Board of Education: Meet the candidates

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The Islip Bulletin reached out to the individuals running for the Board of Education in Bay Shore, Islip, West Islip and East Islip. All candidates were invited to submit a biography and answer why they chose to run for the board. Candidates wrote their own responses and biographies.

The West Islip UFSD has three board members whose terms are expiring on June 30, 2022. Current trustees Thomas Compitello and Peter McCann are seeking re-election.

Thomas Compitello (Incumbent)

Compitello has been a West Islip resident since 1953 and was a student of West Islip Schools, graduating in 1969. He attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina, and in 1973 received a Bachelor of Arts in history. From 1973 to 1994, Compitello served in the U.S. Navy and he is a retired lieutenant commander. From 1996 to 1997, Compitello was a substitute teacher for West Islip Schools. In 1997, Compitello received an M.S. in education from Dowling College. From 1997 to 2017, Compitello was a teacher at West Islip High School. He taught honors, regents and inclusion history. In 2018, Compitello spent five months at Beach Street Middle School as a leave replacement teacher for seventh-grade U.S. history. Compitello was elected to the West Islip Board of Education in 2019.

Why are you running for the West Islip Board of Education?

I am running for re-election to the school board to maintain the quality educational services currently available to the students of the West Islip public Schools. As a retired naval officer, I am acutely aware that the future of our nation rests with our rising citizenry who need to be well educated, technically proficient, and physically fit. The responsibility to achieve these goals rests in the school systems of West Islip.

Peter McCann (Incumbent)

McCann is a proud alumnus of the West Islip Public School system, having spent his entire academic career in the district and graduating with honors in 1988. As a high school student, McCann was a member of the National Honor Society, the drama club, the school newspaper and was an All-County track and field athlete and is a former school record holder in multiple events. McCann graduated from West Islip and attended Hofstra University School of Business on an academic scholarship. While in college, McCann returned to West Islip High School and coached the boys and girls track and field teams for many years.

Today, McCann is the CEO of a Healthcare Organization and a partner in the Private Equity field.

McCann married his 1988 homeroom classmate, Christine (Martorana) McCann, who has taught in West Islip as a special education teacher for the past 28 years. They have three children Lauren (17), Amy (16) and Peter (14). After 50 years in the town, McCann is known for his honest and caring personality; he is a natural, humble leader – the community knows him as a helper and friend to all. His faith and his integrity shape his life and his community presence.

McCann volunteers his time coaching soccer, basketball, hockey and lacrosse in West Islip. He is an active member of several PTA’s. McCann is a proud supporter of SEPTA, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, West Islip Beautification, West Islip Chamber of Commerce, and volunteers for the West Islip Creative Arts and Town of Islip Parks Department. To help West Islip business students, McCann is part of the Business Advisory Committee at the high school and volunteers at the career fairs. Pete and Christine use their foundation from West Islip Schools to try to make a difference in the community.

Why are you running for the West Islip Board of Education?

I have lived in West Islip for over 50 years and this community, the school district and my church have given me the tools to be successful in life.

Twenty-five years ago, I committed myself to a life of service to my family, my faith and my community.

Through many times in my life, this community has carried my family through tough times and celebrated over many good times. My volunteer work has allowed me to coach over 600 children in the town and be part of over 30 community and school groups.

My only goal now is to provide the children the same opportunity I was given and to ensure they are protected and safe.

Claudia Worley

My name is Claudia Worley, and together with my husband Stephen, we are raising our two girls Mia who is in kindergarten and Cora who will start pre-K in the fall. Stephen is a graduate of the West Islip Class of 2007. We decided to settle in West Islip, and he showed me how special this town is. I am a proud resident, and I am excited to be given this opportunity!

My unique background is diverse, eclectic, and full of a rich story that intertwines with the American story.  My parents immigrated from Jerusalem, and I had a multicultural, multilingual upbringing.  The primary language in my home was Arabic and I am of Jewish and Catholic descent. I lived in Israel for a time and returned to graduate from MacArthur High School. At times, my background made me feel like an outcast. That experience gave me a perspective to see things through a different lens. True to the American dream, I have learned that by being myself I am able to unlock the invisible barriers and connect with people.  West Islip has embraced me with open arms, and I am ready to give back!

