2012-05-03 / Columnists

Eight candidates seeking three seats on West Babylon School Board

by Carolyn James

Thomas Lano Thomas Lano Three longtime West Babylon School Board members are not seeking reelection this year. Vying for their seats are eight, yes, we said eight, residents.

Not running for another three-year term are incumbents Patrick Farrell, the board’s president; Kathleen Jennings, a resident since 1980 and a registered nurse and Carmine Galetta, who originally served on the board from 1995 through 2007. He’s the owner and operator of a heating and air conditioning company in West Babylon. The three were elected to the board in 2009.

"In the nine years I have served, I have learned a lot and have enjoyed working with the community, staff and students," said Farrell. "I have taken on another department at work and it is time for me to step down and let someone else from the community step in."

"It has been an honor to serve West Babylon," said Jennings as she discussed her decision. "And while it's time to move on, I will still be involved with the community in other ways."

Stacy Villigran Stacy Villigran Running this year are candidates Lucy Campasano, Stephen Donnelly, Dennis Kranz, Thomas Lano, William Layden, Stacy Villigran, Scott Waltman and Jennifer Wandasciewicz.

The following are their profiles (in alphabetical order) and statements about why they are running:

Lucy Campasano served on the school board in West Babylon for 15 years, beginning in 1992.

“The bottom line is that we serve the students and the taxpayers,” said Campasano. “That does not mean we are not considerate of staff; you have to have a happy staff and create a friendly work force, but our goal is to be able to maintain programs.”

Campasano is running again because she believes she has something special to offer: an institutional memory of the district’s history. “I am not smarter than any of the other candidates, but I do have more experience and experience counts,” she said.

Jennifer Wandasciewicz Jennifer Wandasciewicz For Campasano the combination of academic and sports, music and art is what students need to excel. She saw the value of a well-rounded program when her son, who is now a doctor, was in West Babylon. “He was on the wrestling team and it taught him more than just the rules of the game. It taught him time management, dedication, discipline and focus and I believe that experience was one of the reasons for his success."

Lobbying for more support from Albany is something Campasano has been and wants to begin to be involved in again. “We have to talk about regional costs because if state aid was based on regional costs, Long Island would be getting a fair share; it’s not getting it now."

Campasano said that while the district was able to maintain all of its staff and programs next year, in part because of concessions made by the unions, that next year is going to be tougher. “We have to look at utilizing our reserves and keep an open mind about everything,” she said. “I think I can work well with everyone and would be an asset on the board during these difficult times.”

Campasano has lived in West Babylon for 42 years and is a retired Chemical Bank employee. Her children graduated from West Babylon and she has grandchildren in the district.

Steve Donnelly

A school board trustee in West Babylon from 1992 through 2001, Donnelly is again seeking a seat, saying that he wants to be a part of a school board that works to bring reform at the state level for schools. That reform should include discussions about the state budget cap, teacher evaluations and unfunded mandates.

“I think we have to go to our politicians and stop putting band aids on things instead of solving problems,” he said. “We have to look at the people we elect and make them accountable.”

"We have lawmakers in Suffolk County who voted to lay off employees but don’t contribute to their health care,” he said. “Whose interest do they serve?”

When he first was elected to the board, the district’s security was lackluster. The board worked to change that, “putting into place a full-staffed, trained and certified security force that takes care of the district inside and out,” he said.

During his time on the board, the district also put its first technology plan into place. As a result of that comprehensive plan, West Babylon spoke to other districts throughout the state about the program. “Some districts said they wanted to wait until they got it right,” he said. “We said we wanted to be where we should in 1992 and into the future.”

Donnelly served for two years as board president. He has been involved with West Babylon football and a community basketball program with his grandson. His daughters graduated from West Babylon. “I want to make sure that my grandson has the same opportunities as my daughters and the other students who graduated from the district,” said Donnelly. “We have to give all students the ability to compete not only with the kid in the next seat but the one in the next county.”

He retired after working 35 years with computers and cable television and has lived in West Babylon for 36 years.

Dennis Kranz

Kranz did not return phone calls for an interview.

Thomas Lano

A 30-year resident of West Babylon, Lano had two children graduate from West Babylon Schools. He retired from Con Edison after 30 years as a purchasing buyer in 1997, and owned and operated his own businesses through 2010. He is now fully retired.

“We are going to need people who have the time to give to the job because of the challenges we face,” he said. “With a background in finance, I think I can put my experience to work on the economics."

