferred component to compensation that doesn’t impact the community in the current year but can be paid as certain additional benchmarks are achieved.

If another agreement could be reached with the administration and the superintendents, it would be great to see good faith concessions to help our student and homeowners get through especially difficult times. I believe such a good faith measure will not be forgotten by the community and will be rewarded when the situation improves.


3. What is your best asset for serving on the board?

With over 16 years of financial services experience, as both a CPA and investment banker, I offer a financial skill set to help create future budgets that maintain and improve the quality education our children deserve while minimizing the tax levy assessed upon the homeowner. I believe the student should receive the maximum benefit of a homeowner’s tax dollar. I believe I can help weed out the unsuccessful programs, while seeking cost-effective solutions for successful programs to benefit both the students and homeowners. Tax situations will not change until policies change. I can help find creative solutions to difficult policy issues.


4. What knowledge do you have of the time commitment to be a good board member?

While I don’t have the inside view on time commitments, I believe certain times of the year will be more time intensive. To be effective, I view the commitment as a part-time job. I will be ready to provide the time necessary to serve in the best interest of students and community members.