File photo of Islip schools
It’s budget time again in Islip
School districts across Long Island will be heading to the polls on Super Tuesday, May 16, to decide on the school budget as well as board of education trustees. The polls in Islip will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and are located in the high school gymnasium. Islip residents will decide on a budget of $82,443,203, which is under the New York State cap at 1.71 percent. That number is a 1.93 percent increase over last year. If passed, homeowners will see an increase in taxes of $128 per year.
There are three candidates running for three-year terms for two board of education seats: Incumbent Philip Dineen is seeking another term unopposed. Kelly Vallette is challenging incumbent David Twomey.
Vallette and her husband Rob moved to Islip 17 years ago. She is the mother of two teens who attend Islip High School. “I love the small-town feel of this vibrant community,” she noted. A special education teacher for the past 31 years, Vallette has worked for over two decades for the Comsewogue School District in Port Jefferson Station. She says she decided to run for the school board because she is dedicated to the children of the district.
“I have long prided myself on being an active participant in my own children’s education, as I believe that a successful partnership between educators and parents is the heart of strong school districts,” she said. “Over the past five years, my involvement within our school district has deepened as I have become engaged in the struggle against state and federal education reforms that jeopardize that quality of our children’s education.”
Vallette said she stands firmly against the over-testing that the state has pushed, and her own children have opted-out of taking those tests for the past five years. She says the tests are “unproven, unreliable.”
The candidate believes in supporting teachers and administrators, but also understands that taxpayers cannot be overburdened by unreasonable tax increases. She said she’d use her professional experience to add balance to the board, adding, however, that “our school district does a wonderful job.”
Vallette said one of her objectives as a trustee would be to give parents more of a voice in their child’s education and encourage them to attend the school board meetings. “I don’t know how I’ll go about doing that yet,” she noted, adding she would work hard to achieve that goal.
“I have a fresh new perspective [to share],” she added.
This lifelong resident of the school district is seeking another three years on the board of education, where he is currently serving as vice president. He is running unopposed.
Dineen is a 33-year member and former chief of the Islip Fire Department. He and his wife Lisa have two sons who both attend college. He is currently regional sales director for Designer Greetings Inc., a greeting card company based in New Jersey.
The candidate said he first decided to run for the position as another way to give back to his community. Now he wants to continue to bring that level of involvement to the school district.
Over the course of his tenure, Dineen said he’s proud of the accomplishments that have been made in the district, including the addition of academy programs. These programs give students some experience in a field they might be interested in by pursuing subjects such as cosmetology and business.
Although he considers the board to be very “tax conscious,” he said he’d like to see more controls over the fluctuating aspect of the state-imposed 2 percent cap that he says “makes it difficult for the district to plan ahead.”
“[The past three years] has been a great learning experience,” he said.
This 30-year resident of Islip is seeking his third term on the board of education. Twomey, a Nassau County detective, is the father of three grown children. He said community members had asked him to run for the board because of what he felt was a lack of transparency. “I just wanted to be fair,” he noted.
Since that time, Twomey said he is more than gratified by the many accomplishments in Islip schools, especially the increase of more open meetings for the public. “We’re doing well,” he said.
“As a team, I’m proud of the capital projects we’ve accomplished…like the new turf field. And it was good timing,” he added, noting that old capital projects had already been paid off.
Twomey said the next big challenge that Islip as well as all districts would be facing is the decreasing enrollment in schools. And even though those numbers tend to inflate and deflate in cycles, he said, “The next low cycle is projected to be even lower,” adding that it could hurt fiscally when competing for funding.
In the meantime, he said Islip would keep moving ahead and he hopes to one day see an International Baccalaureate program in the district. “But Islip puts out a great product,” he added.
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