Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Tuesday, 16 June 2009 17:26
The second board of education election in as many months will take place Tuesday, June 23 in the Westbury School District in an effort to fill two vacant seats.
Elections on the Westbury Board of Education are at-large and, in 2008, Adelaide Brinson and Laura Pierce received the two highest vote totals, but candidate Rocco Lanzilotta, who lost by 10 votes waged a lawsuit against the district. In March, New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills ruled in Lanzilotta’s favor, overturning the 2008 trustee vote. As a result, both Brinson and Pierce were removed as school board trustees.
Brinson and Pierce are both bidding to regain their seats. Also taking part in the race are Karin Campbell, a longtime board member who lost her bid for re-election in last month’s regular school board race and whose term expires at month’s end, and Stanton Brown, who also ran unsuccessfully in the May election.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Drexel Avenue, Dryden Street, Park Avenue School and Westbury middle schools. Information on the four candidates is as follows:
Adelaide Brinson, who has served on the board of education for over 23 years is seeking to regain the seat she was ordered to vacate as a result of the education commissioner’s ruling. There are two years remaining on the term.
Brinson has resided in the community for over three decades and has seen her two daughters and granddaughter graduate from Westbury schools. For over 20 years, Brinson has worked for Winthrop-University Hospital and is currently surgical coordinator for the department of medicine’s residency program.
Brinson, who received 961 votes in the May 2008 election, said she is grateful to the Westbury community for electing her to represent them. “I feel a sense of gratitude toward the Westbury community for electing me to represent them as a trustee last year. I have felt the same sense of gratitude each of the seven times I have been elected to the board. On each occasion, I have received broad community support and believe that the will of the people was expressed each time,” Brinson told The Westbury Times, adding that, in her opinion, it is “unfortunate, that the commissioner of education has chosen to insert himself in an electoral matter and overturned the vote of the community.”
According to Brinson, “The commissioner’s decision has done a disservice to the people of Westbury who have now been without full representation on the board of education for the last two and a half months. In addition, they have been forced to bear the expense of conducting another election just a month after the regularly scheduled election in May. This additional expense could not be anticipated at the start of the year and was not included in the current budget. In the end, the taxpayer ends up the loser.”
During her tenure on the board, Brinson said she has “served with passion and commitment” and “the children of the district have been exposed to and are participating in many incredible programs that are the envy of other districts.” She stated that, as a member of the board, she has “participated in the development of many exciting programs that have positively and cost-effectively changed the educational direction of [the] district” such as the Gifted and Talented, Junior ROTC, Robotics and Marine Science programs as well as Physics First at the Cradle of Aviation Museum and universal full day pre-kindergarten.
“I have seen the monumental progress we have made and continue to make. I hope to be in a position to witness the continuous achievements our students make through these programs,” said Brinson.
Brinson said that she remains the candidate of choice. “I believe the community has elected me to the board on seven different occasions because of their confidence in my capabilities as well as the experience I bring to the position. I have tried to reward the confidence they have expressed in me by serving them with dedication, passion and commitment,” she said. “I hope to be in a position to witness the continuous achievements our students make through these programs.”
Stanton Brown, a resident for three years, is a member of Westbury NAACP, the National Task Force and the College For Every Student (CollegeFES.org). Professionally, Brown heads a corporate strategy team at the College Board, a Manhattan-based nonprofit organization focused on college readiness, K-12 assessments, school reform and K-12 curriculum development.
Brown, who ran unsuccessfully for the board in last month’s regular election, shares the education commission’s opinion of the special election. “The commissioner overturned our election citing that the fundamental fairness of the election was compromised. This is a very rare decision and we should all be outraged that a special election is even necessary,” said Brown, adding that impact of the commissioner’s decision is widespread.
“This was a civil rights victory for all citizens of Westbury; it sends a strong message that election fraud will not be tolerated. Second, the school board must pay careful attention to the election process. Last year’s election was not overturned on a technicality alone but on wanton disrespect for election processes,” said Brown. “This special election is an opportunity for the citizens of Westbury to focus on the candidates’ ability to be an asset to the board versus the budget vote.”
Brown said he is disappointed with the current board and district administration for not advertising the special election, claiming it is neither noted on the school bulletin boards, calendar and website nor mentioned in the public relations mailer sent to residents or at the May 20 Action Meeting. “Nothing! The silence is deafening,” he said. “I can only assume that the lack of communication and advertisement is the ‘current establishments’ effort to enable an agenda that only benefits a small, select group.”
In seeking election to the board, Brown has joined forces with current trustee Karin Campbell to form the Unity Party for the betterment of Westbury Schools. “Through the turmoil of an overturned election, numerous legal complaints filed against the superintendent and board members, the district’s pending foreclosure on a local church and the district’s low achievement on standardized tests a new united front has emerged,” he said. “We believe our combined strengths of community leadership, school board governance experience, business turnaround and school reform experience, and practical experience in getting children prepared and into college provide impeccable credentials for the voters to ponder. Karin and I both agree this special election is a tremendous opportunity for constituents of Westbury to now select the absolute best-qualified candidates to lead our school district forward.”
According to Brown, his ability to deliver on his goals and his track record of reform and delivery of solutions for complex issues make him the candidate of choice. “I deal with problem solving on a daily basis. I bring a unique set of skills and perspective to the board – business acumen, knowledge of education reform, and a passion to see our students achieve success,” stated Brown in a May 2009 edition of The Westbury Times.
