In District 13, four are vying for two contested seats on the Board of Education | Herald Community Newspapers

Four candidates are vying for two contested seats on the District 13 school board. District 13 includes James A. Dever, Howell Road, Wheeler Avenue and Willow Road elementary schools. It is the largest of Valley Stream’s three elementary school districts, with nearly 2,000 students.

William Freda and Vincent Caposio are vying for the seat of Antoinette “Toni” Pomerantz, who has served as a director since 2013 but decided not to run. Freda made an unsuccessful bid to overthrow incumbent Patricia Farrell in 2020. Caposio is running for the first time.

In the second contested race, Michael Morin challenges incumbent Milagros Vicente, who is seeking a third term on the board after serving six years. Morin ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Gerardo Cavalieri in 2020.

The Herald sought to give the candidates the opportunity to explain their platforms and discuss their ideas for progress and change. We interviewed them by phone and email, and their responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Vicente against Morin

Herald: Why did you decide to run?

Milagros Vicente: I am seeking re-election as a member of the school board because I am committed to achieving the goals set by the school board, our staff and the community. I will continue to bring an informed perspective to the board. My priorities are to ensure that the board articulates a clear vision for a comprehensive education for our children, a vision that balances high quality education with the financial capacity of the community to support such a vision. I believe an effectThe school board needs to create a culture of learning, adapt and evaluate policies, and create ways to be more transparent and listen to all stakeholders.

Michael Morin: My motivation for running for office is to break the mentality of wasteful spending and higher taxes.

Herald: If so, what would you like to see changed in school district policy and procedures?

Vincent: I would like to see more transparency and communication between the board and our community. I value the opinions of all stakeholders before making an informed decision. I will advocate and propose that the Board establish a Community Advisory Committee, which would provide feedback to the Board from all stakeholders. It should also reflect the demographics of the community.

I will encourage and support our Superintendent to find other ways to communicate and engage with the community. I would also work with the board and administration to find fiscally responsible ways to provide support to support staff in our district. Our support staff helps provide our children with the support they need to thrive in school. We have to do better with them.

Our children’s social and emotional learning skills continue to be a major concern for our district. The board has established provisions for student support services such as conflict resolution, mediation, counseling and restorative practices that support everyone involved. I will continue to encourage our Superintendent to find innovative tools and strategies that will support SEL. A positive self-image, mindful communication, and culturally appropriate practices support the whole child and prevent potential tragedies.

Morin: I think it is shameful that people are appointed to positions and then neglect the very community in which they are meant to serve. I have a strong opinion of public servants who make broken promises, who are not transparent with the taxpayer, or who are simply ineffective in fixing the education system for our children. I find the spending of $2.3 million for the construction of new administrative offices disturbing, neglecting the needs of our children and our community, nothing less. Conclusion: Let’s be fair to the people who spend their hard-earned money on taxes and improve our community, and put checks and balances on our public servants and wasteful spending.

Herald: What educational programs or initiatives would you like to see continued or expanded?

Vincent: I would like to expand our pre-K program. I am committed to increasing access to pre-K for more families. Together with our administration, I will explore fiscally responsible ways to provide additional pre-K options to our families.

Additionally, the transition from our primary school to secondary school can be difficult for students and families. The collaboration of the two school boards is an integral part of the continuity of the experience of children and families. I will ensure that the close collaboration between districts is expanded and continued.

Advocacy at the state and federal levels plays an extremely important role in the education of our children. I will make sure our voice is heard for additional funding from the state. Our students and taxpayers deserve better. Advocacy at the federal level is essential to ensure that our children with special needs receive an appropriate, inclusive and equitable education. I will lend my voice to demand that the federal government fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Morin: It is not fair that parents and taxpayers in the Wheeler School area no longer offer kindergarten, which was once offered for decades. I also want all families to have access to pre-kindergarten without restriction of availability of places and no more lottery system.

Freda versus Caposio

Herald: Why did you decide to run?

Bill Freda: Priority #1 is controlling out-of-control spending. For this year’s budget, the board and superintendent want to increase spending by about 5½%. Every dollar spent in the budget is taxpayers’ money, whether it’s property taxes, income taxes or sales taxes. That’s where the money is coming from, so the 5% increase in spending is absurd. People’s budgets are being hammered by the shock of grocery prices and, naturally, gasoline is on the rise. With families struggling with a squeeze on their budgets, now is not the time to go on a spending spree in the school district. It’s absurd. It’s just unacceptable.

I’m also running in response to the Dever fiasco where the school board told residents a year ago that they would renovate the business office and use capital reserve funds to fund the renovation. Voters narrowly said yes, but the superintendent and several incumbent board members failed to mention on the ballot the new wing to be built on the Dever building, new superintendent’s office, new restrooms, a private dining room, all items not specified. All this has nothing to do with the education of children. I dispute the illegality; I oppose deception and deceit.

Vincent Caposio: I have two children. My daughter is currently in kindergarten and my son will join the school district in 2023. I also got to know many families who have children in the district. I want to help them have the best educational experience possible. I feel I can be an asset in helping to improve transparency and communication between the board and parents and ratepayers, recognizing and prioritizing parental rights and choices, developing efforts to increase community involvement, and being financially responsible. I don’t see myself as a politician, but rather as a neighborhood parent looking to get involved in the community.

Herald: If so, what would you like to see changed in school district policy and procedures?

Freda: I would change the retrograde dynamic of the district budget process, where trustees, many of whom are not district residents, prepare the budget and submit it to the board. It should be the reverse. The council must prepare the budget. And that requires a longer lead time than what currently exists. Now the administration makes presentations to the board members and the board members nod, and that’s the budget.

I would also like to bring kindergarten back to the school on Wheeler Avenue. At present, if you live in the area frequented by Wheeler, there is no kindergarten for your child. Children are bussed to Franklin Square for kindergarten. As a result, some families don’t bother to send their children to kindergarten, either because they don’t feel comfortable putting them on a bus or because they don’t want to drive them to school.

Wheeler is the largest school building and can easily accommodate three kindergarten classrooms. This would eliminate the busing of approximately 70 children from Valley Stream to Franklin Square and make life easier for parents with multiple children in Wheeler.

Caposio: I think community members have been vocal enough to prioritize parental rights and parental choice. I believe that every parent knows what is best for their child, and I want to make sure parents maintain that right. I also think it is important to provide services for children who have learning deficits related to the pandemic. Pandemic responses like remote learning and masking have resulted in setbacks for many children, especially those with speech delays and learning disabilities. No child should be left behind because of these failed government policies.

Herald: What programs or initiatives would you like to see continued or expanded?

Freda: The district no longer offers remote learning for parents, and I want to bring it back. We know how to do distance learning. Some families have situations where they need a remote learning environment, and the school district does not provide it. I also want to push for the program to be available online, so that if a student is absent, they can pick up right where they left off and not really fall behind.

Caposio: Currently, for pre-K, we have a lottery system, and only a few kids are selected each year. I think it is extremely important to provide pre-K for all children and families in our district. Now more than ever, parents need to get back to work. By expanding our pre-K program, we can help parents pay their bills while ensuring their children receive quality education and socialization early.

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