UPDATE: A previous version put in a quote from Parisi about armed security. The quote has been removed after further clarification from the candidate.
Less than a week before Seaford taxpayers elect a trustee to the Seaford School District Board of Education, the incumbent Patrick Rail and challenger Andrea Parisi answered questions from the community as part of the Seaford Parent Teacher Student Association's "Meet the Candidates Night" on May 9.
Over the course of two hours in the Seaford High School's library, Parisi and Rail took turns giving their thoughts on community-submitted questions on index cards. Rather than directly debate each other, each candidate spoke for a minute on topics such as the importance of having a school board to STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math — programs in the district.
As expected, a question about armed guards made its way to the podium, with both candidates taking sides to one of the community's hot button issues.
Andrea Parisi, a current kindergarten through fourth-grade reading teacher, emphasized a joint effort between the community and the board to explore all possible options to keep her kids and all Seaford children safe. Pointing to a recent security audit by Covert Investigations and Security, she wants to tie up loopholes to harden the district's schools.
Patrick Rail, a current Nassau County Police Officer, personally feels that armed guards are not necessary for the district at this time. He cited a recent incident where a student brought in a flare gun to the middle school, which he said was handled properly without an armed guard.
"If an armed guard walked up to him and felt in fear of his life, and this boy turned with a flare gun, I don't know what the consequences would've been," Rail explained. "Those are the things I think about when you arm a guard in a school. There are multiple things that it's good for, but I think the cons outweigh the pros."
When asked after the presentations about a previous quote he gave about Seaford not having an opioid problem, Rail clarified his stance by stating the district should be involved in educating children about drugs and to identify any issues that may arise with opioids or heroin in the community.
"It doesn't stop when they leave high school," Rail added. "There are people overdosing from heroin from age 15 to 70. It's a big problem and doesn't stop at the district level."
Parisi's talking points revolved around her education background in the Freeport School District and being a mother of two children who is active in the Seaford community. While the board already has an educator among its trustees — Natalie Pedisich teaches science at neighboring Massapequa High School — she stated that she would bring further diversity with her expertise in elementary school education.
"Even though I am a teacher and have a full-time job," Parisi added, "I carve out time in my own life to make time for the school and my children, and I truly want the best for them."
Should Parisi replace Rail, the board would lose a certified public accountant among its trustees, but is confident that she can learn to handle the board's fiduciary responsibility to the district on its budget.
"I will lean on the existing board members to teach me," Parisi said,"but I also have to take a course as a new board member, and I know a lot of that course is about the financial aspect of responsibilities."
Residents can cast their vote for Rail, Parisi or a write-in candidate, as well as vote on the school budget and a new reserve fund, on May 15 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Manor and Harbor Schools.