I attended SUNY Farmingdale for psychology.  My career path took a turn towards learning a trade, and I studied culinary arts. Currently, I am becoming a Suffolk County public safety dispatcher.   I valued my college experience as well as my trade school experience.  Our students deserve to have all options available to them!

Why are you running for the West Islip Board of Education?

My reasons for running are quite simple. Over the past year, I have realized our board isn’t advocating for our children the way our community desired. COVID has thrown us all into a territory that no one knew how to handle, and the parents looked to the board for answers and our questions fell on deaf ears. Our children struggled the entire pandemic with their mental health, and it was brushed off as “kids are resilient.” We now have learned this is not the case and children are not nearly as resilient as we thought.

I chose to run to be the voice for the parents that begged and pleaded to get a response from our board and received nothing. I chose to run for the teachers that didn’t receive the support and praise they deserved after handling the complete transition to remote learning and guiding our children through an incredibly tough year. I chose to run for the community members that wanted a solution to our Masera property and waited over a year to have a committee formed. Our community deserves a fresh pair of eyes. [I am] a community member that has fought and will continue to fight for parental choice, parental and community involvement, and teachers’ salaries. I hope our community trusts in me to do every single one of these things like I have been doing for the last year as an active member of this community. At the end of the day, we are all West Islip Lions.

Kristin Calder

Calder decided to not submit a biography to the Islip Bulletin.

Valerie Rivera

My name is Valerie Rivera. I was born and raised in Bay Shore.  I attended Brentwood High School and graduated in 1994. I played varsity soccer, club softball and was the President of the DECA club.  I later went on to attain a B.A. in elementary education from Dowling College and a M.A. in literacy from Long Island University. 

In 1999, I married my middle-school sweetheart, Jason.  We moved to West Islip with our three  sons in 2006.  My husband has been an educator in the Brentwood School District for 24 years. Our oldest son Joseph graduated from WIHS in 2016 and went on to graduate from NYU in 2020. Jaydon graduated from WIHS in 2019 and is currently enrolled at Clemson University. Our youngest, a senior at WIHS, will be attending Fairleigh Dickinson University in the fall, majoring in communications.

During my sons’ years in the West Islip School District, I was a member of the PTA and had the joy of being class mom year after year. I also volunteered at numerous PARP events, organized many memorable talent shows at Bayview Elementary, and even received the Founders’ Day recognition award by the PTA.

I am currently working in health care and have been for the past seven years. I am a marketing developer on Long Island and in NYC for the Structural Heart Division at Abbott.

We have resided in the WISD for 16-plus years, and have enjoyed our time here building relationships while advocating to protect our schools, our children and our community, always.

Why are you running for the West Islip Board of Education?

After residing in the community for the past 16 years, I have decided to run for the Board of Education. In the previous two years, I felt as though the community wasn’t properly represented by our BOE. There were many residents who requested change, or a simple acknowledgement and felt as if their requests continued to fall on deaf ears. My mission is to stand up for our most prized possessions, our children. I look forward to engaging with the community and truly listening to the needs of the families in West Islip. I also look forward to working with and assessing the needs of our school district’s most valuable assets, our teachers. I plan to convey their shared message to my fellow board members, while achieving those common goals as a team.

As an elected trustee of the West Islip School District Board of Education, I promise to utilize our hard-earned tax dollars carefully and responsibly and in the most efficient and thoughtful manner possible. I assure you that our trio of candidates share that very same set of core values and vision, and as a team we will fight tirelessly for the rights of each and every member of the West Islip community.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly did not submit a biography to the Islip Bulletin.

There is one seat up for election this year in the East Islip School District. Incumbent Joann Walsh did not seek re-election. The length of the term on the board is three years.

Rachel Ackerman

Ackerman studied history, secondary education and special education at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Upon finishing college, she switched paths and moved away from teaching to a career in human resources and people strategy. She has over 17 years of experience working with companies like ADP, the New York Mets and several NYC-based tech companies designing policies and compliance.

