Lynbrook, East Rockaway have contested Board of Education races

Challenges for incumbents in both school districts

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The Board of Education elections in Lynbrook and East Rockaway are set for May 21.
The Board of Education elections in Lynbrook and East Rockaway are set for May 21.
Christina Daly/Herald

The Lynbrook and East Rockaway school districts will each have four candidates vying for two seats on the Board of Education in the May 21 election.

Lynbrook

School board President William Belmont and Trustee Heather Hanson are both looking to retain their seats. Dana Franklin and Danielle Longo, co-chairs of the Lynbrook North Middle School PTA Compact Committee, are challenging them.

Belmont, 53, has been on the board for 12 years, and helped oversee the creation of a career development program at the high school, the approval of a $28.9 million bond to fund improvements and upgrades in the district and the implementation of a director of guidance to ensure a continuity of care for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“The future looks bright for the Lynbrook School District and its community,” Belmont said. He and his wife, Allyson, have two children, Jake and Rachel, who are in 11th and ninth grades, respectively.

Hanson, 51, who has been a trustee for six years, said she was proud of helping make North Middle School handicapped-accessible, instituting a districtwide tablet program, partnering with the Rockville Centre School District to create a boys’ swim team and expanding the science research program. “We’ve done all that while staying in the tax cap,” Hanson said. “I think we’ve accomplished a lot, and I think the District 20 community should be proud.”

Hanson and her husband, Kevin, have two children, Elizabeth and Kevin Jr.

Franklin and Longo were inspired to run because they belonged to the PTA Compact Committee and found that they were able to institute positive changes in the district through their positions. They said they would like to help further improve the district by becoming members of the school board because it would enable them to help make a difference in the future education of children. They also expressed their desire to get the community more involved in what is happening at each school. 

Franklin and Longo will be running on an AIM High platform — the acronym standing for advocate, innovate and motivate. According to their campaign literature, advocate means that if they were elected, they would strive to support all students from all backgrounds. To innovate, Franklin and Longo say they would explore new ways to distinguish the Lynbrook district from its neighbors, and to motivate, they would encourage the school community to become more involved in the district.

Both Franklin and Longo have served on the PTAs at Lynbrook North and West End Elementary schools, as well as the Kindergarten Center. Franklin, 38, a pediatric physical therapist for children with disabilities, has chaired West End's spring fundraiser and the staff appreciation luncheon at the Kindergarten Center. She and her husband, Michael, have three children, Emily, Ashley and Leo.

Longo, 49, a medical science liaison to a pharmaceutical company, served as the council delegate and corresponding secretary of the West End PTA and as the Kindergarten Center liason. She was also involved in the Friends of Lynbrook Robotics club. Longo and her husband, Anthony, have two children, Anthony Jr. and Gianna.

East Rockaway

Board of Education Vice President Kristin Ochtera is seeking another term after nine years as a trustee. Trustee Patricia Nicoletti is retiring, leaving her seat vacant. Theresa Devlin is running for a seat for the second straight year, while Kristen O’Hagan and Peter McNally are running on a joint platform.

Ochtera, 49, joined the board in 2010, and served as president for four years. She has a degree in education and a professional certificate in early childhood education from Hofstra University. She is a member of the New York State School Boards Association and an active member of many organizations, including the East Rockaway Education Foundation, the Coalition for Youth and the high school PTA.

Ochtera said she has been most impressed with the board’s ability to deal with scrutiny from the state government. “Underneath that pressure and that scrutiny,” she said, “our little, tiny school district has been able to maintain an incredibly conservative budget and to develop programs that not only support our students academically, but also emotionally.”

She added that she hoped to move forward with the extension of programs that would help college- and career-bound students, including more science courses and those geared toward students who want to become EMTs or nurses.

Ochtera is a consultant for the Hance Family Foundation, which focuses on improving young girls’ self-esteem, and for goCAMPusing, a company that arranges college tours for students.

Devlin, 55, ran for a vacant trustee seat last spring, and lost to Dom Vulpis. She said she remains passionate about the district, and regularly attends board meetings in the hope of advocating for children. She added that she believed Vulpis had offered a lot to the board, and that she would be happy to work alongside him.

Devlin, who a business background and is an office manager at the Helpful Care Company in Lynbrook and a foster parent, said the board could use some variety. “I have a different perspective,” she said. “The three other candidates are educators, and there are educators on the board, so I feel like you need a business person with a business perspective.”

Devlin is involved in the high school PTA, has served on the Rhame Avenue Elementary School PTA and the Budget Advisory Committee, and was one of the directors of the East Rockaway Education Foundation. She and her husband, Charlie, have lived in East Rockaway for 21 years. Their daughter, Kate, graduated from East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School in 2015, where their son Joseph now attends the Life Skills Program. Their other sons, Jevon and Mason, attend Rhame Avenue.

Devlin said that the district should continue to improve science, technology, engineering, art and math, or STEAM, classes, and add more foreign language and elective courses as well.

O’Hagan, 42, and McNally, 52, are running jointly for the board. O’Hagan, who teaches English at Malverne High School, has an undergraduate degree in English and a master’s in science from Queens College. McNally, who teaches technology at Lynbrook North and South middle schools, earned a bachelor’s in elementary education, a master’s in educational technology and an advanced certificate in educational leadership from LIU-C.W. Post.

According to O’Hagan, teamwork is the key to moving East Rockaway in the right direction. “It is essential that, as a district, we increase opportunity for all students, embracing a collaborative culture between students, parents and teachers,” she said.

O’Hagan, who has lived in East Rockaway her entire life, served as the director of recreation and the pre-school coordinator at the Recreation Center, and has been a board member for the Coalition for Youth and a Little League parent volunteer, among other positions in the village and in Malverne. McNally coaches the varsity track and cross-country teams at Lynbrook High.

O’Hagan and her husband, Tim, have four children, Brianna, Rachel, Riley and Conor. The eldest daughters are in college, while Riley is a sophomore at East Rockaway High and Conor is in sixth grade at Rhame Avenue. McNally’s children, Grace and Luke, are both enrolled at East Rockaway High.

McNally said that he and O’Hagan have a wealth of experience to draw from. “As educators with nearly 40 years of combined experience, Kristen O’Hagan and I have a diverse background,” he said, “and we are committed to building the future for our community while protecting the taxpayers.”

Candidates run at large in both districts, and the two candidates with the most votes will win seats. Board offices, such as president and secretary, are determined at reorganization meetings in July.