In Brown’s opinion, these two board seats are meaningful in that they can create a greater balance on the board. “This election represents a clear and distinct decision for voters to either maintain status quo or to have change come to the Westbury Union Free School District,” Brown said. “In short, this will be a historic vote for Westbury.
Karin Campbell, a resident for 37 years, has served on the Westbury Board of Education since 2003 but lost her bid for re-election last month. She is running in the special election to regain a seat on the board.
Campbell, whose professional background is in business management, economics, labor relations and human resource management, is a Cub Scout leader, member of the Westbury United Methodist church, Sherwood Gardens Civic Association officer and parent volunteer for the Westbury Amateur Baseball Association and Westbury Police Athletic League. Additionally, the mother of a Powell’s Lane School third-grader is involved with the Westbury Village Recreation Commission and is a member of Nassau Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and an officer of the New York Chapter of Chums, Inc.
Campbell told The Westbury Times that she supports the education commissioner’s decision. “The commissioner called for this special election following findings of election irregularities and I find the decision of an annulment only fair. The election process calls for the board to have representation from the entire community not a select few,” she said, adding, “This decision, although rare, is not a surprise to me as I have been made aware of other election irregularities in our district. The school board had the responsibility to address all concerns and perhaps if they had done so there would not be the need for this election.”
The results of this special election, said Campbell, have the potential to make a significant impact on the school district. “These two seats represent the first opportunity since I have been on the board for [Westbury] to become a working board willing to put in the time and effort required to address all issues,” she said.
This special election, Campbell said, will provide an opportunity for the residents to change the make up of the board. “The changes I see in the future of the board with these two seats will be positive for the district and the community,” she said. “This direction of change for Westbury is long overdue and for the people who have work tirelessly to make it happen this day is well deserved … [A] shift in power or representation will only place the responsibility of the district back in the hands of the taxpayers.”
Campbell said she is the candidate of choice because, as a member of the board, she has “continually been willing to bring concerns to the administration and board even at times knowing the issues may not be addressed or well received.” If elected to fill a board vacancy, Campbell promises to be available and willing to address individual concerns and said she is committed to being “honest, fair and mindful.”
According to Campbell, this special election provides an opportunity for changes that will be positive for the district and the community. “This direction of change for Westbury is long overdue and for the people who have work tirelessly to make it happen this day is well deserved,” she said. “I encourage everyone to come out and exercise their right to vote. And I ask for your support and encourage the community to commit to change by electing me, Karin B. Campbell, along with Stanton Brown.”
Laura Pierce, who received 1,091 votes in the May 2008 election to be elected to her first term of the Westbury Board of Education, is seeking to regain the seat she was ordered to vacate as a result of the education commissioner’s ruling. There are two years remaining on the term.
Pierce, a licensed and practicing minister, has resided in Westbury since 1995 and has worked as a human resources specialist at Winthrop-University Hospital for the past 12 years. Her school-related background includes being a former Park Avenue School Brownie troop leader and past president of the Drexel Avenue PTA and District Facilities Planning Committee. Currently she is a member of the Westbury High School PTSA and assists with fundraising events.
Pierce is a member of Westbury Branch of NAACP and an officer and block leader with the Westbury Hills Civic Association. She is on staff and a member of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn and is involved with the Synergies for Success Ministry. She is also a parent volunteer with the Blue Nile of Harlem Rites-of-Passage, Inc. and a member of Winthrop’s Cultural Competency Community Advisory Council and Winthrop-University Hospital Outreach, which works with such school districts as Mineola, Roosevelt, Massapequa and Westbury along with Hofstra University and NYIT to promote health care careers through Career Days and other educational and recruitment activities.
Pierce said that The Westbury Times and Newsday reported that the State Education Department’s decision to overturn the 2008 board of education election was based on allegations of errors at polling sites. “The commissioner felt those errors invalidated the fundamental fairness of the vote,” Pierce said. “I ran for the board in 2008 and won with an overwhelming 1,091 residents voting for me.”
In seeking to set the record straight, Pierce added that “misleading and erroneous information is being circulated in the Westbury community regarding the reason for the special election. Adelaide [Brinson] and I were not removed from the board due to anything we did illegally while serving as trustees or while running for election. The commissioner overturned the 2008 election due to polling errors and this was clearly stated in [his] decision rendered March 31, 2009.”
According to Pierce, that in overturning the election, “total disregard was paid to the overwhelming number of Westbury residents that took the time to vote and strongly voice their choices.”
While she believes the special election places an additional burden on the voters and represents increased expense to the residents, Pierce added that she “respects the commissioners’ decision and the residents of Westbury and believes the final decision will be theirs.”
If she regains the board seat, Pierce said tackling today’s every popular tax issue will be top on her to-do list. “High taxes are an issue and we all wonder what can be done to combat this. We must become innovative and explore other avenues, [including] the possibility of more commercial properties to help ease the tax burden on residents,” she said, adding that she will also “continue to work with the superintendent, administrators and teachers to enhance curriculum; increase state test scores and help make [Westbury] schools appealing to all residents for their children.”
According to Pierce, she is the candidate of choice and the voice the district needs. “I am a taxpayer and feel the same crunches every taxpayer feels and I also want to keep taxes at a minimum and create ways for this to be accomplished,” Pierce said. “Throughout the years, my issues for my daughter included anyone with the same issues. I took the role I was elected to seriously and [I] plan to do the same when I am re-elected.”