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Two newcomers, incumbent on SWR school board ballot

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05/13/2016 5:28 PM |

SWR school board election

The search for a new superintendent, state-mandated testing concerns and completion of a $48.5 million capital improvement project are top priorities for this year’s Shoreham-Wading River school board candidates.

Three people are running for two open seats, with incumbent Richard Pluschau seeking re-election.

Sean Beran — who was elected in 2013 — has decided not to run again. Newcomers Michael Lewis and Kimberly Roff will appear on Tuesday’s ballot.

Mr. Lewis, a Shoreham resident with two toddlers, works as a senior project manager for WFC Architects in Setauket. His volunteer activities include serving on the school board’s bond committee, which developed the ongoing districtwide construction project voters approved last year. He has also served as space and facilities committee chair since 2015. He’s also a co-founder of the community Facebook page “SWR United for Rebuilding the Pride” and also coaches for North Shore Little League and Sound Beach Soccer Club.

Mr. Lewis said he opposes the state’s direction with mandated testing and supports the trending opt-out movement because he believes the control over education should be handled on the local level.

He also believes his background in architecture will help guide the district through its current bond project, which involves construction of athletic fields, additional classroom space and roofing, among other projects.

“Within the next three to four years, our district we will see three new building additions and massive renovations throughout our existing facilities and surrounding grounds,” Mr. Lewis said. “Bringing over 17 years of experience within the design and construction industry, my contribution on the board to assist and oversee these ventures will be extremely invaluable.”

Dr. Roff, a professor of education studies at SUNY/Empire State College who has a Ph.D. in education, is a Wading River resident with two school-aged children.

She also works as an adjunct instructor for the teacher graduate program at Touro College, an online instructor for Western Suffolk BOCES and an instructor at Jazzercise in Wading River.

As for volunteerism, Dr. Roff has served as a co-PTO president for Briarcliff Elementary School and chaperones for school events. She’s also a leader for Suffolk County Girl Scouts and Suffolk County Boys Scouts.

When asked why she’s decided to run for school board, Dr. Roff said she wants to ensure the bond project is completed and would look to also improve communication between the district and community.

She described her experience as an educator as a valuable asset in choosing the district’s new superintendent, a task Dr. Roff said is her top priority.

Current Superintendent Steven Cohen announced in February that he plans to retire this summer from the position he’s held for the past five years.

During Dr. Cohen’s tenure, voters approved the district’s first capital improvement bond project and the school board adopted the Princeton Plan, a model that arranged the district’s elementary school buildings by grade level instead of catchment area.

Dr. Roff said she believes adding diversity to the school board is also important. If elected, she’ll become the first woman to serve on the seven-member board since Marie Lindell resigned in 2012.

“I’m focused on education first — that’s my passion in life,” she said. “The most important issue facing our school district is preserving the culture of success in our district.”

Mr. Pluschau, vice president of enterprise data management at AIG, was first elected in 2010 and has lived in the district for more than 10 years.

He said his top priorities include “ensuring that the children of this community receive the greatest education that can be afforded them within our resources and abilities.” If re-elected, he said he’ll also continue to address declining state aid and rising state-mandated costs and tackle budget constraints under the tax levy cap.

“Addressing these requires the ability to think strategically, logically and plan accordingly — activities that I have been encouraging during my tenure as a board member,” he said.

Mr. Pluschau, a former board vice president, said he also plans to continue pushing elected leaders to secure the district’s “fair share of state aid” and believes his experience with hiring Dr. Cohen as superintendent after Harriet Copel stepped down is a valuable asset to the school board.

Each seat carries a three-year term.

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Photo: From left, Michael Lewis, Richard Pluschau and Kimberly Roff.

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