The May 17, 2022 South Country School Board Elections


We invited all of the candidates running in the May 17, 2022 South Country School Board elections to submit a statement of up to 500 words explaining why they thought you should vote for them. Here are the statements we received from those candidates who responded to our request.

 


 

Joseph L Barry

Joseph L. Barry

As a parent of three children in various stages of their educational experiences, I possess an understanding of the challenges currently facing our district, and I am focused on the opportunity to achieve greater student performance. These last few years have been difficult for everyone, but it has been most challenging for our children. There is plenty of room for improvement, and I know there are too many children continuing to fall behind.

Of the many issues facing our district, the ones I am most focused on as I run for the Board include fostering an environment that will assist the faculty and students as they work to overcome the losses that have occurred in overall academic performance in the last two years, and the role of discipline in our schools. Many of the 2021 graduates are struggling to keep up in their first year of college. I want to advocate for increased academic rigor for students to help them better achieve their goals, whether it be continuing their academic careers in college or entering the workforce. In terms of discipline, I want to advocate and encourage partnership among administration, faculty and staff to develop a more comprehensive and collaborative approach to discipline. Students need structure and providing structure that they can rely on will impact their academic success, while fostering a safe place for them to learn. There are too many instances where it is obvious that a lack of consistent leadership and discipline results in an unsafe, unproductive environment. We should also have a goal where we can provide students opportunities and experiences that enrich their academic careers. These opportunities and experiences should be reintroduced to inspire students to be aware of their behavior and to accept personal responsibility for their actions. Offering school trips and other extra-curricular experiences can foster this personal responsibility, and I believe those links and trust need to be repaired, giving the students greater hope for the future in a positive environment.

I also believe that there are too few voices representing the students in the district at the Board level. It is frustrating as a parent to know that so many things considered routine and normal in the school day have returned statewide, yet are not happening in South Country, and I attribute that to the imbalance of community members without children who serve on the board, versus those with children currently in the district. While I think all taxpayers should be represented on the Board, I do think that too many without first hand experiences in the schools creates an environment where the children do not always come first. I want to make sure that as a Board, we work to engage community partners such as the Boys and Girls Club of Bellport and the South Country Education Foundation in helping to find reasonable support to help our schools increase their performance and potential. I believe these issues will benefit not only our schools but also our community.



 

Cruz

Gino Cruz

Gino Cruz was born in Bronx NY, raised in Shirley NY, has lived in the community for 25 years, raised a son and helped raise his 2 stepsons and now a grandfather of 4. Married to his wife Georgianne for 25 years. Gino along with his son Gino Jr. are both volunteer fireman for the Bellport Fire Dept. Mr. Cruz was previously president of the South Country Library Board as well as past president of the South Country Community Conference. SCCC was originally started by the late Tony Gazzola. During that presidency Mr. Cruz organized a huge clean up of Station Road where over 10 tons of garbage was removed. Gino Cruz along with the South Country Ambulance headed by Chief Gregory Miglino Jr. had the biggest gun buy back event ever recorded in Suffolk County history. From 2011- 2015 Gino coached Bellport Football and Bellport Girls Track where he hosted annual Easter egg hunts for the children in the community. He directed 5K runs to raise money for the Bellport Girls Track Team as well as three local children who were suffering from Leukemia. Being a survivor of Leukemia himself this was a cause close to his heart.

If elected to the South Country School Board Mr. Cruz’s goals are:

- To bridge the gap between the schools, community and staff
- To help develop resources to support our students and staff. This is our family community. We need to serve, to have the ability to reach into our resources to see how we can best serve them.
- Equal Education for all students
- Fiscal responsibilities. It is our problem now and we need to fix it now
- Recovery from Covid 19 for students and staff. Helping students re adapt to socialization and giving options for live as well as remote learning
- We need to move our school system into the 21st century with the best technology possible for our staff and students
- Thinking out of the box for our sports programs to relieve the financial pressure from our community, example: using private corporation donations for our sports infrastructure to keep them up to date.



 

Anne Hayes

E. Anne Hayes

I am running for re-election to the Board of Education to deliver on the promise to all District children that there is hope for their future, that they are worthy of our investment in them, and that the education supported by this community will fully prepare them for productive and meaningful lives as adults who can make positive contributions to our community.

To do that, our schools need to provide safe spaces for educating and learning, including development of socialization skills and addressing social/emotional needs, many of which were delayed or made worse by the pandemic and disruption in routine. Our schools must demonstrate that behavior conducive to learning is expected and behavior deviating from that standard is addressed appropriately, promptly and consistently. Our schools need to provide challenging and effective educational programs, support services and co-curricular activities, expecting excellence and demonstrating achievement by all students.

