School budget approved in Oyster Bay


Voters resoundingly approved the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District’s budget of just over $64.4 million on Tuesday, and gave a collective thumbs-up to all of the propositions on the ballot as well. This will help the district move forward with what Superintendent Francesco Ianni described as a mission to continue making Oyster Bay one of the best and most innovative school districts in the nation. 

Four residents ran for two seats on the school board, with incumbent Laurie Kowalsky garnering the most votes — 703 — guaranteeing her a third term. 

“I’m very grateful for the community support,” Kowalsky said. “This overwhelming support for my candidacy means the community is happy with the direction of the district.”

Kowalsky, 57, an intellectual property attorney, has served as board president for two years. She has said she is committed to improving test scores and grade-school ratings, and that she con

tinues to be concerned about the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on students, and will work to ensure that they get the support they need so they don’t fall behind. 

Kowalsky’s dream, she has said, is for one of the schools in the district to be designated a Blue Ribbon School. The U.S. Department of Education program recognizes the top schools in the country with the award, based on overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among students.

“My work these next four years is to continue to improve our district, and provide the new and improved opportunities our students deserve,” Kowalsky said. “I want to make sure our schools are safe places for healthy, happy learning.”

School board newcomer Caitlin Amatrudo, 35, came in second, with 583 votes. A 2006 Oyster Bay High School graduate and a lifelong resident of the hamlet, Amatrudo is a Northwell intensive care nurse. She said she supports the board’s work, and is looking forward to helping it move forward. 

“I’m so happy and so thrilled that the people of Oyster Bay chose me,” Amatrudo said. “I’m humbled and honored and am really looking forward to serving our community and our children.”

Amatrudo describes herself as a “selfless person,” and “empathetic.” A member of the district’s Site Based Team, she brainstorms ideas for school improvements with the district’s principals and teachers. 

She said she recognizes that learning is different these days than when she was in school, and that she is committed to keeping up with societal and technological changes. Additionally, Amatrudo said she wants to be sure there are Advanced Placement and honor classes available at the high school. 

“We live in a diverse community,” she said. “I want to make sure all children’s educational needs are met.” 

Residents’ approval of the budget was overwhelming, with 770 voting “yes” and 282 voting “no.” Superintendent Francesco Ianni said he was pleased with the results, and the turnout. 

“The number shows that the community is proud of our students and the work they’re doing,” he said. “With these numbers, we will continue to empower our students to excellence.”

The Expenditure of Technology Capital Reserve proposition was supported by 799 voters, and opposed by 248. Its approval will allow the district to use up to $200,000 from its technology reserve fund for board-approved projects. The district plans to continue its implementation of technology with upgrades including iPads for kindergartners, Chromebooks for third-graders and the purchase of interactive boards.

Passage of the Expenditure of Capital Reserve proposition, 799 to 248, will allow capital improvements throughout the district to move forward, with a cost estimated at $750,000. At the high school, the improvements will include a main entrance seating wall, sound and lighting upgrades in the auditorium, new tennis court lighting and a new marquee sign. At James Vernon, the library’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system as well as ceilings and lighting will be replaced. There will be concrete and miscellaneous building repairs at Oyster Bay Memorial Stadium, and the HVAC system will be replaced at the administration building. 

In an interview before the budget vote, Ianni said he was pleased with the progress the district has made since he arrived in 2020. “I am confident we are fulfilling that mission every day with the caliber of students we have today,” he said. “Our graduating class will be attending impressive colleges like Brown, UPenn and NYU. That says a lot about who we are as a district and the community we have.”