Ackerman is a nine-year resident of East Islip with her husband, Steve, and daughter, Erin, who is a freshman at East Islip High School. As a parent in the district, she sees the successes and challenges our students face.

Ackerman has served the community in numerous capacities, being on the boards of the EIMS PTA and eiMAPs, serving as the Girl Scout service unit coordinator for the district, and currently serving on the district’s Long Range Planning Committee.”

Why are you running for the East Islip Board of Education?

Ackerman is a businessperson, wife, and mother who has spent her time over the last nine years working within the community and school district to support the needs of our children. Ackerman is passionate about bringing the community together around making East Islip School District a place where students and teachers feel like they belong. Having a daughter currently in the district, she has a unique insight to the needs of the East Islip community.

Ackerman is running for East Islip School Board because she believes that the district needs a fresh, modern perspective that speaks to the struggles students face today and will face after they graduate. As a leader in the ever-growing tech industry, she has firsthand knowledge of what will prepare East Islip students for success. She is excited to reimagine the processes for students to access mental health resources and tackle inclusive hiring processes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on her community, and Ackerman is certain the only way to navigate this shift is through relationships with our students, teachers, and community members. Ackerman will be an enthusiastic and powerful voice, centering the student experience at all decisions.

Dominick Barbato

I am a community advocate, lifelong resident, successful business owner, and author. Having gone through East Islip’s entire public education system, I know firsthand what this community demands. After high school, I went on to get my B.S. in finance and economics and an M.B.A. in organizational leadership. Our community needs a strong voice to deliver the best overall experience for our students and stakeholders. I plan and hope to be the active change and energy required to re-examine the fate, direction, and future at East Islip.

Why are you running for the East Islip Board of Education?

As a lifelong resident of East Islip, I am honored to run for the East Islip School Board for a few key reasons:

1. I want to see our community thrive. I know where this district has been, where it should be, and I plan to be that vibrant energy needed to get us there.

2. I have a deep desire to empower and impact tomorrow’s generations through my passion for education. Education is the offspring of inspiration. We must continually enhance our curriculum offerings to stay relevant in an ever-changing world.

3. I have a personal interest and desire to preserve and improve the quality of the East Islip school system from the inside out.

4. I have zero special interests, no political agenda, just a clear voice for all community members.

5. I plan to help guide the fiscal health of our district through various spending cutbacks, digital fundraising initiatives, and cutting wasteful spending. We must future-proof the community of East Islip.

Public education is changing. We must focus our spending on what matters most: the classroom and our students. I would be honored to serve this fantastic community and bridge the gap between what happens inside the neighborhood and our school. Passion for our community and fiscal oversight is essential to keep East Islip thriving. We also need adequate allocation of our taxpayer dollars, which can cut wasteful spending and enhance all classroom curricula. I am running for our school board because I want to give back to a community that has given me so much. Community is everything, and East Islip is one of the best communities. East Islip will continue to be great if we are fiscally responsible with your taxpayer dollars and educationally progressive. The way we learn and educate will not be the same in a decade. Our children must be ahead of these progressions. A vote for Barbato is a vote for the progressive betterment of this community.

Charles Kalinowski

My name is Charles Kalinowski and I am a husband, father and son. My wife and I are raising our three children in the same East Islip home in which my great grandparents purchased in 1957. I have been a public school teacher for the past 24 years. During this entire pandemic mess, I also worked three jobs in the hospitality business to help provide for my family. My two sons currently attend East Islip High School. My daughter is a sixth grader enrolled at Saint Mary School in East Islip. I hold a Master’s of Education and a Permanent NYS School District Administration license and degree. I am not an individual who gives up when faced with challenges. As a veteran public school teacher, I know that the school district is the heart of the community. I also recognize the importance of being able to afford to live and attract young families and businesses to our district.

Why are you running for the East Islip Board of Education?