As a re-elected Board member, I will work to establish the relationship with the new Superintendent, forging a governance team to provide exceptional educational experiences for our children by focusing on issues affecting our students, faculty and staff, including those described in the paragraph above, and taking into account the need for our community to support these efforts.

A Board member since July, 2019, serving as Board President during my entire first term, I have looked for ways to improve Board function in order to govern the District better, taking into account the difference between Board governance and the Superintendent’s administration of the District. In the process, I earned recognition from fellow Board members of my ability to help all members contribute to Board discussions, thereby enabling the Board to successfully engage in group decision-making.

I am a long-time Bellport resident and attorney, concentrating my practice in elderlaw and estate planning to help people plan for themselves and their families. I raised two children who graduated from Bellport High School, served on advisory committees to the school district, and volunteered in the community. Retired since 2018, I am fully committed to Board governance so that exceptional educational opportunities are provided to our students. Simply put, I want all children to flourish.

No current Board can un-do the financial mess created during the 2006-2010 era. But, the current Board has been addressing issues from that era to prevent recurrence. And, the upcoming Board and future Boards must confront, head-on, the financial fallout from that 2006-2010 era. I am ready, willing and able to seek fiscally responsible solutions to the problems from the past and make the hard decisions necessary to support continuation of quality and effective programs.

Please join in this important effort on behalf of our children and our entire South Country School District community by voting for me on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 (7 a.m. – 9 p.m.) at the Bellport Middle School Auditorium, 35 Kreamer Street, Bellport, NY. Thank you.



 

Ingrassia

Pat J. Ingrassia

1. Comment on why you are running and why people should vote for you:

There’s a movement that is making its way through our towns and cities across America.

Its origin was during the pandemic, when schools were locked down and children were mandated and forced to stay home and learn remotely.

Parents, many for the first time, observed first-hand what and how their children were being taught, and many were alarmed with what they were observing.

When they approached their school districts to question what they saw, they were shut down and classified as agitators. (Loudon County Virginia).

The parents banded together, and through their unity and strength, were able to reach into the statehouse in Virginia and put in place a governor who recognized the rightful place of the parents.

Parents, more so than at any point in recent years are taking an active role in their children’s education.

2. What you hope to accomplish/stand for:

- Recognize and acknowledge the serious financial challenges that the district is facing. A serious error was made by the previous board and the current board has refused to face it. Property owners in the South country School District are facing potentially onerous tax hikes.

- Budget Transparency, Fiscal Responsibility, and Accountability: it is imperative that we eliminate wasteful spending and reallocate our limited resources to benefit higher educational standards for the benefit of both students and taxpayers alike.

- Safety- Ensure the safety of our students and maintain discipline according to the Code of Conduct. Summarize the Code of Conduct into “10 Commandments” and strictly enforce them.

- Accountability: we must maintain a direct, open line so that the concerns of parents and taxpayers are heard and acted upon by members of the Board of Education.

- Investigate the ongoing health issues potentially associated with Frank P. Long.

- Discuss alternatives to the current educational model that heavily relies upon the use of Chrome Books.

- Classical view of education: let us raise standards, eliminate the philosophy that results in “participation trophies,” and foster a healthy competition in order to prepare students to confront the real world head-on.

- All voices should be heard freedom of speech is of utmost importance, and I support free expression and the healthy exchange of ideas,\.

- “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”



 

Tara Kavanagh

Tara Kavanagh

Hi neighbors. My name is Tara Kavanagh and I am a first-time candidate for the South Country School District Board of Education. I have been practicing law for 28 years, and have maintained an office in Bellport Village since 1998. I focus my practice in the areas of real estate, estate planning, and estate administration.

I live in the District with my husband, Tom Ford, and I’m a mom to four grown daughters. Two of my four daughters are graduates of Bellport High School and all four have attended the district. I’ve been a resident of the South Country School District since 1993, and I absolutely love living here.

My other relevant professional experience includes 14 years as a member of the Town of Brookhaven Planning Board, and I am currently a founding board member of Friends of Bellport Bay (FoBB), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that focuses on local environmental issues.

I have been considering a run for school board for several years. This year, I decided that it was time. I have always valued public service and I believe that each of us, to the extent we are able, should be willing to share our time and talent with our community. I am excited to begin the work of helping to make the school district, and all its buildings, a place where students and teachers feel valued, respected, and safe.

I firmly believe that a high-quality public education system is vital to a healthy democracy, because well-prepared students become informed citizens, discerning voters, and critical thinkers. Indeed, these students will become leaders who can pave the way for the students that follow behind them. This is the highest calling of our public school system, not just to educate children, but to prepare them for adulthood.

