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Thursday, July 24, 2014
School board candidates square off
Incumbent, challengers field questions at PTA forum
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Christina Daly/Herald
Board of Education challengers Elizabeth Treston, left, Matthew Adler, right, and incumbent Roy Lester fielded questions from the audience at Monday's Central Council PTA forum at the library.

Residents were introduced to three candidates vying for a seat on the Board of Education at Monday’s candidate’s forum hosted by the Central Council Parent Teacher Association at the Long Beach Public Library.

Incumbent Roy Lester and challengers Matthew Adler and Elizabeth Treston fielded questions submitted by audience members and administered by moderator Sarah Henris of Nassau Region Parent Teacher Association. Challenger Jes Bellsey was unable to attend.

The candidates answered questions ranging from how to pay for costs associated with Hurricane Sandy repairs to new state-mandated standards and testing.

Adler, a math teacher at Seaford High School, said he knows how a successful school district works, and is running because he wants to make sure teachers are trained for the new state-mandated curriculum to provide students with the best education. He also wants to improve transparency and communication in the district.

Lester, an attorney and school board president, said that he is proud of the many achievements the district has accomplished during his three terms on the board. He wants to maintain arts and athletic programs, while preparing students for the future and continuing the good work that he said the current board is doing.

Treston, a retired speech pathologist and graduate school co-coordinator, said she believes that there is a “disconnect” between the school board and the community. She said the board should be actively communicating with not just parents, but all taxpayers. Residents will cast their votes on May 21. Below are some excerpts from the forum.

How do you think the school district should address the high expectations necessary for teaching and learning in order for students to reach state-mandated common core standards?

Roy Lester: Part of the problem with the new state mandates is that they are cookie cutter. They believe everybody’s the same and everybody’s got to qualify the same way. And the truth is kids aren’t that way. The truth is kids have different strengths and weaknesses, and they have all different abilities. And I really don’t like the state-mandated situation where the state says you all have to do this whether you are capable or not. Now there’s nothing wrong with raising the standards, and there’s nothing wrong with pushing a child. But on the other hand, at a certain point — and I know this from having an office with young attorney’s who work for me — too much pressure is not a good thing, It creates pressure on the students, it creates pressure on the teachers and it creates pressure on the entire district. That’s not necessarily a good thing. There has to be a kind of balance here, and I don’t think the state has considered that balance. Yes, it’s a good thing to teach kids to raise the standards, to ask them to push harder. But, extrapolate that. Where does that go? You just keep pushing harder and harder? There has to be a limit. I think what we need to do is we need to make school fun. Make it so kids want to learn. They’ve often said that one thing that people remember from school is a good engaging teacher. Having a good engaging teacher makes all the difference in the world. It raises the standards, it raises the kids’ self-esteem, and it really educates kids that way. Let’s try for that.

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