Mark Masin, the Rockville Centre Board of Education’s longest- serving active member, will not run for re-election after 15 years on the board.
Liz Dion, a nine-year board member, has no opposition for her seat, and first-time candidate Kelly Barry is also running unopposed for Masin’s. They will be officially welcomed after the public vote on May 15.
Masin’s decade and a half of experience was an asset to the district, board members said during a meeting last month. Board of Education President John O’Shea, Dion, the vice president, Secretary Tara Hackett and Trustee Susan McNulty have a combined 19 years of experience.
“There comes a time in people’s life when it’s time to move on,” Masin told the Herald. He added that he doesn’t know Barry, but has heard impressive things about her. “I think it’s important to keep introducing new people into the equation because it brings different perspectives,” he said.
Only three other people in the history of the school district have served on the board longer than Masin, according to District Clerk Jacqueline Wong. Most recently, Lorrie Brady sat on the board for 21 years, from 1988 to 2009.
“I’m not looking to set longevity records,” said Masin, who has worked at a company that manufactures military communication equipment for more than 40 years. He noted that he does not keep track of his age, and must do the math to figure it out when someone asks, before revealing that he was born in 1952.
“If I say that I’m 50 years old . . . now I have to act like a 50-year-old. I don’t want to act like a 50-year-old,” Masin said. “I’d much rather be in the high school or middle school, in a classroom, learning something all the time.”
Masin, whose two daughters, now 36 and 33, attended William S. Covert Elementary, joined the board after they graduated from South Side. During his years as a trustee, he said, he learned to make decisions with fellow board members in the best interest of 3,600 students, not necessarily just a few, which he noted the community does not always understand.
“He epitomizes the value system you want to see in place in a board member,” Schools Superintendent Dr. William Johnson said of Masin. “He understands how to withdraw himself personally, focus on the community at large and make decisions that help our children in this school district.” His experience in national politics and business, Johnson added, “brought dimensions to the conversation that really helped in the decision-making process.”
“Whenever I thought I was losing my moral compass, I would say, OK, let me bring it back to what I consider my center is,” Masin said. “What is going to be the best thing for our kids moving ahead? How can we [be] dynamic in our approach to problem-solving?”
Masin is proud of the board’s implementing of the Foreign Language in the Elementary School, or FLES, program during his tenure, he said, adding that he had hoped to help introduce Mandarin as a new language for children to learn. District administrators considered cutting the frequency of FLES during deliberations last month about how to balance the $117 million 2018-19 budget, but Masin and other board members spoke up to save it.
As a nine-year member of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association’s Executive Committee, he added that he has seen other districts having to cut staff and programs, but is pleased that Rockville Centre schools have enhanced those over the years.
It will be an adjustment not being on the board, he said, noting the 25 to 40 hours he spent each week attending meetings, reading up on district issues and attending an array of school events, but he expects to stay involved.
His last focus is seeing the budget pass. “That’s the only thing left to achieve,” Masin said of the May 15 vote. “And that’s not my achievement, that’s our achievement. That’s the community’s achievement.”
Barry a part of ‘new wave’ of candidates
Barry, 38, is originally from Commack, but has lived in Rockville Centre for 15 years. She has worked at Hauppauge High School for the past 17 years, teaching U.S. History and Government, College Psychology and IB Theory of Knowledge to 11th- and 12th-graders. Her three children — ages 9, 8 and 6 — attend Floyd B. Watson Elementary School, where she currently serves as co-president of the Parent Teacher Association.
“I just feel that at this time I can contribute some small part to the reflective conversation of always continually wanting to move forward and grow,” Barry said, noting that the district and the community have come to expect great schools.
Johnson noted that Barry is the latest candidate in “a wave of interest” among parents with younger children in the district. Last year, Hackett and McNulty were elected to the board after a five-candidate race, earning a combined 61 percent of the almost 5,400 votes cast by village residents. Hackett and McNulty have each served as PTA presidents at Hewitt and Watson, respectively.
“Their perspective is in the longer term,” Johnson said of the mothers who wanted to serve the district beyond the PTA. “They want to see that the structure of the system prepares their children well for the entire time that they are with us.”
Aside from running as a community member, Barry said she is running “first and foremost” as a mom, and secondly as a teacher. “I feel like I bring a unique lens to the table in terms of just the realities sometimes of what the children are facing,” she said.
One of the district’s biggest challenges, she foresees, is staying fiscally responsible while continuing to provide the education and programs that Rockville Centre schools have touted in the past. She noted that she was impressed with the discourse between the community, district administrators and the Board of Education that led to closing an $800,000 budget gap this year, while not directly affecting instruction or programs.
When attending Hauppauge High School’s graduation each year, Barry said she realizes all the people — parents, teachers and staff — that make it possible for her students to walk across the stage and receive a diploma.
“It takes the work and collaboration of the entire community to build and maintain great schools,” Barry said, “and I’m committed to doing my part to be part of that process for all of us in Rockville Centre.”