New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district residents voted Tuesday to approve three 2016-2017 budgets and to return former Trustee Patricia Rudd to the school board.
Voters passed the $37.5 million New Hyde Park-Garden City Park budget 810 votes to 338, and elected Rudd to a three-year term with 726 votes to newcomer Shamini Sivalingam’s 288.
“I feel the community choose me for the trustee seat for my extensive experience on all school board matters and my commitment to bringing educational control back to the states and local school boards,” Rudd said in a statement.
Voters also approved the Sewanhaka Central High School District’s $184.1 million budget with 690 “yes” votes to 270 “no” votes. The budget passed with a total of 4,144 votes in favor to 1,493 votes against across Sewanhaka’s four elementary school districts.
The Hillside Public Library’s $3 million budget with a 0.51-percent tax levy increase also passed 851 votes to 293.
Rudd, a former 15-year school board trustee, replaces outgoing 12-year Trustee Joan Romagnoli, who represented New Hyde Park-Garden City Park on the Sewanhaka school board for 10 years.
School board Trustee Jennifer Kerrane and board President Ernest Gentile also won unopposed re-election bids with 836 and 805 votes, respectively.
Sivalingam congratulated Rudd and said she was glad to give residents a choice in the school board race, adding that she will continue efforts to increase involvement among parents and may run for school board again.
“I wanted to run because I really did want to inspire and motivate parents to see that anybody can do it,” she said. “I think that I managed to do that.”
The New Hyde Park-Garden City Park budget will increase tax bills an average of $12.38, administrators have said. It reflects a 1.99-percent spending increase and a 0.38-percent tax levy increase, Assistant Superintendent for Business Michael Frank has said.
The district will maintain its programs and purchase new equipment to support its science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics initiatives and start a one-to-one technology program, Superintendent Robert Katulak has said.
A $5.855 million state aid package — including a $126,791 final reimbursement for the state’s “gap elimination adjustment” — created room for contingency expenses administrators previously cut, Frank said last month.
Sewanhaka’s $1.6 million aid boost allowed the district to add 15 new staff, including eight teachers, restoring cuts made in the past several years, officials have said.
Rudd touted her experience and knowledge as an aid to the district in a time of shifting educational policy.She was active with the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association and involved with education lobbying efforts in Albany and Washington, D.C., she has said.
“… I think at this point in the game, we really need someone with experience, especially since Joan (Romagnoli) is stepping down,” she said in an interview last month.
Sivalingam said she aimed to bring a “solution-based” perspective to increase parent involvement and find ways to fund new programs outside of budget restrictions.
A native of Malaysia who moved to the U.S. in 2000, Sivalingam would also represent the district’s increased racial diversity and engage more parents of minority ethnic backgrounds, she has said.
”Two brains are smarter than one brain, and I think there are many, many smart people in the community, and I think we have to attract that level of commitment from within the community to come up with those ideas,” Sivalingam said in an interview last month.
Rudd and Sivalingam agreed that declining parent involvement is an issue in New Hyde Park-Garden City Park, but they diverged on how the district should address Common Core standards.
Rudd has said she would like to see the federal government move away from the standards and return control to local school districts, she said.
Sivalingam has said the school board should deal with the standards more proactively. She said she thinks they have educational value but have been hampered by a bungled rollout.