I am running for our children, money and future. I ran for the East Islip BOE three years ago and received 47 percent of the vote. I was certified the winner of last year’s election, only to find out there was a tabulation error that invalidated what I considered a community victory. Win or lose, I will continue to support our district and community.

While attending over ninety percent of the BOE meetings, I have addressed the Board of Education on many occasions. By being well aware of my surroundings, I understand what the majority of our community members support, but more importantly, what they don’t! I embrace progress, while not forgetting where I came from. I believe that an effective BOE trustee should promote honesty, integrity and responsibility. Just as we do for our own children.

If elected, I will continue to find unique and clever ways to save taxpayer dollars, without compromising what the district offers to our children today. I have the foresight and ingenuity to catapult the East Islip School District to be the barometer in which all other school districts aspire to be, while shrewdly allocating our hard-earned cash for the unforeseeable future.

Timothy Sassone

Education has and will always be my passion in life and I feel a rigorous academic program would be beneficial to our district.  I received my Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Stony Brook with a double major in business management and economics. While working in the private sector, my passion for the past led to a master’s degree in history and a career in education, where I have been for the last 20 years.  As a capstone to my educational career, I received a post-master’s degree in both school building and school district leadership. 

These experiences make me keenly aware of items ranging from budget analysis to local and state curriculum goals.  It is my goal as a member of the Board of Education that East Islip students receive a top-notch education with a diverse set of opportunities based on desire and ability.  Additionally, I would always make an intentional effort to prevent soaring tax levy increases to protect our property values and have the chance for future generations to remain in the community. My three children will be starting high school, middle school, and elementary school next year.

Why are you running for the East Islip Board of Education?

Given the challenges of the pandemic, an enduring theme for my candidacy is to push for a return to normalcy and focus on mental and academic success as soon as possible. 

Priorities include thorough and appropriate spending of taxpayer money in order to reach the students directly.  A very important factor in  coming years will be maintaining the independence of East Islip schools against encroaching federal and state curriculum driven by political ideology.

There are two seats up for the Islip Board of Education this year with both incumbents seeking re-election. Kristin Presti and Matthew Clareen are running for the seat currently held by Clareen. Danielle Flora and Kristy Evans are running for the seat currently held by Danielle Flora.

Kristin Presti

I graduated from St. Joseph’s College in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in child study and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. I earned my master’s degree of liberal arts and sciences from Stony Brook University and went on to graduate from the Educational Leadership Program there. I have been a public school educator, teaching Spanish, in the Harborfields Central School District since 2007. There, I have been an active member of the faculty serving as a union representative, cheerleading coach, department coordinator and a member of various committees. Currently, I am a yearbook advisor and a student government advisor and have been for approximately the last seven years (the time goes so quickly!).

My husband and I bought our house in Islip in 2013, which is also the year we got married. We now have three beautiful children. Our son is 5 years old and our daughters are 4 and 2 years old.  As young children, they are exploring different interests and I am happy to foster that by being a soccer coach for the EISC for the last two fall seasons and helping on the baseball field or within a dance class whenever the chance arises. I am an active PTA member, which provided me the opportunity to be a class mom for my son’s kindergarten class. I have loved being able to bring different experiences to his class.

My experiences thus far, I believe, have made me a well-rounded, well invested, competent candidate for the Islip Board of Education.

Why are you running for the Islip Board of Education?

After attending countless Board of Education meetings and being involved in many of the great events that the Islip UFSD has to offer, I have seen how great this school district is and how it continues to build upon itself. I would love to be part of the growth and development of our schools.

As a parent, I know that there is nothing more important than what we teach our children, how we teach our children and the opportunities we provide for them. I am committed to ensuring all students get the best education they can with as many personalized pathways as possible. Additionally, I recognize the need for parental involvement in educational and curricular decisions.

As a homeowner (and therefore property taxpayer), I am fiscally invested in our school budget. Acknowledging the needs of all taxpayers and ensuring that the school budget passes annually is of paramount importance. As a public school educator, I can understand the importance of providing an education that is transparent, inclusive for all and free of political agenda.

I know that with my experiences, education, beliefs and prior knowledge, I can help Islip UFSD continue to be a school district that all graduates, students, and homeowners are proud of.

