Both Oceanside school board candidates are strong, and budget is acceptable


One is an educator, the other a salesman, and yet both candidates running for the open seat on Oceanside schools’ Board of Education appear to have children’s best intentions in mind.

Stuart Kaplan, a Nassau Community College professor, was running unopposed until Charles Lyon, a Herald Community Newspapers sales representative, decided to step up, creating a “real election,” as he put it.

Both candidates are Oceansiders, and care about the children of the school district. They agreed on numerous topics of debate, such as increased funding for special education and more focus on mental health needs, as well as a disapproval of state testing regimens.

However, because Lyon is a Herald employee, we feel that it would be inappropriate to endorse either candidate.

That said, they are quite different from each other. Kaplan has education experience; he teaches at a college, so as he put it, “These students become my students.” Also, he has two children currently in the school district, and has been involved in their education since they first entered — serving on the Parent Teacher Association and multiple committees. There would be little to no learning curve for him if he were elected a trustee.

Yet Lyon might be the fresh blood the school district needs. Despite falling short in experience, he has a background in business that could serve taxpayers — parents and non-parents alike — well. Additionally, he has two grandchildren currently enrolled in Oceanside schools, and we applaud his expressed commitment to improving communication between the board and parents.

Lyon said it best himself at the May 1 candidates forum: “If you’re happy with the status quo, then don’t vote for me.” While Oceanside schools have a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence, the board could be well served by the infusion of another perspective. Nonetheless, Lyon would need to learn a great deal if elected, which was apparent from his responses to some of the questions at the forum.

Kaplan, however, has deep insider knowledge of Oceanside schools. “Why not run?” he said after pointing out that he already attends “virtually” every meeting.

On Tuesday, voters must decide whether they want the school district to continue providing above-average education to their children — in which case they’ll choose Kaplan, the “curriculum guy” — or whether they prefer an outsider with an eye toward openness and taxpayer concerns — Lyon. Either would serve the district well.

Additionally, despite hitting the maximum allowed tax-levy increase again and making some cuts that we believe are questionable, the Oceanside School District’s proposed 2018-19 budget will keep the district running smoothly next year.

Taxpayers can expect a 2.9 percent increase in the tax levy — the total amount the district collects through residential and commercial property taxes — contributing to a $154 million total budget. While the total expenditure is big, we applaud the assistant superintendent of business, Chris Van Cott, who did a phenomenal job of clearly outlining expenses.

Roughly $1 million more in the budget will be reserved for special-education services, and around $100,000 more will be earmarked for new textbooks — both expenditures that are clearly necessary.

Another notable, but conflicting, portion of the budget is almost a half-million dollars reserved to complete renovations of Ocean-side High School’s little theater. And although $1.3 million more would be reserved for staff salaries and benefits, the school district is losing nine instructors — including a fifth-grade teacher and a social worker — to retirement. While officials have assured residents that the schools’ social workers would cover the lost ground, and that the position would be replaced if necessary, now is not the time, we feel, to stress the district’s social services infrastructure.

We commend some savings options, such as buying seats on buses shared with other districts. And going forward, students will be required to pay for A.P. exams. While this will be difficult for students whose families are struggling financially, most area schools already follow this practice.

We also approve of the board’s seeking to establish a capital reserve fund in order to help avoid additional borrowing. The district will be required to seek voter approval not only to create the fund, but also each time funds are used.

While we acknowledge the challenges of rising payroll expenses and diminished state and federal school aid, we believe Oceanside’s tendency to push the limits of the state’s tax-levy cap is counter to the measure’s spirit. In the future, we would like to see harder decisions on cuts.

Still, Oceansiders are encouraged to vote “yes” on the budget on Tuesday.