Later this month, five candidates will contest two seats on the North Merrick Board of Education.
Incumbent Board of Education President Megan Ryan and Vice President Steven Enella will face opposition from challengers Carson Termotto, Will Luciani and Christine Mitkish.
Enella has the longest term of the incumbents up for re-election, having served on the board for the last nine years. Ryan was appointed to the board in 2018.
The youngest challenger, Termotto, is a 2019 graduate of Sanford H. Calhoun High School. Luciani has been a corporate transactional attorney since 2014, and Mitksih has worked in procurement and project management for over 25 years. All three challengers have been members of various boards and committees, including the 2022-23 Budget Advisory committee in North Merrick.
Ahead of the election, which will take place on Tuesday, May 17, 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?
Ryan: It would be an honor to continue serving our community as a trustee of the N. Merrick BOE for another term. My current term as President of the Board was very challenging dealing with Covid-19 and keeping our students safe in school. I fought hard to prevent any layoffs and cuts to our current programs. I am proud of the work I have done as President over the years. The dedication of our staff and the resiliency of our families were truly amazing. Working together, we ensured the success of our students. I secured funding for new playgrounds from our Nassau County Legislature, obtained Covid-19 donated supplies and am continuing to focus on public and private opportunities for District funds. During my tenure as President, we have implemented Homework enrichment, additional language studies, additional mental health resources, increased access to technology in our classrooms and added more outside classroom activities such as yoga. In the fall we are offering grant funded Universal Pre-K for the first time. It would be an honor to continue serving our students and community.
Enella: The reason why I am running for re-election for my third term is because I believe in giving back to the community. I feel I am an advocate for the children and the tax payers. I started my community service when I enlisted in the United States Marine Corp back in 1989. The children are our future which is why I am committed to serving another term. My passion is to serve and advocate for the students and taxpayers of N. Merrick. I am an independent candidate, free thinker and base decisions on facts not emotions.
Termotto: I graduated from Old Mill Road in 2013, MAMS in 2015, and Calhoun in 2019. I had trouble focusing and connecting with other kids in the younger grades. Then I had a teacher in 5th grade, Mr. Krebs, who gave me the attention I needed. I made the honor roll every single quarter in MAMS and Calhoun then and was accepted to Duke University. I’m running to be your next school board trustee because I owe everything to this school district.
Luciani: When my wife, Jackie, and I were deciding where to buy our first house and raise our two boys we had two things in mind: Can we give our children the opportunity to grow and thrive in a safe and supportive community? And can we make sure our children are getting the kind of education they deserve? We’ve found all that here in N. Merrick and I wouldn’t want to raise my family anywhere else. However, as a member of the budget committee, I know the district has been under significant financial stress and the problems run deeper than those caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As an attorney at a firm that represents billion-dollar corporations, I’m quite comfortable navigating complex financial statements and identifying inefficiencies and that’s what’s needed if we want a budget that will ensure our children and our grandchildren are getting the education they deserve.
Mitkish: My husband and I moved to North Merrick almost 8 years ago. We already knew the community through our son’s enrollment in a local daycare and we had family that attended Camp Avenue School. Each year in the district reinforced that we made the right decision. I decided to run for the North Merrick BOE because I wanted to give back to the district that provided an incredible learning experience for my son. I took every opportunity to be involved in our school, through PTA, parent universities, committees and attending board meetings. As a parent and a resident, I want to use that knowledge to promote continuous improvement in our schools. We have a great school, but we can always strive to do better for our kids. I will be a trustee that will continue to invest time and effort into that vision.
Herald: What are the main goals and issues you wish to address if elected?
Ryan: My next term’s main goals are securing more funding to avoid any tax increases I will also fight to add more programs that focus on the mental health and wellness of our students and their families. I am happy that we were able to find funds for our playgrounds and our Universal Pre-K program. Working at a hospital and serving as the president of our board during the pandemic has only reinforced the necessity of easily accessible resources for the mental health of our students and their families. We can achieve this by partnering with local hospitals and clinics.
Enella: The main goals and issues I wish to address are to always be an advocate for the tax payers and the students. I will always ask the question is it good for the kids and can the budget support it. The past 3 years have been unprecedented in school districts and I have heard parents concerns and pleas for their children. I take the very seriously as I know I am their voice on this board. Parents are never the enemy and without their children, there would be no school district. Parents will always be their child's best advocate and this is why I support parental choice.
Termotto: My campaign is centered around 4 common-sense initiatives. First, I want to expand our technology curriculum. To be successful in the modern world, our kids need to be equipped with modern tools and technology. Second, I want to work on smoothing the transition from our elementary schools to our middle school. I remember what made that change most challenging and have developed a plan to fix it. Third, we need to act with fiscal responsibility. I am a member of the 2022-23 budget advisory committee. On the board, I will see to it that the district acts responsibility with the North Merrick tax-payer in mind. Fourth, we need to bring our community together. The residents of N. Merrick are passionate and like to be involved. The past few years have torn our community apart. Now is the time to ignore politically charged agendas and focus on the kids.
