Who's running for the Merrick board of ed.?


Six candidates will vie for open seats on the Merrick Union Free School District’s board of education next week. Polls are open on Tuesday, May 21 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in district’s administration center, at 21 Babylon Road, Merrick.

Ahead of the election, the Herald asked the candidates about their goals and the issues facing the district.


Herald: Why did you decide to run (or run again) for the Board of Education?


Nancy Kaplan (incumbent): Being a Board of Education Trustee is a position I have always taken seriously, and it has been my honor and privilege to serve the community.  When my family moved to Merrick over 20 years ago, it was after an exhaustive search of where to live that always began with the quality of schools.  Running for the Board initially was a way for me to give back to the community in a most impactful way since my educational and professional background gave me unique knowledge, experience, and perspective.  In my role as a Trustee, I have worked with colleagues on both the elementary Board for 20 years and Central High School District Board for 12 years to help elevate our districts to national prominence.  My seeking re-election is my way of continuing to give back to a community I love and appreciate in a way that matters to children, families, and all taxpayers.


Linda Wilk (incumbent):  In 2015, at the urging of parents, educators, community members, and administrators, I first ran for the position of school board trustee. Our community rightfully seeks individuals who are fair-minded, trustworthy, inquisitive, and knowledgeable about education. I have endeavored to embody these qualities throughout my tenure. I believe in the transformative power of education and am committed to ensuring that our schools provide the best opportunities for all students. By continuing my service on the board, I aim to further contribute to the growth and success of our educational system, working collaboratively with stakeholders to address challenges and implement positive changes for the benefit of our community’s children. Due to my passion and love of our community, I am running for another term. As always, there is a deep need for dedicated representation from parents, educators, and administrators.


Butch Yamali (incumbent): Quite simply, I am running for re-election because I want to ensure that my grandchildren receive the same superlative education in the Merrick school system that my children enjoyed. I want to maintain small class size while controlling spending. During these challenging times, I am focused on stopping antisemitism and bullying in our schools. Finally, I want to make sure that parents have a voice in the educational decisions that affect our children. Together, we succeeded in fighting Common Core mandates, and we will face future challenges together in the best interest of our kids.


Scott Woller:  I am a parent of two young children who are beginning their journey through our school system, and I want to have a direct say in the decisions that affect their education.  Specifically, I want to ensure that our schools are focused on education and providing our children with the tools and knowledge they need to progress successfully through each grade level and grow into educated, well-adjusted young adults.  I believe that there are certain board members — who do not have children, or grandchildren, in our schools — who prioritize their own and other outside interests ahead of our children’s education, including by forcing inappropriate and divisive ideas and ideologies into the curriculum, and then dismissing parents when they raise concerns. 


Erik Bashian: I am running for trustee of the Merrick Union Free School District school board because our community deserves leadership that truly represents the interests of parents and students. As a dad of three students in our schools, I bring a personal investment and a unique perspective to the table. I believe trustees should prioritize the voices of parents who are directly impacted by their decisions, rather than pursuing their own personal agendas. As an active parent in our schools, I’ve witnessed firsthand the need for improvement, particularly in preparing students for the transition from elementary to middle school. I’m committed to advocating for accountability, results, and ensuring our school budget is properly spent in a fiscal manner. My campaign is about meaningful change that empowers parents to enact improvements. I’m determined to be a leader who prioritizes our children and community’s best interests. I hope to earn your trust and vote to make a positive impact on our district’s future.


Annie Rodriguez: Being a lifelong resident of Merrick, mother of two boys in the district, and a teacher for over fifteen years has inspired me to contribute to my community. I am passionate about learning, therefore, it is my desire to support my community to bring the best educational opportunities to students and families. 


HERALD: What are the main goals and issues you wish to address if you are elected?


Kaplan: One of the nicest things about being a long-term trustee is that I have been part of the leadership team that has evaluated and enhanced every area of our educational systems.  I am extremely proud that our school districts are known for academic excellence and achievement.  I am grateful we offer amazing co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities enhancing the experience for all students, and our focus on school safety and social and emotional wellness has distinguished us from many other school districts.  Moving forward, my goals are to remain fiscally responsible while continuing to add programs and opportunities for students; ensure accountability and responsiveness prioritizing kids, families, and taxpayers always; heighten our vigilance around school safety and mental health; identify and address individual student needs to ensure every student is college or career ready; and foster a sense of connection and pride for students and staff.


Wilk: As a board trustee, I prioritize fiscal responsibility, weigh all perspectives on every issue, question administration, question policy, consider consequences carefully, and engage community ensuring that their voices are heard. I am proud of the accomplishments of our school district and look forward to making more improvements as we continue to grow as a district. I look forward to addressing the concerns that parents have with our district. Some of them include further enhancing the transition from the elementary school to the middle school, assuring that students reading and writing skills are exemplary, and making sure that all students feel connected and an integral part of the Merrick community. Having served on the Merrick School Board for 3 terms, I take pride in our district and its accomplishments. I am committed to continuing to enhance our community’s educational offerings for our children.


