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Westbury BOE: Six Candidates Vye for Three Seats

Westbury Board of Education elections are May 21. The Westbury Times asked the six candidates vying for the 6 open seats why they want your vote and their plans for the district. 

 

Leslie Davis, Current trustee and former business owner 

 

Bio: 

Who is Leslie F. Davis?  I am a woman who believes in the principals of honesty, integrity, and good leadership. Born, raised, educated, a former business owner, and a current resident of the Westbury community, I hold anything that may affect the growth and stability of my children and community near and dear to my heart. “Giving back” is a phrase I demonstrate continually through my affiliation with my church, my schools, the school board, family organizations, mother’s groups, student based activities, and happily, a neighborhood Mom. Westbury, NY is a culture, and I am proud to be a part of it. “Alumni empowering Future Alumni “

 

What qualifies you to be a BOE trustee? What can you bring to the table?

 Born and raised in Westbury, alumni of Westbury, and educator, and a parent of two graduates and one current student in the Westbury Middle School, I have a unique perspective on the challenges and benefits of the community. I have operated several businesses within the district over the years, as well as been a homeowner for the past 22 years. My business experience coupled with my membership in the community, gives me the ability to recognize areas where efficiency can be gained,  pleasing tax payers, while still providing quality education for our students, which is what all parents desire.

 

What challenges do you anticipate this board facing in the next term?

Increased enrollment has been a constant challenge for the Westbury school system for the past several years. The challenge is from reduced state aide, decreased space due to enrollment, and language barriers.. Westbury will continue to provide the environment, resources, and commitment, to ensure that each and every student succeeds academically, emotionally, physically, and socially.

 

What would you like to see accomplished in the next 3 years?

The hiring of our new Superintendent. 2. Creating and implementing a new strategic plan. 3. Revamping and enhancing our security department. Security, the current climate of our nation, needs to put at the forefront for the protection of our Administration, teachers, support staff, and our key responsibility, to the children of the Westbury School district.

 

How will you increase transparency and encourage open communication between staff, parents, teachers and the community? 

 Our district will launch an extensive community engagement initiative that will bridge the gap of communication between the school staff, parents, residents, and senior citizens. Through a series of discussion based sessions, the community will be asked to provide input that will inform the immediate, intermediate, and long term direction of the school district. 

 

Why are you invested in this board and the Westbury community? 

Continuing my representation of the Westbury School District and addressing   community issues and concerns is of paramount importance to me. Working diligently to search for our new superintendent; working in collaboration with the entire administrative staff to develop a strategic plan that will enhance the continued rise in the test scores are my goals. Along with these, I pledge to continue to foster good decisions and maintain positive relationships with the administrative staff, teacher’s, and support staff while continuing the implementation of new programs to develop 21st century learners.

 

Larry Kirton, 15 year resident and PTA president 

Bio 

Lawrence “Larry” Kirton is a 15 year resident who is committed to setting the standard of achieving academic excellence for our students.

 

Larry is married to Josie Riollano and they have two children educated in the Westbury Public Schools.  His son will be graduating from Westbury High School this year and received a Tuition scholarship to Howard University.  His daughter, a Westbury High School Graduate is currently a Pre-Veterinary student attending North Carolina A&T, studying Animal Laboratory Science.    

Larry attended NYC’s Public Schools and graduated from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, earned his Bachelor’s degree from SUNY at Stony Brook (SBU) and advanced certifications for graduate work from SBU’s School of Health Technology and Management as well as Harriman School of Management and Policy. 

Larry is the current President of the Westbury PTA Council, Westbury Public School District Council Representative, member of the Board Policy Review Committee and former Past President of WREST (Westbury Raising Education Standards Together).  He was also a former Village of Westbury Trustee Candidate.

 

What qualifies you to be a BOE trustee? What can you bring to the table?

Larry will bring a wealth of knowledge in the areas of: Leadership, Strategic Planning & Evaluation, Policy development and dissemination, Statistics and Data Analysis, Economics, Ethics, Grant writing, Administration and Fiscal Management. 

 

What challenges do you anticipate this board facing in the next term? 

Budgetary constraints, with or without a tax levy cap, is an obstacle to meeting the financial demands of employee compensation and providing academic services to students in need of intervention outside of the regular school day and year.  The reallocation of funds in a balanced manner to achieve District Goals while preserving job security takes a well-defined plan.

 

What would you like to see accomplished in the next 3 years?