I am very interested in programs for students who do not intend to attend college, civic literacy programs, and encouraging extra-curricular engagement among all students, particularly those learning English as a new language. I truly believe that my personal and professional experience will be an asset to the Board of Education and to the District.

I am very proud to note that I have been endorsed by the Bellport Teachers’ Association.



 

Mariann McKenna

Marian McKenna

I am a 45-year resident of our school district. I have had 3 children who attended our schools, received an excellent education and went on to successful college and military careers. I, like many residents of this district, am appalled at the ineptness of this current Board of Education and the mismanagement of the money entrusted to them to run this school district. Our district is in crisis: financial problems, safety issues in schools, students leaving for private schools, etc! We need knowledgeable and experienced people on the Board and not new people who need to learn the ropes nor anyone currently on the Board and running for re-election. We need people like me and Greg Miglino, Past Presidents who know how a Board/District should be run and HAVE AN EXCELLENT TRACK RECORD IN DOING THAT and Amy Price-Thomas an experienced administrator. We have many years’ experience serving on the Board of Education, District Budget Advisory Committee, District Representative on Economic Development Zone and PTAs. While on the Board, we saw wonderful thing happen in this District: elimination of multi-million-dollar debt, improvement in Buildings and Grounds, schools removed from the States ‘Schools in Need of Improvement’ list, additional AP, honors classes and enrichment classes, solar energy added to the schools, settlements of all the employee contracts and some of the lowest tax increases in the last 30 years. Let us turn this district around with our EXPERIENCE!



 

Greg Miglino

Gregory C. Miglino, Jr.

As a former South Country School Board President and lifelong community member, I have found it impossible to ignore the deteriorating situations within our School District. I have been approached by parents, teachers, administrators, and residents who universally paint a picture of a district in crisis. They have told me about everything from violence in our schools to fiscal waste and mismanagement.

This March, the District sent out a letter informing the community of the potential for a 7.76% school district tax hike. As a result, I started looking into why this might be needed and discovered that our District was facing serious fiscal problems. At the top of the list was a $21 million capital deficit. Instead of being forthcoming about the true cause of the problem, the District embarked on a misinformation campaign, blaming past Boards going back 15-18 years. It was not until an April 11th meeting of the Miramar Beach Civic, that School District officials finally admitted they mis-accounted for and then misspent the $21 million over the last 11 years. This caused me great concern, because misinformation campaigns are counterproductive and only serve to create mistrust and tear our community apart.

The misspending of the $21 million by the District creates a fiscal crisis that dwarfs anything we have ever faced. Yet, if rumors about the current Board’s choice to be our next Superintendent are true, this Board has chosen a person with ZERO Central Office experience. A district in crisis has no time for on-the-job training. Being a Superintendent requires a specific skillset. That person needs to have relationships that are built from years of working at the Central Office level.

A school district’s prime mission is to provide a balanced education for our children and give them the tools needed to thrive in whatever they choose in life. We must offer students all the support they need to succeed. For this to occur, Board of Education members, administrators, teachers, and staff must provide a safe and disciplined learning environment. This requires that the Code of Conduct be enforced and applied equitably to ALL students. At the very least that means no cursing, no hitting, no threatening, no fighting, and no bullying, by anyone.

Solutions exist for all problems. But solutions take time and require competent, in-charge leadership. I successfully navigated our District through the last financial crisis. I will draw on that experience to immediately address the fiscal stresses and structural deficiencies we all know exist. I have recruited running mates - former Board President Marian McKenna and Amy Price-Thomas - who have the kind of leadership experience our District needs to get this done.

On May 17th, the three of us would appreciate your vote. On Day 1, we’ll get to work on bringing back a school district that is safe, fiscally accountable, and responsive to all.



 

Alesia Olsen

Dr. Alesia Olsen

Politics aside, if someone drove your car into a wall would you put them behind the wheel of your new car? Three well supported candidates played a part in the calamitous conditions we are facing. Do you really trust them to do better?

Thanksgiving 2021, I retired from Babylon School District. Although retired I still am the President and CEO of one of the largest educational service providers on Long Island. Now, in our 10th year we instruct students in over 65 districts island wide.

The three years I have been in this district are long enough to see the problems but short enough not to be part of the partisan bickering dividing our district. I want every student to feel seen, heard, and supported, not marginalized and targeted. I am here to decrease the anxiety and stress families feel when the air is charged with thinly veiled racist dogma. Hate wins when people like me stand by and let it happen. I won't.

Why am I running?

Simply put I am the most qualified for the position. I have a Doctor of Education in Leadership and Accountability. It is poor governance in part that has let us to fiscal, social, racial, educational, and political strife here in the South Country. I hold 5 certifications. I have been proven capable of good stewardship. My vision is to center schools on students and center the community on schools.

