Election 2018

North Shore Board of Ed. candidates engage in community Q&A

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Last week, the candidates running for North Shore Board of Education trustee took questions from the community during Meet the Candidates Night. The four candidates — Andrea Macari, of Glen Head, Tim Madden, of Sea Cliff, Anthony Stanco, of Sea Cliff, and Lisa Vizza, of Glen Head — are vying for two open seats on the board.

Sitting before a crowd of students, parents, and faculty they answered questions about issues facing the district, attempting to demonstrate why they are the best choice for the board.

Brief background

As a clinical psychologist, Macari has been trained to address children’s academic, social, emotional and developmental needs. She has operated her own private practice for 12 years, and teaches psychology at Suffolk County Community College. Currently the secretary of the Legislative Action Committee, she is a member of the district’s Five-Year Strategic Planning Committee.

Madden is a social studies teacher at Great Neck South High School. He’s previously served as trustee for the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District prior to moving to Sea Cliff. Additionally, he is the co-founder of northwordnews.com, through which he reports on a variety of local issues.

Stanco is a former educator and coordinator for drug abuse outreach programs. As a trial attorney, his workload often includes responding to the needs of children. If elected, he plans to meet monthly with stakeholders to discuss what it will take for the district to “raise morally strong, compassionate, and able individuals.”

Though a social worker by profession, Vizza also has a deep and varied involvement in “school-centered and district-based initiatives” within parent teacher organizations and district policy committees. She is the president of the Glenwood Landing-Glen Head Civic Association, as well as a parent sector representative for the North Shore Coalition Against Substance Abuse.

School safety

School safety in relation to active shooter situations — such as the case in Parkland, Fla. — is on the minds of many residents in the community. A parent posed a question about the candidates’ feelings regarding the issue, and how the district could enhance its security measures.

Madden acknowledged student anxiety surrounding school safety, and that the district should be more mindful so as to not heighten those fears. “We need to be aware of what to do [in these situations], but there is a concern of overdoing it,” he said.

Macari agreed. “It is important to be prepared and proactive but not alarmist,” she said. The district should “increase access to mental health services” to students, she said, and engage the community’s input for safety solutions. “This is not something the administration can solve themselves.”

Substance abuse

The community is also keen on fighting substance abuse in the district. Candidates discussed how they’d address the issue while sitting on the board.

Madden referred to the district’s recent equity study. “There were no questions that asked how kids felt in their classrooms, or if they feel a sense of belonging,” he said, adding that this alienation contributes to substance use and abuse. He called for more adequate counseling and a partnership with NS CASA to curb these behaviors.

Vizza agreed that the district needs more avenues to assist students who may be abusing drugs. “With more mental health staff and collaboration with CASA, we can point kids to outside services,” she said. “These interventions can help social-emotional growth.”

Stanco said if students were taught self-reliance and confidence, they’d be stronger to resist abuse.

Macari cited “high impact, low cost” training initiatives such as mental health first aid to engage all district sectors to fight the substance abuse crisis.

AP versus IB

A contested topic among North Shore High School parents is striking an academic balance between Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses.

Madden believes certain AP and IB courses can overlap, and that the administration could consolidate those programs with no additional cost to the district. Stanco sees the curricula as less of an opportunity to truly learn and more of a way to get ahead.

Macari, who has a daughter in second grade, is in support of preserving both programs.

Vizza, who has two children enrolled at the high school, believes that giving students “ample options” to choose from is a valuable asset to their education.

Fiscal responsibility

The board recently floated a $104 million budget, which reflects an almost 3 percent increase from 2017-18. A question was raised about how each of the candidates would work to be “fiscally responsible” in future budget formations.

For Stanco, North Shore has certain advantages to create a meaningful and resourceful budget, but recent proposals, he said, haven’t yielded “the correct results.” “We spend more, but we don’t get enough back.”

Macari believes budget formations should be “data-driven,” and would use “economic analysis to look at the effectiveness of programs.”

Vizza was aware of the outside pressures that affect the annual budget, such as tax burdens from National Grid and New York American Water. “We need to be mindful of these landmines,” she said. “We need to be understanding of the things we can control, and think proactively about the things we can’t.”