But his first responsibility, he said, will be to look, listen and learn. “I want to find out what is going on with the nine-period day, learn how teachers will be evaluated and determine if we have the best teachers for our school,” he said. “But I do know that the last thing we should do is cut academics and we have to find a way to make everything work because we need sports, music and everything.”

Lano said he appreciates the fact that the teachers and other employees took cuts to keep programs in place and allow the district to stay within the New York State Cap, but that challenges are ahead. “Our teachers do a good job, they have dedication and they want to continue to work here, so we have to work together to keep our programs and extracurricular activities in place.”

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Lano served in Vietnam. He is been a member of the West Babylon Lions Club for 20 years, serving as president this year and next and he is chairperson of the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Long Island Chapter, where he was named Man of the Year in 1997.

William Layden

“I was tired of hearing every year when the budget comes up that we have everything on the chopping block,” said Layden, when asked why he decided to run. “I want to be a part of the board so I can work to make the district fiscally responsible.”

West Babylon is not unique in facing financial difficulties, Layden points out. Long Island does not get back what it sends to the state and “no one speaks for the taxpayer when the budget is put together,” he said.

If elected, one of the things he’d like to do is look at all of the expenditures and cut wherever possible. “I went through the budget this year and I saw things that could have been cut without impacting on programs,” he said. “I believe enough is enough and instead of complaining, I am running to change something.”

As a member of a union, Layden said he understands the dynamics of bargaining, and added that he was happy with the way the district’s teachers and other bargaining units stepped up to the plate and took reductions to help maintain programs. “But unless we, as Long Islanders, stop getting a raw deal from Albany, our schools are going to be hurting.”

Layden works as a cable splicer technician with Verizon. He has two daughters in the district, one in seventh and one in 10th grade.

“If I am elected, I will work hard to change things to make them better; if I am not elected, I will continue to go to meetings and help as much as possible.”

Stacy Villigran has a master’s degree in social policy and has been active with the Junior High School PTA and PTA council in West Babylon. She would like to bring her work experience and her passion for educating today’s young people to the West Babylon School Board.

A resident of the district since 2003, Villigran works for the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council where she would bring her experience of reviewing budgets and going over policies to the school board.

“One of the challenges the board is going to face in the coming years is to meet the state cap, and with dwindling state aid and mandates, it is going to be harder and harder to maintain programs. I am hoping that with my experience I can work with the rest of the board to balance the budget without cutting programs and extracurricular activities.”

If elected, she said, she’d like to work as an advocate for the district at the state level. “Our teachers and other employees have stepped up to the plate and made a shared sacrifice,” she said. “Now we need to make sure that we bring more money back from the state to West Babylon.”

She knows, first hand, the importance of the district’s programs, particularly the newer ones designed to help students meet greater challenges. “The nineperiod day allowed my daughter time to get extra help in class and participate in other things,” she said. “She got the help she needed to succeed.”

Villigran’s husband is a member of the fire department and Knights of Columbus. She is a member of the South Shore Soccer Club and chair of its 20th anniversary marathon. “I think it is important to have a voice and try to make a change,” she said. “It is really easy to sit on the sidelines and complain, but they have to get involved and try to make a difference—and the public has to read, pay attention and get out and vote.”

Scott Waltman

Waltman did not return phone calls for an interview.

Jennifer Wandasciewicz

A 20-year resident of West Babylon, Wandasciewicz has three children in the district and is a registered nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital where she has worked for 22 years. She is a member of PTA at Tooker Avenue Elementary School where she is completing her second year as president. She has also been a Girl Scout leader for five years.

She moved to West Babylon because she believed it was the best school district on Long Island. “I want to see that it stays that way,” she said.

“I decided to run because I believe I can make a difference,” said Wandasciewicz. “I have been on the budget advisory committee in the district and over the next few years I know that we are facing difficult choices. I want to make sure that our students get the absolute best education we can give them. To make that happen I want to be part of the board.”

Wandasciewicz said she is mindful that students need not only a sound educational program but also a well-rounded education that includes sports, art and music. “We are fortunate that we are able to give that to them next year because of the contract concessions of the teachers and other employees,” she said. “I am hoping that we can continue to move forward with everyone working congenially and making smart and creative choices.”

Prior to becoming a nurse, Wandasciewicz worked for the New York Port Authority and handled negotiations with the unions. “I come to the table with that varied background and an open mind,” she said.

She also comes to the table with an awareness of the needs of all children. Two of her three children need special services while the third excels academically. “I think I have the perspective of both the parent of children who need additional support and the one whose child needs a well-rounded education.”

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