Luciani: The number one issue that MUST be addressed is the State Comptroller’s designation of our district as being “Susceptible to Fiscal Stress.” We need to get our district back to a place where our spending doesn’t outpace our revenue. Unsustainable budgets are highly detrimental in the long run. It’s unfair to our students, our teachers, and our taxpayers and if we continue to tap into our Reserve Fund they’re the ones who will end up paying. What’s even more worrisome is that our finances were put in this position during a time of economic boom, so what happens if there’s a recession? This is the kind of stuff I think about at night when my head is on the pillow, yet I’m hopeful. I believe if we pull together we can do better. With some common sense changes and experienced oversight, we can put our finances in a much more sustainable position for a much brighter future.
Mitkish: This is about our children, our community, and our future. Students need a safe and engaging school environment. When I served on school committees, I learned to be a good listener. I hear parent’s concerns about nutrition, safety, facilities and more. I have always advocated for parents and encourage them to be more involved. I would like to bring more focus on arts and technology to our district. There are many innovative ways to connect technology to other parts of the K-6 curriculum. We also need real solutions that result in saving money while maintaining our high standards. Energy savings, cost neutral resources and reviewing out bid process are all ways we can reduce the budget. Trustees should also take a more active role in the community and be more visible to parents and residents. I would promote more opportunities to connect with the community and make clear how their tax money is spent.
Herald: Why do you feel like you are qualified for the position you are running for?
Ryan: In my role, I have led our School during the most challenging times we have ever faced. I will continue to be transparent and keep open lines of communication with my fellow board trustees, Superintendent Cynthia Seniuk and our families. Under my leadership I will continue to increase opportunities for the public involvement. As a mother of two students in the district, I understand the concerns and frustrations facing parents in our district. I am also well versed in board governance and understand the importance of my oath and my fiduciary duty. I have welcomed all residents to ask questions and share their opinions and voice their concerns. Then I have tried to timely, respectfully address each concern raised. I have worked tirelessly for our students and staff to obtain funding and donations. I am proud of the daily dedication and efforts of our students, our families, our staff and my fellow board trustees. I am seeking another term to ensure we continue our district’s success and afford more opportunities for our students to prosper.
Enella: Having served as a trustee and vice president over the last 9 years gives me the knowledge and experience to continue serving my community and asking the tough questions. A school board should be diverse. I was a student of N. Merrick; my children went through the N. Merrick schools and I am the only current trustee who served under 3 superintendents.
Termotto: The past couple of years have brought new challenges. I’ve completed most of my college education remotely, but it’s time we move forward. To confront the challenges modern students face, N. Merrick needs a trustee who’s faced these challenges himself. I know what it’s like to learn surrounded by technology and modern tools. I know what it’s like to have your education uprooted because of Covid. On the Board of Education, I will make sure all kids are treated equitably and receive the attention they deserve. In a time when N. Merrick faces outside influences and political agendas that want to control our board, N. Merrick residents need someone they can trust.
Luciani: Quick story: My wife and I had this idea last year to organize an Easter egg hunt for the neighborhood kids. This is when the lockdowns were initially winding down and we thought it would be great to get everyone out of the house and conjure up some sense of normalcy. The response was so positive that we did it again this year and the response was even bigger than we could have imagined. I began to think if we can garner this much support and enthusiasm for an Easter Egg Hunt and raise money and goods for the Bellmore-Merrick Community Cupboard what else could we accomplish? The bottom line is that people move to N. Merrick and pay taxes because of our wonderful schools. That said, we have to make sure those same taxes aren’t driving families and lifelong residents away. I know our community doesn’t want to cut resources for our students or increase taxes; we just want to make sure we’re getting what we paid for - and I believe that with my professional experience, passionate determination, and support from my friends and neighbors, I can deliver just that for this great community.
Mitkish: I was co-president for Camp Avenue PTA, and I am currently co-president of Merrick Avenue Middle School PTA and received the NYS Honorary Life Award. My focus has always been on the children of our district. It is important to understand and engage the stakeholders in our community and schools. The success I’ve had in my career is based on real results and I know that working as a team means considering all input. My background in cost savings brings new ideas for the budget. I am currently pursuing a master’s degree at SUNY Empire College and have personally experienced the challenges our children will face. We need to be sure our students are prepared for the future and have the skill set to be successful. Being a PTA leader and being a part of decision-making teams in the district have given me unique insight in what the board needs to focus on.