Matthew Clareen (Incumbent)

Clareen, a social studies and E.L.A. teacher, lifelong resident and Islip graduate, is running for a third term to the Board of Education in order to continue the innovations that support student success, interrupted by the pandemic. An active trustee, he frequently volunteers at districtwide K-12 events held by the PTA, Booster Club, and I.A.M.P (Arts).

Clareen is a choir member at St. Mary’s Church and the corresponding secretary of the

Historical Society of Islip Hamlet. In 2019, he was a recipient of the Board Mastery Award from N.Y.S.S.B.A. Currently, as secretary-treasurer of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association and former N.Y.S.S.B.A. resolutions chairman, he meets with legislators to support full funding of foundation aid, expanding sustainable pre-K funding, and the full restoration of state and local tax deductibility (SALT-D). Clareen has worked with the superintendent and fellow school board members to support five school budgets, which have remained at or below the tax levy limit, ensuring the district is fiscally responsible. He noted that the district has maintained a 95.5 percent average high school graduation rate during the past two years of the pandemic. This achievement is the culmination of the teachers, administrators, and staff going above and beyond to support the students and school community.

Why are you running for the Islip Board of Education?

Clareen noted that his experience and background will be invaluable to address the challenges ahead. Clareen’s top priorities include the critical post-pandemic social-emotional wellbeing support for students and staff. The current proposed budget includes an additional social worker, guidance counselors, and a full-time student support services advisor as a start.

Over the past few years, the district has spearheaded the Seven Habits character education program and is currently working on growth mindset initiatives. However, more community partnerships and addressing parent concerns need to follow. Increased technology proficiency, evolving to a 1:1 device school, and integrating to the Google platform has begun in the district.

Funding additional professional development to build advanced users is an innovative key to unlocking student success. Recognizing the district’s rich and diverse student population, Clareen believes increased efforts to hire highly qualified staff who reflect our community and who will collaborate well with our parents is essential. Inclusive classrooms where all students and staff can be seen, heard, and succeed, is an ongoing goal. In addition, the district is currently focused on planning for future infrastructure projects and other capital works which will need to be completed. Finally, through dedicated and steadfast instructional leaders, Islip Public Schools is investing in significant curriculum opportunities for student success. On that note, Clareen would like the district to continue to foster partnerships between colleges and vocational programs, which provide students with challenging coursework and the potential to earn college credits or work experience prior to graduation.

Danielle Flora (Incumbent)

I am a lifelong Islip resident, born and raised in this wonderful town. I attended the University of Delaware and SUNY Oneonta for my undergraduate studies and obtained a master’s degree in

educational counseling at LIU; CW Post. My background in school counseling and career in education as well as legislative work have provided me with a strong foundation for educational advocacy and whole child philosophies. In addition, I am a parent of three daughters: one graduate and two current students of Islip School District, which gives me both the parent perspective and a personal investment in the decisions that impact our students.

Married for 20 years, my husband and I own a home in Islip, making me a taxpaying resident. As a Board of Education member, I have worked tirelessly to maintain a fiscally responsible budget while also trying to ease the tax burden by advocating for increases in aid and tax relief.

I am seeking a third term as your Board of Education trustee so I can continue to represent you and implement the visions and goals of our outstanding new superintendent of schools, Dr. Dennis O’Hara. I feel a moral obligation to always advocate for the best interest of all students and community members.

Why are you running for the Islip Board of Education?

As a lifelong resident of Islip, and a two-term Board of Education trustee, I humbly seek your re-election for a third term. I originally sought a seat on the school board because I believe parents deserve a seat at the table and should be integral to the decision-making process. After serving on the Board of Education for the last six years, I have reaffirmed this belief, and know parents’ voices and community involvement are more important than ever. In addition to bringing the voice, empathy, and love of a parent I bring, as a certified school counselor, the knowledge of an educator. Additionally, I have the perspective of a taxpayer who wants the best for our children while remaining conscious of the financial challenges facing many of us.