Yamali: While the Merrick school board has accomplished much during my tenure, I look forward to delivering on a host of new priorities for children and families in Merrick. I was proud to have played a role in creating full day pre-k for 4-year-olds. I am eager to expand pre-k programs for our children, as well as offerings for people with special needs. Furthermore, I want to provide greater input for parents in the decisions of the board on and the school district’s administration. We must keep class sizes as low as possible so that each student can receive as much attention as possible. It is important that we continue to bring the best and brightest teachers into our district. Our high standards will give us a better outcome in the future. Our schools must be safe and comfortable places for our children to learn and grow.


Woller: Empowering parents to have an input into the decisions that affect their children, rather than having those decisions controlled by long-serving board members who do not have children or grandchildren in the schools. Ending any training or instruction involving inappropriate, divisive, and radical ideology or theory. Transparency in the decisions and actions that affect our children’s education, and accountability for teachers and school leadership. Ensuring district funds are used for providing our schools with the tools needed to give our children the best education and school experience possible, including the newest technology and equipment, and eliminating spending not directed towards that goal.  


Bashian: If elected, my paramount objective is to drive a profound transformation in the leadership of our school district.  The entrenched board of trustees have relentlessly controlled the school agenda, perpetually running and sometimes unopposed. This lack of oversight may lead to decisions that often neglect the needs of our students and fail to address the concerns of parents. It’s time to break this cycle of complacency and usher in a new era of transparency, accountability, and responsiveness.  As a parent and a concerned member of our community, I am committed to challenging the status quo and ensuring that our school board truly serves the interests of our children and families. Let’s demand change and empower parents to have a real voice in shaping the future of our schools.


Rodriguez: If I am elected, my main focus would be to investigate and prioritize the most current educational practices, programs and standards.  In addition to encouraging transparency regarding budgetary issues, new initiatives involving cost, training, efficacy and roles of administrators.  


HERALD: Why do you feel you are qualified for the position you are running for?


Kaplan: Serving as a trustee is one of the most important positions a person can hold within any community.  First, any person who serves should have a deep understanding of how educational systems function.  Next, trustees should understand where K-12 education leads, along with the opportunities that await students after high school graduation. Finally, trustees should have the expertise and personality to work with Administration while being a fierce advocate for all children, families, and taxpayers.  I continue to be a unique candidate as I hold a Doctor of Education degree and have been a higher education leader for 34 years. I am a licensed school business official and have relationships with colleagues at many institutions of higher education. My knowledge, experience, and relationships enable me to provide informed guidance to our educational leaders. Additionally, I have always leveraged my personal and professional background to provide opportunities for students beyond Bellmore-Merrick.


Wilk: My devotion, passion and dedication for Merrick remains steadfast. As a long-time active Merokean I was a parent volunteer for the Lakeside Student Council, a site-based committee member, and Co-PTA president. Now that my children have graduated, I am just as dedicated as before. Part of being a responsible board member is to be there for all students, not just the issues of your own children.  I am a Care Manager Supervisor for individuals with disabilities. I provide them with supports to fully engage in the community. Previously I wrote curriculum for the same population. I was an elementary school teacher at Birch School and I worked in Human Resources. I am honored and dedicated to making the Merrick School District even better. Please vote for me, Linda Wilk, for school board trustee.


Yamali: My experience on the Merrick school board, together with my many years of service and involvement in the Merrick community, has afforded me a deep understanding of the values and priorities of families who are part of the school district. I have stood alongside families during the Covid pandemic, advocated for parents in opposition to Common Core mandates, and donated security services to keep our kids safe. Moreover, when it comes to providing the best education on for our children, while controlling costs, I am prepared to do it because I have done it for 17 years. Thank you for the opportunity to serve on the School Board, and I humbly ask for your support in the upcoming election. 


Woller:  I do believe that my 20 years as a practicing attorney will help me advocate for our children, analyze difficult issues that the Board must resolve, and mediate between trustees with opposing viewpoints. But ultimately, I believe that my most important qualification is that I am a concerned parent with one young child in the school system, and a younger child that will be in the school system in two school years. I have no hidden agenda and am not connected with or influenced by outside groups. My focus is solely on what’s best for my children and all of the other children in our district.


Bashian: As a dedicated dad of three children in our district and an accomplished attorney with over 20 years of experience, I bring a unique blend of personal investment and professional expertise to this role. My community involvement extends beyond education, from leading local initiatives post-Hurricane Sandy to providing pro bono legal services through the Nassau County Bar Association.  I’m actively engaged in promoting youth sportsmanship and respect, evident in my coaching and support of the Merrick Bellmore Little League and local travel teams. With a career focused on defending students, parents and teachers in New York educational matters, I understand the challenges facing our schools and have the drive to enact meaningful change. My career achievements, including recognition as a Super Lawyer, reflect my dedication to excellence and integrity. I’m not seeking recognition; I’m here to ensure every student receives the quality education they deserve.


Rodriguez: I would be an asset to this board because I am a long time resident and a veteran teacher. If I am elected, it is my hope to make an impact in our school community and encourage collaboration among board members, staff, and community.