Ten candidates are running for six open Board of Education seats in Valley Stream’s three elementary school districts in the May 21 election. Several of the races are uncontested.
Last week, the Herald sent brief questionnaires to the candidates running in contested elections. Their answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
In District 13, incumbent Toni Pomerantz is running for re-election unopposed, and incumbent Milagros Vicente is being challenged by Anthony Bonelli.
Vicente has been a trustee since 2016. She said she was running for re-election because she wanted to ensure that the board “continues to articulate a clear vision of education” that balances high-quality instruction with the community’s financial needs. She added that, as a parent of a student in the district, she brings “an informed perspective to the board.”
Vicente also said that if she were re-elected, she would work with her colleagues to review the district’s bullying and cyberbullying policies, and would create programs that encourage students to be “responsible and knowledgeable digital citizens.” Additionally, she said, she would like to explore financially responsible ways for the district to deliver preschool services. If she were appointed to the high school board, Vicente said, she would also work closely with her colleagues on the other two elementary school district boards.
Bonelli has lived in District 13 for more than 40 years. He attended Wheeler Avenue Elementary School and Memorial Junior High School and graduated from Central High School. He has been a director of computer operations for several New York City agencies, and has 20 years of experience dealing with budgetary and financial analysis. Bonelli also has a master’s in business administration.
He said he is running for the Board of Education because school taxes have risen faster than the inflation rate over the past 15 years, and because almost 80 percent of the district’s proposed $53 million budget would fund salaries, raises and benefits for district employees.
“We need serious financial oversight,” he said. “The taxpayers’ money should be squarely focused on providing high-quality teaching in a safe and secure environment.”
In District 24, Trustee John Maier is running for re-election unopposed, and newcomer Joseph Shipley is running for the seat left open by Tony Iadevaio, who is not running for re-election. Kim Wheeler, an incumbent, is running against Charlene Ali-Barreto.
Wheeler is seeking a second term on the board, and was previously involved in the district’s Parent Teacher Association. She has lived in the district for more than 20 years, and her children are now in the Central High School District.
She said she decided to run to ensure that every student in the district receives the best education possible. If re-elected, Wheeler said, she would like to bring back the district’s Spanish program.
Ali-Barreto has been living in District 24 since 2013. She works as a chef, and said she would like to leverage that experience to improve school lunches.
If elected, Ali-Barreto said, she would advocate for equity across all three district elementary schools. She also said she would like to work with the other three school districts in Valley Stream to increase the district’s purchasing power and lower costs. Additionally, she said, she would like to have the district live-stream its board meetings and provide the public with comprehensive minutes to increase transparency.
Three candidates — Kelly Ureña, Audra Hamlett and Hendrick Colbert — are running for Carolyn Torres’s seat in District 30, after Torres announced last month that she would not seek re-election.
Ureña has served on the PTA executive board for the past two years, and has been a class parent for the past three. She was also a volunteer for extracurricular programs, and served in parent advisory roles. Ureña said she decided to run for a seat on the board because “it affords me the opportunity to give back to the educational community in a more impactful way.”
If elected, she said, she would continue to strengthen the district’s engagement with its families and its community to enhance the academic, social-emotional learning and citizenship curricula. Ureña also said she would increase access to non-English speakers by providing multilingual correspondence. Additionally, she said, she would increase access to technology in the district and would survey the needs and concerns of the District 30 community.
Hamlett said she decided to run for school board because she felt that she had a responsibility to contribute to the success of the school district. If elected, she said, she would like to address the concerns of every community member and the root issues in the district. “This realistically may not be easy at first to accomplish,” she said. “But with persistence and an effective timeline in place, it is attainable.”
Hamlett also said that her priorities would include keeping costs down, and ensuring that students who are receiving the district’s services live within its boundaries.
Colbert, meanwhile, is a teacher, certified in math and science as well as school administration. He earned a degree in biology from the City College of New York and an MBA in finance from Pace University.
Colbert said he decided to run for the school board because he wanted to ensure that District 30 students are “college- and career-ready” when they graduate from high school. To do so, he said, he would emphasize science, math, technology and engineering. He would also try to provide a stronger voice for community families, reinforce school safety and “maintain fiscal responsibility while promoting innovative programs.”