Over the last six years, during my two terms of office, I have participated in the process of hiring two superintendents and helped lead the district through an unprecedented pandemic where we strived to keep our students, teachers, and community safe and healthy, all while providing an excellent education.

In addition, I continue to serve as the Legislative Committee co-chair, a Policy Committee member, REFIT representative for Islip, New York State School Board member, Nassau/Suffolk School Board member, COVID Task Force member, and many other roles. These experiences have been invaluable to my learning and have enabled me to better serve the Islip School District and community I love.

The wisdom and experience I have garnered over the last six years can help support our new superintendent, Dr. Dennis O’Hara, in leading our district to become what this unique and great community deserves and will be proud of—the highest degree of safety and a superior education for our children. As we emerge from the pandemic, I can see our foundation is strong, and I believe I am the best candidate to continue to help bring our visions and dreams to fruition. I seek re-election so I can ensure Islip continues to rise!

Kristy Evans

My name is Kristy Evans and I am running for a seat on the Islip School Board. As the mother of three children, ages 4, 8 and 11, I have a personal interest in improving the quality of our school system. I obtained my master’s degree in education and have been employed as a teacher in Lindenhurst School District for 19 years. As a special educator, I monitor data and use it to drive continuous improvement. When my chiId was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis at the age of 2, my journey to advocacy began. I became a member of the Volunteer Leadership Council for the Children’s Tumor Foundation and lobbied for a cure. With support from the community, we raised over $100,000.00 for CTF and went on to start our own foundation, called The Long Island NF foundation Inc. in 2021. My desire to give back through community service led to my role as secretary for of our local Kiwanis Club, an organization dedicated to helping children, and to being appointed to the Town of Islip Disability Advisory Board. I continued advocating for the needs of children in my role as SEPTA president for 5 years and past president and current vice president of the Sherwood PTA. I have worked closely with our school leaders on events such as school graduations, acquiring classroom resources, grant writing and extracurricular activities such as Special Olympics and the Sweetheart Dance. I have worked collaboratively with staff and community members to achieve our goals. I am a leader, a good communicator, a critical thinker and an insatiable learner.

Why are you running for the Islip Board of Education?

My efforts as a board member would center on educational equity for all, closing the achievement gap and ensuring all voices are heard. I would like to help create necessary opportunities for every student to reach their full potential, through accommodations, vocational programs and offering more advanced courses options in elementary through high school. I am committed to a vision of high expectations for student achievement. I would advocate for the consistency necessary in our leadership to keep the district successful and competitive. We have tremendous teachers and staff working with our children; however, we have had a high rate of turnover of administrators. I am committed to attracting the best people and keeping them here long term. Communication is crucial. Through public discourse and transparency, I would keep the public informed of the district’s progress, be responsive to parents, staff, students and the community, while encouraging open, respectful dialogue.

Incumbent Andrew Arcuri is running unopposed.

Andrew Arcuri

Commitment to students and the community has been my mantra from the time that I first decided to run for the Board of Education 18 years ago. I have been a lifelong resident within the district (Class of ‘77), and during my tenure on the Board, I have attended over 99% of all meetings. Our schools are thriving despite the curveballs thrust upon us. I have the desire to continue to serve the community, and am blessed to be able to have the time and energy to do so. There is a long list of accomplishments that this district, board and community have jointly accomplished during the 18 years that I have been on the Board. A few examples include the completion of the high school and middle school additions, the installation of new bleachers and two turf fields at the high school, the establishment of the Alumni and Veteran’s Walls of Fame, the acquisition of the Armory and opening of our Pre-K Center, the completion of a 9-11 Memorial at the Middle School and a Memory Walk at the high school, the initiation and implementation of the IB Program, the establishment of a veterans tax exemption, the phased in establishment of a laptop program, and the scheduling of six separate graduations in 2020 to ensure that every student received the proper recognition that they deserved.

Bay Shore is a District that families want to come to, in part because of the reputation of our schools. I am committed to maintain the high standard of excellence that exists in our schools; and to do so in a cost-efficient manner. It is an honor and a privilege to get to serve the community for another three years.

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