In the last 3 years the Board has not governed the District in a direction to (1) significantly achieve its District Wide Broad Goals of developing, implementing and evaluating an educational delivery system that meets the needs of all students; (2) upgrade the facility to either address enrollment growth or to maintain a class size that lends to improved student achievement.  These are goals that I’d like to see accomplished in the next three years.

 

How will you increase transparency and encourage open communication between staff, parents, teachers and the community? 

In order to bring about change the Board members need to BOTH become accountable to their duties as trustees AND promote a climate of mutual trust & respect between the District & the community in order to minimize constraints that limit resources and communication.  Citizen Advisory Committees need to be fully restored & the involvement of a cross-section of community members needs to be collaborated towards a Shared Decision Making Plan. 

 

Why are you invested in this board and the Westbury community? 

Since retiring from clinical laboratory sciences Larry has dedicated his life to his family, his church and to the Westbury Community.  Serving on the Westbury Board fulfills that dedication through the success of the students.

 

Cosmos Bonaparte, president of the Westbury Public Library Board 

Bio: 

I am currently the President of the Board of the Westbury Memorial Public Library, and have been a trustee for close to 5 years.  I also serve as the Treasurer and Board member of the McCoy Center Family and Youth Services in New Cassel.  I have a B.S. in Economics from Hofstra University, an MBA in Economics from St. John’s University and an M.A. in Statistics from Columbia University.  For the past 16 years, I have worked in the Financial Services field, and am currently a Risk Analyst for AIG. Prior to this, I was a Vice President in the U.S. Corporate Banking department of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd.

 

What qualifies you to be a BOE trustee? What can you bring to the table?

My experience as a Board member and current President of the Board of the Westbury Library, as well as my experiences on the Board of a social services organization, have allowed for significant interactions with students in the community and school district. As such, I am very familiar with the educational and social issues that most impact our children. Given my strong business background, I will bring expertise in the areas of fiscal management, strategic planning and policy development. I am results-oriented, committed to fiscal discipline, and, intend to promote a culture of high achievement, solid fiscal management and accountability.

 

What challenges do you anticipate this board facing in the next term?

The biggest challenge will be raising achievement levels and academic rigor in the District. This will be a multi-faceted task. Parents will have to do a better job of participating in the academic process. Also, the District will have to devote more resources to strengthening the lower schools, including stabilizing class size, improving technology and devoting more attention to the after-school process. Lastly, teachers will be expected to boost the quantity and quality of instruction.  This all must be accomplished against a backdrop of increasing enrollment, funding constraints, and the need to become better acclimated with the Common Core.

 

What would you like to see accomplished in the next 3 years? 

Early in the first year, we must select a permanent Superintendent and Asst. Superintendent, Curriculum.  Additionally, early on we need to tighten and possibly centralize the registration process in the District.   Over the next 3 years, I would like to see a sustained increase in test scores across the board, not just in a few grades. Lastly, I would also like to see class sizes stabilized or lowered, more spending on after-school programs, a greater number of AP courses and courses for which college credit can be obtained, and more STEM-related programming.  

 

How will you increase transparency and encourage open communication between staff, parents, teachers and the community? 

First, the Board has to be committed to effectively communicating its intentions to the public.  For instance, the Superintendent search process was a major failing in this regard. Board members also have to increase their visibility, and be willing to engage parents and community leaders. Teachers and staff must remain somewhat accessible before and after the official school day. For teachers and staff, it is also as simple as making sure everyone has proper contact information and takes the time to send updates on testing, school functions, etc. Some of our personnel already do much of this, but everyone has to consciously increase their commitment to this if we want improvement. 

 

Why are you invested in this board and the Westbury community? 

I am in invested in the Board and community because I believe all children have the power to succeed both academically and in life, given the proper guidance and support. The children that we educate today will be the backbone of this community in the future. While we all remain concerned about our taxes and property values, I say this to the community: Know that you have fiscally conservative candidates in Team 2-3-4.  But let’s put more focus on strengthening academics first and raising achievement levels.  The community will be better for it and your home values will begin to trend upward in line with our progress.

 

Stanton Brown, former Westbury School Board trustee 

Bio: 

I am passionate about providing educational opportunities for everyone and have made education my professional and personal journey.  I currently serve as Executive Director at ISA, a national educational company. I have a BS from the University of Maryland, an MBA from the Harvard Business School, and I am completing my doctorate in Educational Leadership from Fordham University.  I also serve on the board of College for Every Student.  I also volunteer for Project Grad as well as make presentations to students and parents on preparing for college.  I am a Former Trustee of the Westbury School Board (2009 – 2011).

 

What qualifies you to be a BOE trustee? What can you bring to the table?

