Board of Education voters’ guide

On Tuesday, May 16, residents of two local school districts will vote on proposed school budgets and decide who will serve on their school boards.

Four seats are available on the Riverhead Central School District’s Board of Education, with seven candidates competing this year. Two incumbents, Christopher Dorr and Therese Zuhoski, will not seek reelection. Incumbent Virginia Healy is pursuing a second term as a board member.

Ms. Healy will run alongside newcomers David Dougherty, Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, Erica Murphy, Cynthia Redmond, James Scudder and Kimberly Wilder.

The three candidates who receive the most votes will serve three-year terms. The candidate who places fourth will fill the vacant seat and unexpired term of former board vice president Laurie Downs, which expires June 30, 2025. The candidate who fills that seat will begin their term as soon as the vote is certified. The others will begin serving July 1.

The candidates spoke at the Riverhead Board of Education’s most recent meeting Tuesday night. 

Ms. Healy, 61, of Wading River, is a former financial planner and educational consultant with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Stony Brook University.

She believes the three most pressing issues for the district are preparing for the end of special state and federal aid for pandemic-related learning loss, increasing the graduation rate and reducing the drop-out rate, and addressing space and security issues within the district.

Mr. Dougherty, 44, lives in Flanders. He is the northeast regional sales manager for Vintage Wine Estates and a graduate of Eastport High School.

He believes safety, overcrowding and the effects of the pandemic on students are the most vital issues facing the district.

Ms. Kaplan-Walbrecht, 50, of Aquebogue, works in agriculture and farm education. She has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She believes the top issue facing the district is violence inside and outside the school.

“We need to start having some open, transparent conversations that include parents, teachers and administrators,” she said.

Ms. Murphy, 38, of Manorville, is an accountant. She has a bachelor’s degree from Saint Joseph’s University, a master’s in accounting and associate degrees from Community College of the Air Force in human resources and aviation management.

She is a retired senior master sergeant from the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton beach.

Ms. Murphy believes the three most pressing issues facing the district are the budget, security in schools and current transportation routes.

Ms. Redmond, 50, of Aquebogue, works as a community preventions specialist with the nonprofit Riverhead Community Awareness program. She has a bachelor’s degree from Stony Brook University.

She believes the top three issues facing the district are ensuring the continuity and quality of its educational programs and services while ensuring fiscal responsibility, retaining and attracting innovative educators, and school safety. 

Mr. Scudder, 49, also of Aquebogue, is a music teacher in the nearby Bayport-Blue Point School District. He has a master’s degree in music education from Queens College. He and his wife run the nonprofit North Fork Country Kids Animal Rescue and Preservation through Pedagogy.

Among the things he’d like to improve on if elected, Mr. Scudder mentioned the importance of extracurricular programs and clubs for children’s development, transparency from district administration and ensuring the district remains fiscally responsible.

Ms. Wilder, 54, a Riverhead resident, is a former early childhood educator and currently a stay-at-home mom. She has a bachelor’s degree from Roanoke College in Virginia and a master’s degree from Stony Brook.

Three top priorities for Ms. Wilder are improving education for students, addressing reported bullying at Pulaski Street Intermediate School and aiming to create a school board that’s more reflective of the district’s student population.

In Shoreham-Wading River, three Board of Education seats are open this year. 

Incumbent and current board president Katie Andersen is running unopposed for reelection, as are both board vice president Henry Perez and board member Michael Lewis.