With five candidates vying for two seats on the Board of Education, the Herald is enthusiastically endorsing Lori Montgomery and Tina Posterli.
Montgomery, who worked as a nurse in the district for 32 years and is now retired, said she would focus her efforts on district students and on keeping taxes low. She was the only candidate who sounded informed about the 2018-19 budget and the current practices of the board and administrators.
Montgomery, board President Stewart Mininsky, who is running for re-election, and candidate Ronald McHenry were vocal in their support of more recess and free play time for young students, an idea we agree with.
Asked about their stances on the iStar development, all of the candidates, including Montgomery, said they were against overdevelopment and unfair tax breaks, though we thought she could have taken a more aggressive stance against the developer’s request for tax breaks.
At the PTA Candidates Forum on Monday, Mininsky accused candidate Sam Pinto — who was elected to the public library’s board of trustees a year ago — of not knowing how the library budget operates. Scolded by the moderator for his comments, Mininsky slammed the microphone on the table. We don’t believe someone who is short-tempered is fit to run a board that has so much influence on students’ lives.
While both Mininsky and Montgomery are supported by the Long Beach School Employees Association, we also question Mininsky’s independence. He is a former vice president of the union, which could affect future contract negotiations, although he has recused himself from certain votes in the past.
Residents pointed out that it might be a conflict of interest that Montgomery’s daughter, Karen Bloom, is the Classroom Teachers Association’s vice president, but Montgomery has pledged to recuse herself from any votes that would involve the CTA. We intend to hold her to her word.
While we endorse Posterli, we recognize that she, Pinto and McHenry have not regularly attended board meetings or budget presentations. Posterli said that the district should work to improve transparency earlier in the budget process, and specifically budget communications with parents, but the board is already doing just that: It recently began recording and posting the meetings online, as well as sharing comprehensive budget presentations.
Posterli said she has built and balanced budgets for more than 35 chapters of the Tourette Association of America across the country.* Similarly, Montgomery said she balanced a district health budget while she worked as a nurse.
Posterli emphasized a need for a sharper focus on the “middle,” or average, student, and suggested implementing action plans for these students to help them overcome their struggles in order to succeed.
All of the candidates criticized standardized state testing and teacher evaluations, and suggested ways to incorporate more vocational opportunities — like internships — into the curriculum. But while Pinto commended the opt-out movement, vocational training was all he touched on when it came to the curriculum and student programming.
We agree with Pinto that teachers should teach the “whole child” rather than teach to state tests, so that students will be prepared for “life.” But we would like to see him do more on the library board before he makes another run for the Board of Education.
Despite supporting vocational opportunities for students, McHenry disagreed with the district’s decision to spend up to $600,000 on a new culinary arts classroom. But the initiative would most likely save the district money in the long run, because it would no longer need to send students to the BOCES culinary arts program. Montgomery recognized this potential savings.
On the subject of the district’s 14-month-long disciplinary hearing against a Long Beach Middle School special-education teacher accused of abusing five of her students, McHenry suggested taking a closer look at teacher training, which we agree with. All of the candidates recommended improving communication with parents of special-needs children.
The Herald encourages voters to choose Montgomery and Posterli on Tuesday.
Vote ‘yes’ on the Long Beach school budget
Despite rising health insurance costs and construction expenditures, the Board of Education adopted a $140 million budget for the 2018-19 school year that we believe is responsible — it maintains programs for students and holds the line on taxes.
School administrators and board trustees have done their best to provide educational opportunities for students while simultaneously limiting the cost to taxpayers. The spending plan would add business training to the high school curriculum, fund the hiring of a full-time psychologist for the Nike work-based learning center, develop more vocational opportunities like internships and initiate plans for a culinary arts center in the high school.
When the board proposed the budget at its March 22 meeting, the tax levy was expected to increase by about $3.4 million over the current year. But at the April 12 meeting, Chief Operating Officer Michael DeVito presented trustees with three different versions of the spending plan, and the board chose the one that raised taxes the least. The budget will grow by about $4.6 million, while the tax levy will increase by about $2.9 million.
We believe that trustees and administrators were mindful of the district’s long-term plans and designed a responsible budget. We urge voters to approve it on Tuesday.
Residents will also vote on — and should say “yes” to — the Long Beach Public Library’s proposed $3.5 million budget. We also encourage you to support library board candidate Gemma Tansey, who is running unopposed.
*Editor's note: The Herald incorrectly stated that Posterli worked with the Tourette Association of America for more than three decades. She has worked with more than 35 chapters of the organization. We regret the error.