Three vie for two Board of Education seats in East Rockaway

East Rockaway's school board and budget votes are set for Tuesday.
East Rockaway's school board and budget votes are set for Tuesday.
Herald file photo

One incumbent and two newcomers will compete for three seats on the East Rockaway Board of Education on Tuesday.

Board Vice President Peter McNally is seeking his second term, after first earning a seat in 2019.

McNally is a technology teacher in the Lynbrook School District.

Maureen Doyle, a retired mechanical engineer and project manager, and Michael Motherway, a custodian in the Lynbrook district, are also running.

Board President Kristen O’Hagan is not running for re-election.

The election comes as the board continues its search for a new superintendent to replace Lisa Ruiz, who will retire next month, and as the district faces several student claims of discrimination.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in East Rockaway on Tuesday. Ahead of the election, the Herald asked the candidates questions to gauge their goals and opinions on issues that the district faces.

Why did you decide to run (or run again) for the school board?

McNally: I first ran for the school board three years ago because there was a perception in the community that the entire community wasn’t being represented and felt that they didn’t have a voice.

I am running for re-election now because there is a divide, and we all need to come together and do what is right for the children of this community.

Doyle: I attended the district as a child and have lived here for the majority of my life and love it here. My interest in the board originated with me figuring out the budget as a big-picture item and the state aid that is associated with it.

That led to me feeling the district can lessen the burden on taxpayers by streamlining the revenues versus expenses and cut back a bit on building reserves.

Reserves are a healthy component of a district’s financial portfolio, but I believe our reserves have gotten slightly larger than they should be and think the tax levy increases in the next few years should really be scrutinized as necessary. So my primary reason for running is finance, as well as academic performance and ratings.

There is definitely room for improvement in our academic performance and I would like to be a part of making that come to fruition.

Motherway: I decided to run for the Board of Education because I believe in Pete McNally and the current board.

I admire the great work they’ve done and I want to be a part of bringing this town together.

With Superintendent Lisa Ruiz departing in June, East Rockaway will need a new leader. What kind of qualities would you like to see in the next superintendent?

McNally: The new superintendent will need to show great communication skills and empathy. (He or she) will need to have a collaborative style that will help to galvanize the staff to create ideal learning conditions for the students of our district.

Doyle: The superintendent is the heart and brain of a district. The board and the superintendent must have common goals and reflect those of the community and work together to achieve the most important goal, which is well-educated students with a strong sense of community.

Motherway: I would like to see an intelligent superintendent with empathy and kindness.

With several recent instances of students claiming they have been racially discriminated against in East Rockaway schools, what do you think could be done to quell the issue and help students feel more accepted?

McNally: It is heartbreaking to hear stories of children being discriminated against. We need to create a climate of empathy. A climate where students and staff all feel like a part of the family.

This starts by teaching empathy. By putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we get a better understanding of what they might have to go through every day. We must enforce a zero-tolerance policy for any bullying and discrimination.

I would like to propose a program called “No Place For Hate.” I have seen it firsthand in the school where I teach.

Doyle: No student should ever be discriminated against and that is unacceptable to me as member of society in general.

There needs to be open communication and the students and parents need to feel safe when they are approaching the school administration and/or the board with any complaints.

These issues need to be dealt with swiftly and consistently, so the students understand what also happens if/when these instances occur. I believe there are training programs that the staff must go through and I assume, if elected,  I will gladly attend to learn on this most important issue.

Motherway: I would like to implement a program called “No Place For Hate.” This is a student-led climate improvement program that fits a school’s culture and needs.

What would be your main goals and what issues would you like to address as a school board member?

McNally: My main goal as a school board member is to represent every single person in the East Rockaway School District.

Every person deserves to have a voice.

We live in a small town, which has some great advantages.

Many people have heard me say that if you have an issue, please come knock on my door and let’s get it solved.

Communication is the key to improving.

I would like to work closely with the superintendent to identify academic areas of instruction that need improvement and find solutions that will benefit our children.

Doyle: Financial transparency, as well as improvement of academic performance of the students.

Motherway: My main goal is to expand our ability to fulfill the needs of special needs children. As the father of a child on the autism spectrum,  I would love to be able to serve more children in district while also saving taxpayer dollars.

Why do you think you have the experience necessary to be a good fit on the board?

McNally: Every day I see firsthand as a teacher how students everywhere have been affected by the pandemic. We will probably not know for a long time the full effects that the pandemic has had on their growth.

I am not just speaking about their academic growth. Their emotional well-being and growth has been impacted as well.

My 20 years of experience as a teacher and coach, as well as my three years of experience as a sitting board member, have given me many learning experiences that I will use to help foster an empathetic learning community.

Doyle: I helped build and run an engineering firm with over 150 employees and offices around the country,

I see a school district the same as I see a corporation that needs to work with many consultants (architects, brokers, building department, fire departments, clients, contractors and building owners) in order to complete projects from design through construction with many problems that need to be addressed along the way.

Motherway: I have worked as a custodian in Lynbrook schools for 15 years, and have a lot of insight into how a thriving school should function.