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Familiar and new faces in SWR school board race

05/20/2019 6:56 AM |

This year, six candidates will battle it out for three school board seats in the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District. 

Only two of those seats are for full three-year terms. The person who receives the third highest number of votes will serve just one year to complete the term of former member Erin Hunt, who joined the board two years ago and resigned in March. She cited changes in her professional life as the reason for her departure. 

The three-year terms of current board president Michael Lewis and vice president Kimberly Roff will end this year. Ms. Roff will not seek re-election.

Mr. Lewis will face five challengers: former board member William McGrath, Edward Granshaw, Jennifer Kitchen, Meghan Tepfenhardt and Thomas Sheridan.

MICHAEL LEWIS

Mr. Lewis has served on the board since 2016 and was vice president in 2017-18. He believes he will contribute to the district as a strong leader, great communicator and forward-thinker with extensive experience in design and construction.

He is a member of the district’s space and facilities, health and safety, and policy and legislative committees and serves as a Wildcat Athletic Club board member and co-chairperson of the Father’s Flag football charity.

He was a member of the 2014 bond committee and has served as a coach for Suffolk County Police Athletic League lacrosse and Long Island Sound Sharks flag football. 

Two of the most important issues facing the district, Mr. Lewis said, are maintaining positive relationships with the board, superintendent and leadership units, and continuing to enhance social and emotional support for students. If he’s re-elected, he hopes to improve communication and collaboration with community members, ensure fiscally responsible budgets, protect recent facility investments, create a healthy environment for students and incorporate collaborative and diverse classroom settings while strengthening technology initiatives.

He also plans to develop a strategic plan for the district that would build strong relationships among teachers, administrators, and staff while furthering building security and supporting fiscally sound budgets.

JENNIFER KITCHEN

Ms. Kitchen, who has four children in the district from grades 3-12, said she represents all levels of the district’s education system and, if elected, will work as a voice for everyone. She said she’s fought diligently for the children, schools, teachers and community for 12 years, having served on the PTA and PTO executive boards for Briarcliff School, Miller Avenue and Wading River elementary schools and the middle school. She’s been with the PTA council for five years and served as chairwoman on nine school committees. 

Ms. Kitchen is involved with local sports, as well, coaching lacrosse, basketball and an all-girls flag football team.

For the past two years, she’s also served on the curriculum development committee, advocating for a better curriculum. Her degree in accounting from Bentley University positions her, she says, “as an asset to ensure our budgets are fiscally responsible while managing the bond spending.” She added that she loves every aspect of serving the Shoreham-Wading River community and looks forward to being a voice for everyone. 

WILLIAM MCGRATH

Mr. McGrath is seeking a spot on the board to offer a balanced, level-headed voice representing all residents of the district.

As a past board member and former president, he said he’s been involved in district finances, technology improvements and capital projects — including tackling the district’s bond work process. 

Mr. McGrath has served on several district committees, which he said allowed him to continue to strive for the best values in delivering all the district can for student development, infrastructure maintenance all in a fiscally prudent manner — always aware that most of the resources are taxpayer dollars, he said. 

The retired scientist and researcher from Wading River said he assisted the district in taking maximum advantage of the wealth of scientific knowledge that abounds in the area. If elected, he hopes to monitor these opportunities for educational advancement, especially in the fields of science, technology, arts and math.

His priorities are to foster the whole child and address issues of community, students, administration, support staff and security — all of which tie together in delivering the education and ensuring the welfare and safety of the students, he said. He said he wants ensure that all sides of a discussion are heard and treated respectfully. If necessary, he said, he will bring resident’s concerns to the district administration and ensure they are being addressed.

THOMAS SHERIDAN

Mr. Sheridan said the Shoreham-Wading River community is a strong and vibrant place where residents come together through good and bad times. The heart of this community, he said, are the district’s schools and children.

Mr. Sheridan, who lives in Shoreham and has two daughters in the district, said he’s an involved community member and volunteer. He began attending school board meetings when the district was “not at its best.” Today, he said, the district is stronger. If he’s elected, he wants to stay focused on enriching the district’s academics, supporting “excellent” teachers and administrators to better enable the district to be celebrated and recognized for their points of pride.

Public schools have complex issues, Mr. Sheridan said, and he believes he’ll approach the board member’s role as an advocate who will prepare students for their future endeavors.

MEGHAN TEPFENHARDT

Wading River PTA president and former PTA treasurer, Ms. Tepfenhardt believes that children’s educational experiences should be of the highest quality, with consistent, sound instructional practice. An 18-year educator, she has bachelor’s degree in childhood studies, a master’s in childhood special education and a concentration of studies in economics. She said she’s dedicated to ensuring that all students have equal access to an “exemplary education” and hopes to facilitate responsible budgeting while enhancing learning opportunities for K-12 students.

She has the necessary disposition to serve on the Board of education, she said: She’s a strong communicator, can make difficult decisions and can effectively prioritize goals. She takes pride in her ability to treat all people fairly, she said, and values differing viewpoints as a way to facilitate educational experiences.

Ms. Tepfenhardt said she continues to enhance her expertise in education through professional development classes and researching new and innovative teaching methods. “I strive to support parents, teachers, administrators and, most importantly, the children of our district,” she said.

EDWARD GRANSHAW

Mr. Granshaw, of Wading River, said the most important issue facing the district is the safety and security of the children. He’s worked in law enforcement for 27 years and said that will provide a “unique perspective” to tackle student safety and security. As a Suffolk County police officer, he’s participated in several training exercises tailored toward school emergency incidents. When given a task, he added, he has the ability to access the situation from several different viewpoints and make an objective decision, regardless of personal opinions or outside influences.

If elected, he plans to continuously evaluate safety and security procedures, student programs and spending, and use his background to ensure that all students will be safe on school grounds. He said he takes pride in being an honest, hardworking member of the community. 

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