Huntington’s candidates are incumbents Christine Biernacki and Thomas DiGiacomo, and newcomers, Lynda D’Anna, Michele Deegan, and Alvin White. South Huntington’s candidates are incumbents Michele DeGaetano, Edward J. Nitkewicz, and Linda LaCara and newcomer Solange Rich. Candidates will vie for three vacant seats on each district’s board. School budget votes will be held the same day.
Biernacki, first elected in 2015, works as a partner at a law firm in New York City. She has served as president of both the Huntington Sanctuary Project, a program designed to house runaway youth, and the Huntington Youth Bureau.
DiGiacomo, Huntington school board member since 2012, is a professional in the technology field. He plans to use his experience to “contribute to making the district the finest it can be,” he said. As a trustee, DiGiacomo has served on the district’s audit and policy committee. He is also president of the Huntington Alumni Association.
D’Anna has been a world languages teacher in the Syosset school district since 1993. She has served on the Huntington UFSD Special Education board and is the founder of a local non-profit focused on advocacy and education. She hopes to use her experience as a parent, educator and community member to “help Huntington schools continue to flourish,” she said.
Deegan works as a recruiting professional at a leading New York City architectural staffing firm. She volunteers as a judge for the Huntington Youth Bureau’s annual Huntington Writes contest. She regularly attends PTA and school board meetings as well as “sports, fine and performing arts and educational events throughout Huntington UFSD,” she said. She values volunteerism and believes it strengthens the core of the school community.
White is the former director of operations for the Huntington UFSD. He is involved in several Huntington community organizations such as the Porter-Trejo action network, Take Back the Block advisory board, and the Huntington Enrichment Center/Kids Café. An avid fan of the Blue Devils athletic team, White has mentored and encouraged community members of all ages throughout the years.
Huntington UFSD’s proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year is $129,812,991. This compared to 2017-18’s budget of $126,213,223 is an increase of $3,599,768. According to the district’s website, a majority of the funds will be used in the areas of instruction, employee benefits, property taxes, and state aid.
DeGaetano, currently seeking a third term on the South Huntington school board, has a background in the financial sector; she worked as a Senior Financial Executive Recruiter. She plans to use this experience to “do her best to balance the concerns of overburdened taxpayers with the academic, athletic, artistic and cultural opportunities provided in our schools,” she said. She is volunteers with the PTA and with sports teams.
Nitkewicz, an attorney, has served on boards and committees in the district such as Teacher Contract Negotiation, the School Board Legislative, and the District Audit Committees. He served on the interview team for the hiring of Superintendent David Bennardo and is a past member of the School Board Facilities Committee. “We must make difficult choices that are, to the best of our ability, as fair as possible. I believe I have honored my commitment to the South Huntington community,” he said.
Throughout her current term, LaCara and her board worked collaboratively with the administrative team and staff to close the achievement gap, introduce cutting-edge technology, and reduce class size. If elected, she will “continue to seek the best solutions to maintain our high educational standards, while presenting budgets that comply with the tax cap” she said.
Rich, a former NYPD officer, plans to use her experience in the police force to keep the schools safe. Additionally, she hopes to bring some diversity into the schools and onto the board. “Currently our board doesn’t resemble the diversity in our community. I am a proud first generation American, my goal is to empower those in our community that is not connected” she said. She volunteers in the community as a Girl and Cub Scout leader and is a member of the First Aid Squad and a catechist and Eucharistic Minister at St. Hugh of Lincoln.
South Huntington’s proposed budget for 2018-19 is $170,505,675. Compared to the current budget of $162,794,840, this is an increase of $7,710,835. According to Nick Ciappetta, school board president, the reason for the increase is solely driven by fixed costs such as salaries, health insurance and pensions.
South Huntington voters will also have the opportunity to vote on two additional propositions. The first is the approval for the district to purchase a plot of land at 441 Oakwood Road next to Stimson Middle School. The purchase of the land is intended to improve safety issues caused by insufficient parking and to provide additional athletic space. The second is for the approval for the district to sell an unused plot of land on Depot Road, which will be used to offset the cost of the Oakwood Road property.