Each time a new school board member is elected in New York State, they must take a training course to learn the ropes.
Shoreham-Wading River school board president John Zukowski thinks they could save a lot of time by simply shadowing fellow board member Michael Fucito for a day or two.
“Start with an incredible commitment to your community and follow it up by being thoroughly prepared for every meeting,” Mr. Zukowski said. “Mike has always been the rock of reason … he kept everybody on track.”
Mr. Fucito, who through two terms has served on the school’s Board of Education for a combined 27 years, resigned from his position Tuesday night. He recently sold his house in Wading River and will be moving out of the district to his second home in Vermont full time.
“It’s been my pleasure to serve the community for all those years,” he said, thanking the current board members and those he previously served with.
“Mike is the epitome of what a trustee should strive to be,” added board member William McGrath. “It is New York’s loss and Vermont’s gain.”
Mr. Fucito first joined the board in 1977 and served continuously until 1993, winning five consecutive three-year terms. After a break, Mr. Fucito ran again and won a seat back on the board in 2006. He’s been on it ever since and is considered a calming influence.
“He has been the glue that’s held this district together for an awful long time,” Mr. McGrath said.
Mr. Fucito’s farewell was saved for the final portion of Tuesday’s board meeting. After his request was unanimously approved, members presented him with an award and gave him a standing ovation.
Several former board members and school administrators showed up to say goodbye. As Mr. Zukowski announced the resolution accepting Mr. Fucito’s resignation, those supporters shouted “Boo! Say no!” before laughing.
“Mike, we’re here for you,” said Liala Strotman, a former teacher and school principal in the district. “You were here for us your entire career. Thank you so much.”
Ms. Strotman heaped praise on Mr. Fucito’s work on the board, particularly for helping to guide the district through multiple school administrations.
“Mike was part of the stability,” she said.
All three of Mr. Fucito’s daughters went through the school system, something he noted with pride following the meeting.
In his nearly three decades on the board, he has seen the district change in many ways, as standardized testing and ever-present concerns over the statewide tax cap have put school boards under intense pressure in recent years.
Still, Mr. Fucito told reporters that despite the long hours, he simply wanted to help the students in his community.
“We’re all working to help the kids,” he said.
The school board will meet with just six members until the upcoming board elections, at which point Mr. Fucito’s seat will be available.
Photo credit: Paul Squire