‘Meet the candidates’ for Shoreham-Wading River school board

05/10/2011 11:58 AM |

John Zukowsi, one of seven candidates vying for three Shoreham-Wading River school board seats, quoted legendary Native American Sitting Bull at a “Meet the Candidates” event Monday night to explain his philosophy on securing funding for public education.

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children,” Mr. Zukowski said. “Although it was spoken 150 years ago, no truer statement could ever be said when it comes to what our Board of Education faces.”

While the candidates agreed that community unity is essential to provide a quality education for children, each voiced his or her own viewpoint on the various factors that go into best providing that education.

Candidates responded to 12 questions, posed by moderator Maryann Decostanzo of the Suffolk Region PTA, on topics ranging from building cafeterias and serving hot lunches in each of the schools to curbing tax hikes while providing programs for students.

The event was held in the high school library.

Mr. Zukowski, 48, who is seeking his first three-year term, said the district could keep taxes down but maintain student programs by consolidating services, particularly the position of superintendent of curriculum and instruction, with neighboring districts.

Incumbent board member and Brookhaven National Laboratory research associate Bill McGrath, 58, agreed on merging services, as did newcomer Stephen Offutt, 48, a district manager for Kmart who added that somehow maintaining local control would be essential in a consolidation arrangement.

Incumbent board member Bob Alcorn, a retired teacher seeking a second term, said the board should look to cut costs in areas that aren’t related to students. Board president Jack Costas, also seeking a second term, said he thinks negotiations with bargaining units are one of the most efficient ways to reduce spending and still provide programs for students.

As to their opinions on instituting a hot lunch program in all of the district’s schools, some candidates disagreed. There are five schools in the district. At four of the district’s five schools — all but the high school — students bring their own lunch and eat in their classrooms.

Newcomer Keith Field, 38, an emergency medial and physician assistant, pointed to the importance of the social aspect provided by cafeterias and lunch periods, but Mr. Alcorn, 63,  said cafeterias can be breeding grounds for unwanted incidents. He added the personnel, food service and facility costs also make building a cafeteria hard for him to support.

“It’s going to be a massive expense that I think could be better spent elsewhere,” he said.

Mr. McGrath said he’d hold community forums to gauge residents’ desire for expanding the lunch program and adding facilities.

When candidates were asked how they would improve communications between the board and community residents, Mr. Costas, 52, said he’d like video recordings of every board meeting to be posted on the district’s website. Mr. Offutt and Anthony DeLouise, 61, who owns a technology company, suggested utilizing social networking websites.

Candidates were in clear agreement on allocating resources to preserve Advanced Placement courses, as well as spending prior year’s state aid on necessary facility and infrastructure repairs.

When asked their opinions on tenure for teachers, Mr. Offutt, Mr. Zukowski and Mr. Field said merit should be considered in granting a teacher tenure. Mr. DeLouise and Mr. McGrath agreed a teacher should be evaluated for longer than three years — the current time frame in which administrators decide whether to grant tenure.

“I think it is criminal to offer tenure within three years,” Mr. McGrath said.

Mr. Costas and Mr. Alcorn said the evaluation process needs to be examined, and that the system’s main fault is the potential for dishonest evaluations.

“Too often, people are given tenure who don’t deserve it,” Mr. Alcorn said.

Taxpayers will vote not only for school board members Tuesday, May 17, but on an almost $60 million budget.

THE CANDIDATES:

A retired social studies teacher, Bob Alcorn, 63, is seeking a second term on the board and is campaigning with incumbent Jack Costas and newcomer Keith Field. The father of four Shoreham-Wading River graduates, Mr. Alcorn has lived in the district for 38 years.

The current school board president, Jack Costas, 52, is also running for a second term on the board. Mr. Costas, a general contractor and construction manager, has lived in the district for seven years and has three children attending Shoreham-Wading River schools.

Anthony DeLouise, owner of a technology company and associate real estate broker, is running for a school board seat for the first time. Mr. DeLouise, 61, has two children who graduated from Port Jefferson School District. He has lived in the district for five years.

Stephen Offutt is also seeking his first term on the school board. A district manager for Kmart, Mr. Offutt, 48, has two children in the district and has been a district resident for 12 years.

Keith Field, 38, is seeking his first term as well. An emergency and medical physician assistant, the father of two Shoreham-Wading River students has lived in the district for six years.

Bill McGrath, a research associate at Brookhaven National Laboratory, is seeking a second term on the board. A 22-years district resident, Mr. McGrath, 58, has one daughter who graduated from Shoreham-Wading River.

John Zukowski, 48 is running for his first term on the board. Mr. Zukowski, an attorney, has two children in the district and has been a Shoreham-Wading River resident for six years.

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Comments

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5 Comment

  • Interesting comment made by Mr. Zukowski when asked about his attendance at Board Meetings. He said “Either my wife or I have been at every board meeting this year” He might as well have said “Either Harriet Copel or I have been at every meeting” The question wasn’t about his wife’s attendance at meetings, it was about his.
    His answer was less than honest as he has been to only one.
    Yes – attendance at board meetings is not a prerequisite for running…but truth and honesty are….if he lies about something like this, what else?
    My Zukowski WILL NOT be getting my vote.

