Mineola seeks new school board prez

The Mineola Board of Education ballot will feature four names in May for two seats, but board President Artie Barnett’s will not be among them.

Barnett said he is not seeking re-election and is instead endorsing board Vice President Christine Napolitano and newcomer Brian Widman, who Barnett said has been a mainstay at board meetings for years.

Also on the ballot are Joy Renner and Mark Swensen, who are running together in opposition to Napolitano and Widman. The seats will go to the top-two vote getters overall.

Barnett, who was first elected three years ago, said he always planned to serve only one term, adding he would have considered staying if he felt the district were in bad shape.

Barnett said he approached Widman about replacing him because Widman had been a “regular in the district for the three years I’ve been on the board.”

“That’s the kind of person that I think this board needs, somebody that shows they’re committed to the district,” he said. He said Napolitano has his “full support”

“Her history, her work ethic is beyond reproach,” he said. “Her record is perfect in my view.”

Napolitano, a Williston Park resident and former board president, has served on the board for six years. Several years ago, she helped oversee the district’s reconfiguration, where it closed and leased two schools, a move she said saved taxpayers millions. She also touted the district’s educational achievements during her tenure.

“When it comes to education, we’ve raised the bar and then some. We’re using nationally recognized technology — other districts come all the time to look and see what we do,” she said. “We did all of this without creating new debt.”

For eight straight years, even prior to the state mandated property tax cap, the district has kept tax increases below 2.5 percent, which Napolitano said shows prudent fiscal planning.

“I challenge anyone to say we haven’t done a great job the past six years I’ve been on the board,” she said.

Widman, a Roslyn Heights resident and a graduate of Mineola High School, said he has attended board meetings for more than seven years and would like to help the board continue in the direction it is moving.

“After seven-plus years of going to meetings, I like the way the board is going,” said Widman, a business data analyst. “They’re doing so much without having to raise taxes and without having to pass bonds.”

Neither Swensen nor Renner responded to calls from the Williston Times asking for comment.

But Swensen, an IT consultant and Mineola resident, told the Minoela American “a fresh set of eyes is warranted” on the school board.

“I want to be involved in the guidance of the district,” he told the Mineola American. “I want to see that we are looking forward to the future. We’ve gotten caught behind the eight-ball a little bit with the closures of these schools.”

Renner, an elementary school teacher at Uniondale School District, told the Mineola American “being an educator and being in the classroom” lets her see “firsthand what goes on.”

On Facebook, Renner is a member of groups that support opting out of state standardized testing, and according to the Mineola American, she supports further efforts by the district to educate parents on the Common Core standards.

“Common Core is a curriculum that New York State adopted,” she said. “I think parents in Mineola have not been informed on Common Core curriculum versus the New York State. There’s a lot of myths.”

Legally, the school board cannot take any actions to inhibit administering the exams or alter the way scores are factored into teacher evaluations.

Barnett, Napolitano and Widman all said they do not recall ever seeing Swensen at a board meeting. Barnett said he remembers Renner attending only one meeting.

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James Galloway

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