Contested school board elections in East Williston, Herricks to be held in June

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Contested school board elections in East Williston, Herricks to be held in June
Incumbents Patrick Talty and Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion are running for reelection to the Mineola school board. (Photo courtesy of the Mineola Union Free School District)

Residents will vote in contested elections for school board seats in the East Williston and Herricks districts on June 9. In Mineola, two incumbent trustees are running unopposed.

School district trustee and budget votes were delayed from May 13 in accordance with an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Residents will vote via absentee ballot, which will be distributed 14 days prior to the vote, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Candidates did not need to collect signatures in order to file, in keeping with social distancing regulations.

Districts were instructed to alert residents of the date of the election, as well as the date and time of the school budget hearing, which will be held by teleconference and made accessible to the public.

Mineola had its public budget hearing last Thursday.

Two incumbent trustees, Patrick Talty and Margaret Ballantyne-Mannion, are running for re-election to the Mineola school board.

Talty has been on the board since 2017, when he ran unopposed with 755 votes. He replaced former Trustee Nicole Matzer. He cited increasing parent involvement as one of his primary goals as a member of the board.

Ballantyne-Mannion currently serves as vice president of the board. She is a Spanish professor at York College, and earned a Ph.D. from Brown University in Hispanic studies. Ballantyne-Mannion has lived in Mineola since 1972, and she and her husband, Luke Mannion, have been active in the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Board President Christina Napolitano said that the district cannot make plans for the summer and fall until the governor specifies exactly what is allowable.

“I am proud that Mineola has been way ahead of the curve when it comes to integrating technology into education and I would even suggest that the governor should speak to Dr. Nagler as to how we can re-imagine schools going forward,” Napolitano said.

“However, in no way does the Board or Dr. Nagler feel that long-distance learning replaces a school experience,” she clarified. “What we are experiencing now is not ‘school.’ Technology is a powerful tool but it will never replace a teacher and students in a real classroom.”

There is one contested seat on the East Williston school board. Raymond Del Maestro is running against incumbent and board president Mark Kamberg.

Kamberg is running for his fifth term, having served on the board since 2008. He has lived in Albertson for 19 years, and is the president of S. Kamberg & Company, a food ingredients company based in Great Neck that his father founded.

Efforts to reach Del Maestro were unavailing.

Alan Littman resigned from his trustee position in March. Tasneem Meghi is running unopposed for the now vacant seat.

Meghi has served on the Educational Advisory Committee for the East Williston schools, which advises the board and the district on educational initiatives. Efforts to reach Meghi were unavailing.

Absentee ballots will be mailed to registered voters in the East Williston district by Tuesday, May 26, according to Melisa Byrns, communications and public information coordinator for the schools. The district clerk’s office must receive ballots by 5 p.m. on June 9.

East Williston will hold its budget hearing via Google Meet on May 26 at 7:30 p.m.

There are two contested races for seats on the Herricks school board.

Tarantej S. Arora is running against incumbent James Gounaris. Bhajan S. Ratra is running against incumbent Henry R. Zanetti.

Gounaris, a Manhasset Hills resident, was president of the board from 2013 t0 2015. He is now running for his fourth term on the board.

Efforts to reach Arora and Ratra were unavailing.

Zanetti, a Williston Park resident who served on the Herricks PTA for over a decade, was elected to the board in 2017. He is now running for his second term.

Zanetti, who is retired, was a U.S. Customs inspector who acted as chief of the cargo inspection branch at John. F. Kennedy International Airport.

He has two children in the Herricks schools.

While schools’ course of action for the summer and fall remain up in the air due to the pandemic, Herricks has begun tentatively planning for the next few months.

“We anticipate that we will be offering some summer programs, likely in a remote online format,” said Dr. Fino Celano, superintendent of Herricks Public Schools.

On Friday, Cuomo announced the formation of a state Reimagine Education Advisory Council. The committee, composed of educators, students, parents and education leaders, will help districts plan for reopening.

“We are interested in finding out more details of the Governor’s ‘reimagine education’ concept,” Celano said. “Our teachers have broadened their understanding of the technology tools available to them through this experience with remote education. They have gained new skills that will further our efforts to integrate instructional technology into the classroom when we return.”

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