    Mr. Alcorn – thank you for your honesty and integrity. YOU CLEARLY HAVE THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILDREN IN MIND. I know it is not easy to be on the board, but you will have my vote.

  • A Commitment to Fiscal Responsibility, Great Schools & Responsive Government

    We would like to introduce ourselves and ask for the each resident’s vote for all 3 of us on Tuesday May 17th. We are among the candidates running for the 3 open seats on the SWR Board of Education.

    SWR is at a critical juncture. There is much hope, but only if we are able to maintain the forward momentum — progress begun when a change from formerly long-entrenched Board leadership occurred & steps toward moving SWR in a more open & positive direction were spearheaded by new Board President, Jack Costas & Bob Alcorn.

    We bring the perspectives of a long-term resident, retiree & professional educator, & two parents of students currently in the district.

    We represent decades of volunteer work in the community, from youth athletics & Boy Scouts to classroom & community education & literacy.

    We are deeply committed to:

    • Respect the financial challenges facing homeowners — & put money into the classroom where the dollar stretches much further & directly enhances children’s learning, rather than in costly layers of administration & consultants as embraced by earlier leadership.

    • Continue recent efforts to ensure the district conducts its business in open, public forums as is required, rather than behind closed doors among a small group of individuals.

    • Foster a more collaborative approach to administration & decision-making — tap into the riches of talent & ideas in our midst & decrease risk for the district by finding win-win resolutions of concerns.

    • Ensure the Board serves the interests of SWR’s children & residents rather than those with access & influence.

    • Pursue all avenues to secure from Albany state aid equity with our neighboring districts.

    • Invest the time & energy required to be well-informed, highly engaged & responsive Board Members, regaining the trust of the community.

    • Keep it moving forward:
    ⋅ Kids First
    ⋅ Value From Every Dollar
    ⋅ Transparency
    ⋅ State Aid Equity

    Please make a difference & support us May 17th. Thank you!

    Jack Costas, Bob Alcorn, Keith Field

    Candidates for SWR Board of Education

  • I am a Senior Citizen, have lived in SWR for 53 years, raised three children in our schools and served on several of our School Boards. I fully — enthusiastically — support the three candidates for the Board of Education, Jack Costas, Bob Alcorn and Keith Field, who have graciously offered their time and wisdom to serve our children and, in fact, all of us.

    I know these men, have discussed a variety of educational and community issues at length with each of them and have been impressed by their deep personal commitment and strong leadership, including Jack and Bob’s ability finally to bring to fruition the many positive changes in how the district is managed since the change in leadership on the Board last August. I have also been very impressed by the positions all three of them are communicating: commitment to children, making the best use of our money and beginning to let some light back into the shadowy workings of this district.

    My greatest hope for our district is to elect to Board leadership Jack Costas, Bob Alcorn and Keith Field. ONLY THEY will guarantee continuation of progress begun this year. And only then will I have hope for us taxpayers and for the children and grandchildren whom we love.

    Winifred Pardo

  • I am a Senior Citizen, have lived in SWR for 53 years, raised three children in our schools and served on several of our School Boards. I fully — enthusiastically — support the three candidates for the Board of Education, Jack Costas, Bob Alcorn and Keith Field, who have graciously offered their time and wisdom to serve our children and, in fact, all of us.

    I know these men, have discussed a variety of educational and community issues at length with each of them and have been impressed by their deep personal commitment and strong leadership, including Jack and Bob’s ability finally to bring to fruition the many positive changes in how the district is managed since the change in leadership on the Board last August. I have also been very impressed by the positions all three of them are communicating: commitment to children, making the best use of our money and beginning to let some light back into the shadowy workings of this district.

    My greatest hope for our district is to elect to Board leadership Jack Costas, Bob Alcorn and Keith Field. ONLY THEY will guarantee continuation of progress begun this year. And only then will I have hope for us taxpayers and for the children and grandchildren whom we love.

    Winifred Pardo

  • I take great offense to the anonymous party that questions my integrity based on my response to the question regarding attendance at Board meetings. My family has been extremely involved in our District, and our involvement is treated as a family affair. My children are as well versed in the concerns of the District as many adults. The fact that my wife or I has been to almost every meeting is something I take pride in, and do not apologize that we both did not make every meeting. How many families could pull off that feat?
    Also, if you were truly keeping score, I may have spoken at only one meeting, requesting that the Board utilize the Connect Ed system to inform everyone in the District to come out and support the Lax-Out Cancer event, but I have been present at others as well.
    While I am thankful for those who have written in my defense and called expressing outrage at this comment, I think this is exactly the type of discourse which needs to be avoided. Our District faces real issues that require serious debate, from unfunded mandates dictated from Albany, to the absolute inequity in the amount of State Aid our District receives. Our children deserve better than petty name calling. Their future depends on us addressing these issues in a forthright and honest manner. We do not all have to agree on every issue, but we owe it to one another and our kids to be civil in our debate.
    While this race is extremely important to me, my reputation and family name are equally so. I am willing to defend my ideas and platform to anyone who will listen, and hope the debate goes long into the night. I wish all the other Candidates the best of luck, and hope this race can be about the issues from today moving forward.

    JOHN ZUKOWSKI
    Candidate, SWR School Board