My two years as a Trustee enabled me to become familiar with how the district operates, its personnel, and its strengths and weaknesses.  My educational background provides me with the knowledge to understand the business, the pedagogical, and leadership aspects of a school district.   My twenty plus years of business and education management expertise as well as my financial and strategic management experience will enable me to understand our complex financial issues and make decisions based on data – not emotions.  My years at The College Board and my current job provide me with the unique understanding of what it takes to have a high performing educational system that is focused on preparing students for college and beyond.

 

What challenges do you anticipate this board facing in the next term?

There is one big issue with two components.  The issue is academic performance.  The first component we need to fix is to make a decision on a Superintendent and other senior administrative positions and then move forward with a new strategic plan to make progress. The second component is implementing the Common Core Standards Curriculum and the new teacher and principal evaluation processes along with preparing for a new type of State assessment will be the other substantial challenge.   As with most districts if we don’t adapt our instructional design, management structure, and how we deploy our funding we will be in significant trouble.  

 

What would you like to see accomplished in the next 3 years?

I want to change our culture to focus on college readiness - that is getting students ready for post-secondary education without the need to take remedial course work.  A focus on this issue will drive new behaviors and attitudes towards the educational process.  This, in turn, will help improve our performance.  If we do not set high expectations of everyone in our community then we cannot expect to see any substantial improvement in our academic performance, job outlook for our students, or home values for our residents. I also will change how we engage the community.  With the Board’s support we will have strategic partnerships with groups such as ASPIRA, La Raza, PIQE, 100 Black Men, and others that can support our work in the community to effect the way we view and value education.

 

How will you increase transparency and encourage open communication between staff, parents, teachers and the community? 

Trust must be established to make authentic communication work. Trust gets established when one has integrity in their actions.  It is okay to deliver difficult message to parents, teacher, and administrators as long as they trust that you know the issues and have can support a good solution.  Speaking plainly and honestly to people is what I have always done.  Next I recommend we move into the 21st Century with electronic communication.  It’s that simple. Our kids have been ready for years, their parents are ready.  Lastly, if we make it someone’s job (i.e., Parent Coordinator) to develop programs, monitor results, report to the board on the progress of community engagement we will be in good shape. 

 

Why are you invested in this board and the Westbury community? 

I moved my family to Westbury 7 years ago and I love this community.  I am just as invested as a 40-year resident. Ultimately, I want to see Westbury be successful – a first-rate district, with top scores and commensurate home values.   We have the money ($117M and counting) but lack the ingenuity on the Board to allocate our spending on the right aspects to drive student achievement.  It’s time for the board to use its role as a governing body to steward the School District in the right direction. The time is right now.

 

Rodney Caines, current BOE president 

Bio: 

I have spent approximately 32 years living in Westbury except for a 5 year period while I pursued work opportunities in Chicago. I am a product of the Westbury Public School system.  After graduating from Westbury High School in 1993, I attended and graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering.  My wife Traci and I have 3 daughters, a 14 year old currently in the 8th grade at Westbury Middle School who will be attending Westbury High School next year, a 3 year old that will be entering Westbury’s Pre-K program and a 7 month old who will be a proud membr of the class of 2028!

 

What qualifies you to be a BOE trustee? What can you bring to the table?

I have been a BOE trustee now for 3 years and have invested a lot of time and energy in understanding how the school district operates and the role the board of education plays in the district.  The first 2 years on the board I served as Vice-President and currently I am the Board President, these positions have helped me to mature as a stronger leader.  I am able to think “outside the box” bringing innovative ideas and solutions to the current operation of our district.  As a proud graduate of the Westbury school system and a concerned parent with children in the district, I believe I understand many of the issues affecting our parents, students, school administration and the residents of Westbury.  I have a track record of producing results by working collaboratively with a team.  It is this spirit I bring to the School Board.

 

What challenges do you anticipate this board facing in the next term?

1. The 2% Property tax cap and its effect on the district’s budget. 2 The consistent rise in student enrollment combined with limited classroom space. 3. The roll out of the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) coupled with the new Common Core Standards.

 

What would you like to see accomplished in the next 3 years?

1. The selection of the next district superintendent. 2. The completion and implementation of the district’s 5-year strategic plan. 3. Continued evaluation of the district’s educational programs and curriculum to determine areas the district may need to focus more attention on.  We have a diverse mix of students with different needs and I feel that our programs need to cultivate those differences while challenging and growing all of our students in a cost-effective manner. 4. As an energy consultant I would like to expand the districts use of energy conservation measures as a way to save money and enhance our current STEM programs. Through my work I am aware of many federal, state and local programs which provide funding for energy related projects.  By identifying and implementing energy saving opportunities; substantial annual savings can be realized by the district.