I am running because post pandemic it is well documented that all students are troubled. It is imperative that we support this year’s budget however unpleasant, because to reject it will further handicap students who are trying to overcome so much. Each student received different amounts of educational trauma and we must do a better job collectively to reach them. Even my own stepson who was a high honor roll student in the middle school is not working to his potential in the High School. We must do better.

I am uniquely qualified by virtue of education and experience to address the myriad of administrative and educational challenges.

Our students deserve the best education we can give them, and our schools deserve the full support of the entire south country community. Whether you have students in school or not, black, white, yellow, brown – LGBTQ the school should be a place where we can all feel safe, and in fellowship towards a common goal of merit.

How do we get there?

We get there by embracing and actualizing the concepts around which I have organized my campaign: Unity, Transparency and Excellence. I have specific ideas that can Improve the quality of education in this District. My service is far more important than performative nonsense.

If you want to hear more about my ideas – you can find me on Facebook and Instagram. I am Dr. Alesia Olsen and I am asking for your vote.



 

Amy Thomas

Amy F. Price-Thomas

My name is Amy F. Price-Thomas, and I am a lifelong resident of our community having attended South Country Schools since kindergarten. As a wife and mother of three children, two currently enrolled in our public schools and a newborn that will eventually attend school here, I have become concerned over the last few years with the direction our school district is heading. It seems on almost a daily basis parents, kids and school staff are reaching out to me with one horror story after another with everything from violence in our schools to lack of accountability for a myriad of things.

The final straw for me in deciding to seek a position on the BOE was the letter I received in the mail from the district in March indicating there was a potential 7.76% increase in our next year’s school taxes. The more I asked questions and looked for answers, the more I realized that our district was being fiscally mismanaged. It was then I realized that my years of successfully managing budgets, time working with our kids and my ability to forge positive relationships with people to solve problems could be useful at our Board of Education.

Over the years I have broken a few glass ceilings in my profession, often being the only female in the room. I have never let the traditional belief about any position hold me back. That philosophy currently has me serving as the boys Soccer Coach for the Bellport Soccer Club, Board Member for Oaklawn Cemetery, PTA Parent, and community Advocate for Animals. This is in addition to my 24 years of volunteer service in EMS with 12 of those years serving as the Chief of Administration.

My ability to get the job done correctly has had me receive awards from the NYS Senate, County Legislature, Town of Brookhaven, and others. Once elected I expect to get to work immediately working with parents, staff, and the community on resolving the issues I mention previously and identifying ones I may be unaware of. At the top of that list will be the safety of our students and staff and the fiscal stability of our district. No one board member can accomplish this alone and I feel fortunate that my running mates Greg Miglino and Marian McKenna are both former BOE Presidents who successfully led the district through fiscal stresses in the 1990’s and mid 2000’s. All three of us are supportive of the public education system, but at the same time expect the leaders of that system to be fiscally responsible.

I truly believe that South Country is a wonderful community, that’s why I bought my home here and I am raising my kids here, and that’s why I am choosing to get involved. I am asking the residents of this School District for your vote on May 17th for Trustee.



 

Christopher Ross

Christopher Ross

I am excited to announce that I am running for the South Country School District’s Board of Education.

I am a life-long member of our community, in fact a 1992 graduate of Bellport High School.

I am a practicing attorney with a general law practice, with a focus on litigation. I spend my day helping my clients through some of the most complex, trying, and emotional times (both good and bad) in their lives. This has been my job and passion for the last 20 years.

My beloved wife, Nancy, is an elementary educator in the Middle Country School District. We have three children. The oldest is a freshman at Bellport High School, my youngest two are in 5th and 6th grade. We are proud to live and raise our family in this community.

Before practicing law, I worked in the world of sports and entertainment on events like 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Games, Monday Night Football, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown and college football. I held these jobs while working for companies like ABC Sports, ESPN, Disney Internet Group, Fireworks by Grucci, and the Women’s Sport Foundation.

My experiences give me a unique perspective and skill set, which if elected, I can bring to the board of education, to advocate for our children, families, and community from the inside.

The tasks and duties which lie ahead for the next board and future board members are not a one-person job, it is going to take a team effort with some hope, faith, hard work and dedication.

Some of those tasks and duties include:
- Making sure students are educationally equipped for success
- Pursue more financially responsible policies which insure a return on the community’s investment in our schools
- Make sure the communication and access to the board is open, so concerns, thoughts and ideas from parents, staff and community members are heard.
- Encourage, promote and expect safety and security at our schools so children, staff and teachers have a safe and welcoming space to learn and grow.

We want our children and community members to take pride in being a Bellport students, Alumni and community members.

I look forward to meeting more of you in the coming days and hope that I can have your vote on May 17th.