Board of Education Trustee Darlene Tangney announced last week that she is not seeking re-election to a fourth term this year, paving the way for four newcomers who will face incumbent board President Stewart Mininsky in this year’s race for two seats.
Long Beach residents will vote on May 15 for the board seats as well as the proposed $140 million budget for the 2018-19 school year, which the board adopted with a vote of 4-1 — with Dr. Dennis Ryan dissenting — on April 12.
Candidates will answer questions from the public at the PTA candidates forum on May 7 at Lindell Elementary School at 7 p.m.
Mininsky, a former employee of the district’s maintenance department and the founder of the Booster Club, is seeking a third term, and said he planned to work with fellow trustees on redesigning the district’s curriculum to help students develop more work-related experiences, using resources like the new culinary arts facility planned for the high school.
Mininsky said he has also focused on residents’ concerns about reduced recess time for students, and that he is working with Schools Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Gallagher to try to “make changes” for the start of the next school year.
He said he had served on every committee the district has, and that his experience over the past six years puts him in the right position to continue serving on the board.
“I don’t think the job is finished,” Mininsky said. “We put the district on a positive note with a lot of new programs for the students. [I’ve] become an advocate for the children. That’s one of my main things — I just don’t want to see the kids go backward in terms of their educational progress.”
Sam Pinto, one of Mininsky’s challengers, is a Long Beach Public Library board trustee, a local career firefighter, an education ambassador at SunPower by EmPower Solar, a public safety educator and the president of the Eastholme Civic Association.
“I’m running this year because I think that the school board needs a shift in direction,” Pinto said. “As a parent of young children, I think more people need to take a vested interested in the future.”
Pinto, one of the Herald's guest columnists, said that his experience on the library board for the past year, and his work as a community advocate, would benefit the board, which he said “needs representation of engaged, active residents who have younger children in the district.”
“I’m frustrated to see that over the last two years, the district was challenged with the handling of lawsuits for children with special needs,” Pinto said, referring to lawsuits that were filed against the district after it launched an investigation of a middle school teacher who was accused of abusing five special-education students.
“We had our superintendent leave after building up an I.B. program that he ended up working for, and the labor unions felt the need to resort to picket the meetings to get a fair contract,” Pinto said. “And as a young parent in the community, the rising taxes are a great concern.”
Newcomer Tina Posterli, who has a daughter in the high school and previously served as a co-president of the East Elementary School PTA, said she is running on a platform that includes prioritizing smart fiscal spending and coming up with “innovative solutions to ensure money is allocated where it is most needed to provide students with essential services.”
Posterli, a public relations professional with a special interest in education who and has managed more than 35 chapters of the Tourette Syndrome Association across the country, said that despite the rise in the budget, certain issues have yet to be tackled.
“My knowledge and experience will help me to provide leadership and build a vision all Long Beach residents can share in,” she said, adding that more should be done to engage the community early in the budget process. She said she would like to see the district’s website updated, as well as better use of social media channels to “better reach” residents and get their input.
Posterli added that her experience as a communications professional would help the board improve its communication with the city and work on partnerships with the Island Park community, which sends students to Long Beach schools.
Lori Montgomery, a former nurse at East Elementary School for 32 years, said she is also running for a seat, but has not yet submitted a petition. The deadline to submit is April 25. Montgomery, who has five grandchildren in the district and formerly served as the president of the Blackheath and East School PTAs, emphasized a need to prioritize children’s social and emotional learning. She said that working as a school nurse made her familiar with what stresses children, including social media, cyberbullying, state testing and less recess time.
“Young kids need more social play, more recess — they need time to get their energy out and make them available to learn,” Montgomery said. “I’m also very cognizant of taxpayers and keeping things affordable and getting as much state aid as we can.”
She said her roles in the district as nurse, PTA president and parent have given her unique perspective on the
Another candidate who has not yet submitted a petition, Ronald McHenry, plans to run. McHenry, a biologist and educator in the New York City public schools and a former Odyssey of the Mind coach, said he would like to enhance early childhood development and extend pre-K services to more students, and ensure that transportation is available for all students and that tax dollars are used for student programming.
“I wasn’t really happy with some of the infrastructure that was in place,” McHenry said. “In 2018, we must face the reality that a diverse teaching staff can enhance the lives of all children. We must find creative ways to connect with many working parents — some people are left out of the system.”
McHenry said he prioritizes making tutoring available for all students. “Children who need help should be able to get it and reach out for it,” he said. “I’m looking to bring programs that are going to benefit students and also bridge the gap between parents and administration.”
He also suggested creating programs that would teach parents how to raise children with special needs. “When it comes to special-needs programs, there aren’t enough support programs to help parents deal with special-needs children,” McHenry said. “As a special-needs educator, I feel that we could do a lot better with providing parents with information and training — this can make a difference in the classroom.”