Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 14 May 2010 00:00There are two seats up for election, with each term lasting three years. This year, incumbents Gary Bettan and Angel Cepeda are being challenged by Craig E. Levy, Stephanie Nelkens and Emily Schulman. The voting locations are Jamaica Avenue School, Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School, and Old Bethpage Elementary School.
Incumbent Gary Bettan, a self described family-business man, initially ran for a position on the School Board on a math-platform; in February of 2007, he became so concerned with what he called the “fuzzy math” being taught to his kids that he joined a concerned parents group and created the POB MATH website, which aims to raise the academic standards in the district, in math in particular. On his homepage, Bettan credits the administration, including Linda Bruno, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, and teachers for the dramatic increase in math scores.
Bettan has lived in the community for approximately 20 years, and has three children currently enrolled in the district: Max, Gabbie, and Jillian.
When asked about his motivation to run for the position, Bettan explained that his experiences on the board thus far have increased his interest in the community, and education in general; after having some success improving both the math program, and advocating new technologies to the board that facilitate literacy, he feels there’s still more that can and should be done.
“I feel that financially, the challenges are enormous, and the School Board continues to need people with strong financial backgrounds- and I have that,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of the fact that I’ve helped improve the financial health of the district.”
Incumbent Angel Cepeda and his wife Marlene are 17-year residents of Plainview, with two daughters: Candice, who attends Syracuse University, and Alexa, who is entering POB JFK High School.
In addition to serving on the Board of Education for three years, Cepeda is the Finance Comittee President of Shelter Rock Church, and a member of the Health and Safety Committee of The American Red Cross of Nassau County. He has also provided pro-bono tax preparation to seniors, single mothers and needy families on Long Island for the past several years.
On his website, www.pobvote.com, Cepeda explains his continued interest in serving as a School Board Trustee: “My willingness to serve a second term on the Board of Education is born of the desire to continue to help make our schools more successful, both academically and financially. As a Board of Education Trustee my goal will be to continue to contribute my skills and abilities to its leadership and my talents and experience to shaping its future. I respectfully ask for your support.”
Craig E. Levy has lived in the community for 14 years. In addition to working in real estate, and owning his own business for eight years, Levy used to be a semi-pro tennis player.
His daughter, Ashley, went through the district for her education, and is now a graduate student at C.W. Post.
Like many people in the Plainview-Old Bethpage Community, Levy is concerned about the current financial situation in the district.
“I’ve seen some things, some problems with the big picture, in regard to teacher pay and the taxes in our community- and I thought I could be helpful in that area,” said Levy, when asked about his interest in the School Board post. He believes that his practical experience as a businessman will be of value in the position, however his desire to be fiscally responsible is complemented by a strong interest in the student experience, and making school better for everyone.
“I’m for all students and teachers- students first, but with the teachers right behind them.” said Levy.
Stefanie Nelkens has lived in the community for 10 years. She has one child, Max, who is currently in the fourth grade. She currently serves as the Vice President of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library.
Nelkins has attended almost every Board of Education meeting for the past four years, and has been an active participant. “I’m not afraid to ask hard questions and represent the community’s concerns,” said Nelken.
It is thanks to the questions Nelkens has raised at the Board meetings that the elementary school cafeterias no longer sell unhealthy Gatorade and Pop Tarts. After examining last year’s budget, Nelkens discovered that the students at Stratford Road were not receiving ELA workbooks, and Nelkens lobbied for months until equitable learning materials were purchased.
She has served on and co-chaired various PTA committees, including the district-wide blood drive, PARP and SEPTA’s Executive Board. She was a trustee and officer of the Hollis Hills Jewish Center, and also served on her co-op board.
“I hope to use my experience as a trustee of the public library to renew community trust in our schools. My proven leadership will ensure that our schools offer the highest quality education at the lowest possible cost. I created a synergy between the schools and library by seeing to the inclusion of school textbooks and leveled reading books in our library collection. I also played a central role in bringing our district an instructional-based math program which raised our performance levels on state assessments. I intend to bring transparency to the school district and as my track record shows, I’m about solutions,” said the candidate.
While it goes without saying that all candidates have a strong interest in education, few could claim a stronger link to the area itself than Emily Schulman; the part-time teacher and tutor has lived in the district on and off since 1967. She is a proud graduate of the Plainview-Old Bethpage High School class of 1979. Her two children, Miriam and Matt, currently attend Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School.
As a teacher, Schulman feels that she has the significant background in education that a School Board Trustee should have, however she brings something else to the table as well.
“I have a sensitivity to the needs of all different kinds of students, all different kinds of learners,” said Schulman. Her experience in the Special Education Parent Teacher Association (SEPTA) as well as the PTA back up her statement. In addition, she serves as the co-president of the Project Challenge Parents program.
“I am proud of the education I got here, and I want to protect that legacy,” said Schulman with obvious sincerity. Schulman sees a position on the school board as a logical continuation of her current role and responsibilities within the community.