Courtesy photo

East Islip district votes on a budget, trustee and Proposition 2

Story By: LIZ FINNEGAN
5/16/2019


The residents of East Islip, Islip Terrace and Great River will vote on Super Tuesday, May 21, for the overall budget. In addition, they will decide on another proposition regarding a reserve fund and choose between two candidates: Charles P. Kalinowski and Christopher Nicolia, who are running for one open seat on the school board. The polls will be located at the Early Childhood Center and will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The overall proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year is $120,334,922, which represents a 0.80 percent increase over last year. That increase is well below the district cap of 2.81 percent. On an averaged assessed home, taxes are expected to increase $61 a year.

On Proposition 2, the voters will decide whether or not to approve establishing a Repair Reserve Fund and to initially fund the reserve with up to $400,000 of unreserved, unappropriated fund balance from the 2018-2019 fiscal year, thereafter by budgetary appropriation and/or application of unreserved unappropriated surplus. Should this proposition be approved, it will not require an additional tax levy.

There are two people running for the seat that is currently held by Steven Behan, who is not running for reelection.

 

Charles P. Kalinowski

Kalinowski has been a resident of East Islip for the past 45 years. The married father of three children is a science teacher at another school district. He said his educational and professional background make him a good candidate for trustee.

“I’ve seen a slot of changes for the good and for the bad,” he said. “I’ll bring a lot to the community.”

One of his concerns is the Common Core standardized testing that has taken place for a number of years.  When it was first introduced, he thought it might be a good thing, but his opinion soon changed. “I discovered we were just teaching for the tests,” he said. “[The students] were not learning any life skills and we were moving away from vocational opportunities.”

He said that since so many of the district’s students have opted out of the testing (72.9 percent), the expense of purchasing the tests only to have them thrown out is wasteful. That’s money the school district must absorb. He said as an educator and father, he would like to see the tests eliminated.

Kalinowski said that he’d like to see workshops in the classroom that would help students to use technology responsibly. “Kids don’t know how to talk to [one another] anymore,” he noted.

The challenges ahead are those he said would balance the best education while holding the line on taxes. “Taxes are always the elephant in the room,” he said. He noted that the issue is one that would be coming to the forefront since there are five different bargaining units whose contracts are up this year. “It’ll be a huge year,” he said.

Although there are many challenges ahead, Kalinowski said he’d work hard to keep the district in a very good place where students continue to excel.

“I’m passionate about this,” he said. “I have a vested interest in my community and I’m not going anywhere.”

 

Christopher Nicolia

Nicolia has been a resident of the hamlet since 2014. He is an attorney who is married and the father of three. Since his eldest child will soon be starting school, he said he wanted to be more involved in the school district and volunteer his time as a board member. 

Although he understands the need for construction projects in the district, he’s concerned that it will overshadow education. 

“I want to make sure education remains in the forefront,” he said, noting that he’d like to see a variety of programs remain available to help all students to succeed.

“There have been instances of runaway spending [in the past], but the administration has done a good job of trimming that down,” he said.

Nicolia said he is against the state’s Common Core standards that require teachers to teach only for the tests. “Not everyone’s brain works the same way,” he remarked.

The candidate said his background as an attorney has prepared him to take on the position where he could help move the district forward.

“I understand the need to make difficult decisions. The board needs to act in an oversight capacity,” he said, adding that’s something he’d work to achieve.

All in all, Nicolia said he is satisfied with the district as a place where his children will eventually be educated. “I like what I see,” he said.