 

How will you increase transparency and encourage open communication between staff, parents, teachers and the community? 

Much discussion has already started pertaining to the use of sub committees as a way bridging the gap between the groups mentioned in the above question. I will look to garner the support of the board to develop sub committees that will include the above mentioned groups in an effort to increase transparency and encourage open communication. 

 

Why are you invested in this board and the Westbury community? 

My wife, Traci, and I have chosen to raise our children here because of our deep affection for this community.  We are both committed to making it an even better place to live and work. The desire to make Westbury an even better place is what now motivates me to run for re-election to the School Board. I believe my knowledge of the community as well as my educational training and professional work experience have equipped me with the skills needed to make the changes needed to improve the education our children receive. The voters can count on me to work tirelessly on their behalf to make this a better community for all.

Finally, service is my life!  From a little boy as a cub scout, helping my community to a young adult proudly serving my county, to a resident serving on the Town of North Hempstead’s Community Development Board; I believe in giving back through service.  I can use my vast experiences, and parlay them into something meaningful and substantive for our community as a Westbury School Board Trustee.

 

Siela Bynoe, Current trustee and Executive Director of the Town of Huntington Housing Authority

Bio: 

I am 39 year resident of the Westbury community. I am also a proud graduate of Westbury High School – class of ’85. In October of 2006 I was appointed as the Executive Director of the Town of Huntington Housing Authority (THHA).  As the Executive Director of the THHA, I serve as the Treasurer of both the Millennium Hills Housing Development Fund Corporation and the Gateway Gardens Housing Development Fund Corporation. In addition I am the Chief Executive of the Huntington Housing Authority Mortgage Corporation and the Vice President of the Millennium Hills Homeowners Association. 

After Graduating Westbury High School- I went on to Nassau Community College – ( A.S. Liberal Arts)- Hofstra University- (B.A. Psychology) and  Long Island University- (Master’s in Public Administration). In 2008- I was Alumna of the Year -Long Island University/C.W. Post - School of Public Service. In addition to serving as Trustee on the Westbury Board of Education- I am a Board Commissioner for the Town of North Hempstead Housing Authority and  the Co-Founder of Women Against Cancer.  

 

What qualifies you to be a BOE trustee? What can you bring to the table? 

My professional training and experience in public administration has provided me with the leadership skills needed to serve on the Board and to continue to move our district forward.  Over the last three years we were faced with historic changes with the implementation of unfunded mandates and the two percent tax cap, I worked with my colleagues on the Board to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of which resulted in stabilizing the district by removing $4.4M dollars in expenses from the budget while maintaining our academic, arts and athletic programs. 

 

What challenges do you anticipate this board facing in the next term?

I believe the most pressing issues facing the Westbury School District are 1. Identifying and appointing the next superintendent, as that individual will have the paramount task of educating our children without overburdening our taxpayers. 2. Continuing to find creative solutions to compensate for the financial challenges faced by this district- while dealing with the influx of new students and managing class sizes to optimize the conditions for learning.  

 

What would you like to see accomplished in the next 3 years?

Work with my fellow school board trustees to implement a recruitment and selection process, inclusive of community stakeholder participation, to identify and hire the best qualified leader (Superintendent) for our district. 

I would also like to move forward with the creation of the five-year strategic plan that will allow for the engagement of the parents and the community to ensure that the students receive the educational programs and support needed to achieve academic excellence. 

In addition, I would like to create a central registration process to ensure that only eligible Westbury students enter our schools. 

 

How will you increase transparency and encourage open communication between staff, parents, teachers and the community? 

Presently- we have made a decision to move the meeting to the different schools throughout the district to encourage attendance and participation of community stakeholders. I would like to use forums to bring the community stakeholders together to discuss the precepts that will guide our district’s academic programs to ensure high student achievement. In the immediate future – a formalized superintendent search and the development of the five- year plan will serve as a vehicle to for those forums. 

 

Why are you invested in this board and the Westbury community? 

As a proud Westbury graduate I attribute much of my professional achievements to the educational programs and culture of the Westbury community. I feel a sense of personal commitment to give something back to the community that has generously given me so much to me.  With that spirit I have worked with colleagues over the past three years to make difficult decisions regarding administrative/ faculty staffing and, ultimately, decisions regarding the continuance of some educational programs. We have found ways to manage the district’s finances and daily operation to achieve budget savings with minimal disruptions to our programs.