The race is on for the three open seats for the East Meadow Board of Education
Incumbents Matthew Melnick, who was first voted to the board in 2015, Jodi Luce, who was first voted to the board in 2019 and Sharan Sokhey, was was first appointed to the board in 2022 to fill the vacant seat, are all up for re-election. Their challengers are Jensen Ambachen, Nancy Widman, and Rosario Seims.
Ahead of the election, which will take place on May 17, the Herald asked the candidates about their goals and the issues facing the district.
Herald: What inspired you to run (or run again) for the Board of Education?
Melnick: During my terms as a member of the board we have increased the academic achieving, scope of services, district transparency and communication and I have led the charge to be more fiscally responsible to the taxpayers. There is still work to be done and I I look forward to continuing to build upon these successes.
Luce: I have been very invested in my community since moving here almost 20 years ago. I became very involved when I, along with two other mothers, started the group "East Meadow Parents for Full Day Kindergarten. Since that time, I became very interested in public service and giving back to my community. This has continued with my service on the board, as well as the volunteer work I do with my synagogue and other community organizations, both here in East Meadow and the community in which I work.
Sohkey: Being a public educator myself, I am acutely aware of the importance of public education in shaping the lives of children. I am committed to the wellbeing and success of every child in the district. I have been an active member of the Access & Curriculum committee for the past seven years and am currently serving as the co-chair of the committee. I have advocated for the importance of mental health and social & emotional learning in the district. I am also a member of the School Counselor Advisory Council, where I make my contribution as a parent. I strive to stay up to date on education policy, news and issues so that students and parents alike can continue to be prepared for their future.
Ambachen: My children inspired me to run! I know firsthand what they went through during the pandemic, and I want to see policies in our district committed to collaborating with our administrators, teachers and parents in a stronger way to get our kids back on track. I also feel that parents and taxpayers deserve an advocate on the board.
Widman: I love this Town. Born and raised in East Meadow, I attended our schools from Kindergarten through my graduation from East Meadow High School. Parents, students and taxpayers are frustrated with the current Board as they don’t feel their concerns are being heard and addressed. I believe that I can make a difference and will bring their voices and their concerns to the forefront.
Seims: My inspiration to run for the East Meadow Board of Education is my belief that the district is not currently maximizing the educational experience of its students and my determination to build and maintain a higher functioning enterprise. Also, it has been my experience that the community is not being appropriately heard or represented by the current board.
Herald: What would your goals be if elected? What issues do you want to address?
Melnick: I have been part of a board who has successfully passed a bond to rebuild our aging infrastructure and construction of a new sports complex. Further, through listening to the community I was able to lead the district to construct turf fields at the high schools. I would like to carry on the progress we have made in working towards our long-term plans to continue renovating buildings and fields in a while being mindful of the board's fiscal responsiblity to the community. Additionally, I would like to continue the advancement of academic and Social Emotional programs.
Luce: I will continue to focus on expanding and building our programs and supporting students' needsin academics, the arts, sports, and social emotional development. I will also work with our district cabinet to continue improving our facilities, website, and ensuring that the expansion of McVey goes smoothly. I will continue my focus on planning for the long-term needs of our district, examining and planning for the expanding population needs of the district, and improving our communication with the community. There is a lot of tension and I would like to find a way to move forward as a community, together. I would work to ensure that our district continues the progress that we have made in the past 6-8 years.
Sokhey: My main goal is to listen to and be a voice for students, teachers, and parents in order to better serve our diverse community. An issue that has many parents concerned is the lack of important life skills including effective communication, problem solving, critical thinking, and good decision making. Social media and technology has made some of these skills a lost art to a certain extent. As a community, we need to engage the students and parents alike and expand the teaching of these important skills. As a resident and tax-payer, I’m committed to prudently manage the tax dollars that are designated for our district and education. In order to be prepared for the future growth of our community, sound financial decisions are needed to ensure that advancements in technology are utilized in appropriate proportions to enhance student learning.
Ambachen: To make our district a place of high achievement, setting our students up to do great things and make our schools some of the best on Long Island. If elected, I would set specific, measurable goals for our district that target increasing student achievement for any career path they choose.
Widman: Our parents and taxpayers have unfortunately lost trust in our current Board which is evident at recent Board meetings. We need to regain their trust. My goal is to allow the public full access in observing the Board and Central Administration as we work together on curriculum, finance and presentations of new ideas, concepts and techniques. Our district should be at the forefront of innovation, not one of the last to embrace it. Transparency is key. Parents have the right to know what their children are learning. Our taxpayers have the right to know where every dollar is being spent.
Seims: If elected, I want to ensure the short-, medium-, and long-term success of the district. I will be a strong advocate of a true board - parent/taxpayer collaboration. I will encourage Central Administration to constantly search for "the better way" so that East Meadow will be a leader in innovation instead of a late arriver.
Herald: Why should the community elect you?
Melnick: I believe that that I have been a valuable resource through my pragmatic approach to decision making and my leadership, as has been proven by the incredible progress that the district has made in the classroom through academic achievement and the introduction of Integrated Co-Teaching. Additionally, accomplishing upgrades to the infrastructure of buildings and fields and to the fiscal wellbeing of the district to the benefit of the children and entire community.
Luce: I have a tremendous amount of experience and understanding of school systems, education, and curriculum. I have a great deal of experience and knowledge of education law and budgets. I have worked in a district setting for 21 years, and understand the function and role of the Board of Education. I understand the role of a trustee and can hit the ground running. My long-term commitment to our community and district reflect my dedication to this position.
Sokhey: As a parent, a teacher, and an active member of many organizations including the East Meadow Kiwanis and the McVey PTA, I believe I bring unique experience and dedication to serving my East Meadow community. I have been a part of the East Meadow community for the past fifteen years, and I recognize that our children are our future. Setting them up to be well-rounded, educated, and critical thinkers is now more important than ever in this age of globalization and growing competition. I am committed to helping our students achieve higher standards in education and receive the support they need to grow and thrive in the fields of their choice, with the goal that they grow up to become productive members of society, and recognize the importance of giving back to the community that enabled them to grow and become successful adults.
Ambachen: As a parent I have a vested interest in how well our school district functions. I am willing to put in the time, work hard and see that our district functions at the highest level it can. I will listen to our parents and taxpayers to bring about a shared vision of excellence in our school community.
Widman: I believe I can and will make a difference. I will work closely with Central Administration, our parents, teachers, staff, and students to foster a true community partnership. Our children need our guidance and should be taught HOW to think, not WHAT to think. I am ready and eager to learn as I undertake this tremendous responsibility. I may not have all the answers, but I can promise I will do my best to find them.
Seims: The community should elect me because I bring life experience and background that will bring a new perspective to the Board. I have demonstrated the perseverance necessary to tackle and resolve current and future issues with integrity and the awareness to recognize the values and concerns of our students, parents, taxpayers, and district faculty.