In the North Bellmore School District this year, two incumbents have joined forces to oppose two challengers in an at-large Board of Education election, in which the two candidates who win the most votes will take two open seats. In Bellmore, meanwhile, two incumbents are running unopposed for another term.
North Bellmorites will also have before them three transportation-related propositions (see box on Page 3), as well as a $57.2 million budget that will require a 3.4 percent tax-levy increase. Look for more on North Bellmore’s 2018 budget in next week’s issue.
Incumbents Nina Lanci and Melissa Cmar-Grote are seeking re-election to the Board of Education.
Lanci, who has lived in North Bellmore for 28 years and is the director of administrative services for a nonprofit, said in an interview last week that providing the right services in the district while state education aid dwindles is making for “a balance that’s getting harder and harder to maintain.”
“You want to be fair to everybody — including staff and the taxpayers — but at the end of the day, there’s only so much money you can ask for from the people out there,” Lanci said.
But she and Cmar-Grote, Lanci said, have the proven experience to make sure North Bellmore is making the most of the limited aid it receives and the taxes it collects from residents.
“I think that the board, based on what we’re working with, are doing a very good job,” she said. “We’re delivering the instruction, the services, and we’ve gone a long way without having to cut.”
Lanci was first appointed to the North Bellmore Board of Education in March 2003 to fill a vacancy, winning re-election in 2005. Although she lost her seat to fellow trustee John Ferrara in 2011, she was elected again in 2012.
Cmar-Grote has lived in North Bellmore for 17 years. She has two daughters, and currently serves as the Board of Education vice president.
She said she agrees with Lanci about the difficult balancing act the district attempts each year. “We need to continue to ensure we are providing our students with a top-notch education, and the tools they need to succeed in the future,” Cmar-Grote said, “all while being sure not to overburden our taxpayers.”
Board members are also taking their concerns about unfair state aid distribution to the proper officials, she said.
“We recently met with New York State Commissioner of Education Maryellen Elia, Sen. John Brooks and Regent Roger Tilles to discuss our concerns about how portions of state aid are calculated and are not keeping pace with what we need to spend to educate our students,” she added.
Challenging Lanci and Cmar-Grote for the two open trustee seats are Tara Casucci and Jeannie Shipman.
Casucci, who has three daughters and is head secretary to the principal of W. Tresper Clarke High School in Westbury, serves on the executive board of the North Bellmore SEPTA and has been a part of the district’s Smart Schools Bond Committee.
Casucci described herself as a firm believer in public education and representing the needs of all children in the district.
“I believe that parents and caregivers, together with the community as a whole, need to be actively engaged in the delivery of education,” she said. “Together, we need to effectively communicate with the district to express our visions and expectations, in order to maintain high-quality programs for our children, and to know how our hard-earned wages are allocated.”
Shipman did not respond to the Herald’s inquiry in time for publication. However, on her Facebook page, she said, “I am running for a seat on the board to make a difference for our kids. I want to bring accountability for the funds used within our district, and to make our children a priority — not an afterthought.”
In Bellmore, Marion Blane, a 15-year veteran of the Board of Education, and Brian Desmond, its current president, are running unopposed for re-election.
Voters will also have before them a $35.3 million budget — up $665,000 from this year’s, although the tax levy will be increased by $800,000, or 3.32 percent.
Blane has lived in Bellmore for 33 years. She’s married, with three adult children, and works as a client care coordinator for Senior Helpers in Hicksville, in addition to serving as president of the Bellmore Elementary PTA in the past.
“I still want to represent this district even though my own kids are out, because my main concern is to continue to be involved in the success of every child in this district,” Blane said. “This district continues to shine as the administration strives to keep up with all the new and exciting educational opportunities for kids, and while making sure to keep our district fiscally secure.”
Desmond, a Kennedy High School graduate and physical education teacher with his own pool business, has lived in Bellmore all his life. In addition to serving on the Board of Education, he is a member of the Bellmore PTA and the athletic director for Bellmore-Merrick PAL lacrosse.
As an experienced board member, Desmond said he would like to help the district and the community “maintain forward momentum when it comes to crafting district budgets, keeping the schools beautiful and creating new educational opportunities for the students to learn and grow.”
School district elections will be held on May 15. Look for more on the proposed budgets in next week’s issue, and coverage of the results on May 16 at www.liherald.com.