No opposition for Herricks ed board candidates

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Herricks school board Vice President Christine Turner (left) is seen in 2011, and Trustee James Gounaris is seen in 2014.

This year’s candidates for the Herricks school board will not face any challengers on the ballot next month.

Newcomer Henry Zanetti and incumbent Trustee James Gounaris were the only people to file candidacy petitions for the two available seats by Monday’s deadline, school district officials said.

Zanetti, of Williston Park, is running to succeed Vice President Christine Turner, who is leaving the board after 27 years. And Gounaris, a former board president from Manhasset Hills, is running unopposed for a third three-year term.

Turner, 66, said she wanted to end her tenure in 2014, but stayed on because the other trustees were new to the board and the district was going through significant staffing changes.

But now, she feels confident in the board and in Zanetti, whom she encouraged to run when she decided to step down, she said.

“It’s been a great run and I think the time to go out is when everything is up,” said Turner, who is the director of a Lutheran preschool in Garden City.

Turner, a 42-year Albertson resident, was first elected to the board in 1990. She has worked with four superintendents and 32 different school board members, she said.

Through the first half of her tenure she pushed the district to adopt a full-day kindergarten program, which it did in the early 2000s.

Turner said she plans to remain involved with the Herricks Community Fund, which raises money to support the school district and other community programs. She always tried to be as visible as possible in the schools and community as a board member, she said.

“If you want to be in touch with the community and hear what people have to say, you have to be out there,” Turner said.

Turner was the school board president for several years until 2013, when Gounaris took the helm. Current President Nancy Feinstein took over in 2015.

Gounaris, who owns a company that runs corporate cafeterias, said he wants to help lead the district through negotiations of new labor contracts with its its employees through the next two years.

The board took a more active role in those negotiations when Gounaris was first elected in 2011, he said.

Gounaris also wants to build on administrators’ recent work to make the district’s operations more efficient, he said.

“It’s not always just about salaries and benefits,” he said. “It’s about finding new efficiencies that help the school district run better so that we can save that money and plug that money back into classrooms.”

Zanetti said it’s “an honor” to be the likely successor to Turner, the board’s longest-serving sitting member.

Both Gounaris and Zanetti, a retired U.S. customs agent who attends nearly every school board meeting, said they look forward to overseeing the $29.5 million package of building projects for which voters approved most of the funding in December, he said.

Zanetti also wants to advocate for changes in how state funding is allocated to school districts, which is crucial in Herricks because residents’ property taxes account for so much of the district’s revenue, he said.

“It’s kind of a razor-thin edge between being able to maintain your programs and having to cut positions,” Zanetti said.

District residents can cast ballots for the two school board seats and Herricks’ $111.2 million 2017-18 budget on May 16 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Herricks Community Center.

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