Riverhead Central School District will see a contested school board election this year as two newcomers challenge a pair of incumbents for two available seats.
Jerome Bost of Riverhead and Matthew Wallace of Calverton are seeking three-year terms. They’ll face off against incumbents Laurie Downs and Elizabeth Silva.
Mr. Bost, 35, is a legislative aide in the Suffolk County Legislature, a student at Suffolk County Community College and member of its board of trustees. He said he can use his skills to partner with other school districts and serve as an advocate to fund more positions for guidance counselors and social workers in the district.
If elected, he plans to work with the community and district to “establish vocational and college readiness programs” that will spark conversations about college and expose students to different career paths. He said he pledges to be available for district parents, in part by establishing a working group of parents and educators to tackle student retention, improve graduation rates and support the district’s growing population of English language learners.
Other priorities, he said, are school safety and fostering relationships between the community, parents, educators and district administration.
Mr. Wallace, 48, is a longtime licensed practical nurse who works with Northwell Health in Riverhead. He has three sons in the district, one of whom will graduate in June, and a daughter who attends SUNY/New Paltz.
He has been an EMT and volunteer firefighter for 32 years with the Wading River Fire Department, where he served two terms as a captain. He has also served as fire district commissioner. Mr. Wallace aims to maintain all academic, sports and arts-related programs. He said he wants to provide staff, teachers, custodians and related service providers with appropriate equipment and prioritize discussions about student and staff safety.
He previously coached football with the Suffolk County Police Athletic League and currently coaches Riverhead PAL lacrosse.
Ms. Downs, 63, of Riverhead first stepped up to speak at a school board meeting 19 years ago. She’s been a longtime district watchdog and held a seat on the board since 2016. She seeks re-election for multiple reasons, she said, completing projects she started while on the board. Those include providing more recess time for children, incorporating mindfulness in the classroom and adding a ninth period to the school curriculum.
Ms. Downs, whose two children graduated from the district, previously served as middle school PTO secretary, high school PTSO president and PTO executive council president. During those years, she said, she videotaped every board meeting. Even after her youngest child graduated in 2007, she continued to record meetings and advocate on behalf of parents, students and taxpayers, she said.
A member of the board’s health and safety and policy committees, she said she wants to improve transparency in the district and increase the number of AP courses offered. She also wants to take a whole-district approach toward improving student and staff safety.
Ms. Silva, 56, of Aquebogue, was elected to a one-year term in 2018. She works as a special education teacher at Westhampton Beach Learning Center. Her youngest daughter, a freshman at Riverhead High School, has been involved in sports, orchestra, NJROTC, Civil Air Patrol and advanced courses — which has allowed Ms. Silva to establish relationships with parents and students to work together, she said.
Her main goal as a school board member, she said, is to support Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez and collaborate with her colleagues to keep the schools safe. She noted that the district is moving in the right direction, pointing out that earlier this academic year, four schools in the district achieved “Good Standing” as per state education standards.
Ms. Silva believes her involvement as a senior member of the Civil Air Patrol, part-time tutor for the Eastern Suffolk BOCES Migrant Education Program and catechist at St. John the Evangelist R.C. Church in Riverhead for three years has enabled her to engage with the Riverhead community.
Ms. Silva said Riverhead is a great place to live and learn, and feels all students should be well-rounded and have exposure to sports, the arts, music, foreign languages and more.