Research scientist runs for seat on East Williston BOE

Research scientist runs for seat on East Williston BOE
Research scientist and East Williston resident Eswar Sivaraman is running for the East Williston board of education. (Courtesy of Eswar Sivaraman)

Research scientist Eswar Sivaraman is running for a seat on the East Williston Board of Education.

The school district will hold a contested election May 21, with incumbent trustees Robert Fallarino and Leonard Hirsch and newcomers Denise Tercynski and Sivaraman competing for two seats. Candidates are running to secure a three-year term.

Fallarino currently serves as the vice president of the board. Challenger Tercynski is running for his current seat.

Sivaraman is running for Hirsch’s current seat and was the only candidate to respond to reporters’ efforts to interview him. Efforts to reach Fallarino, Tercynski and Hirsch were unavailing.

“There’s a certain indifference that I’ve observed in the board in the context of being responsive to residents,” Sivaraman said. “They don’t question the administration.”

Sivaraman has been an East Williston resident for seven years. He has three kids currently attending classes in the district: a high school senior, a high school sophomore and a kindergartner.

Sivaraman is the head of research and development at Dentsu International, a global marketing and advertising agency. He leads the U.S. product team. He has a background in data science and analytics and oversaw data scientists, analysts and software engineers in prior roles.

The scientist said he regularly attends board meetings and has noticed how low attendance is. There are normally only three people who show up at the board meetings aside from the trustees, he said.

“I think if the community is adequately engaged and excited, I think it would send a direct signal to the administration in the terms that yes, they are being listened to. They are being celebrated,” Sivaraman said. “At the same time, there is also this greater congruity. There’s a transparency.”

He said board members need to become more active and willing to question choices passed down by administration. With a background in mathematics, Sivaraman said he questions things for a living.

His biggest concern for the district is academic performance.

“The district performance is slipping,” Sivaraman said. “It’s very evident.”

And despite the district performance faltering in his opinion, Sivaraman said that the district budget and cost per student is still high.

According to last known student enrollment, East Williston per pupil spending was $42,627 in the 2023-2024 school year.

Sivaraman said a problem with current academic performance is that the school experience is not a uniform one for all students. He said the experience is “average” and “mediocre” and no longer “superior” or “outstanding.”

The candidate provided an example of a recent symposium in Syosset that welcomed students from many Nassau County schools, including East Williston. He said he saw wonderful projects there from other districts’ students, and that the problem in performance disparity is not East Williston students but rather the district departments.

He said he thinks the math department at East Williston is good, but he is concerned about other departments and the lack of transparency in hiring standards.

Sivaraman said he has spoken to district parents who have chosen to send their children to private schools. He said this problem is a slippery slope that the board must address.

While Sivaraman said fixing district performance is not like flipping a switch, he thinks the district needs better teachers and there should be less complacency in the hiring standards. The candidate said he wants to see more rigor in the academic curriculum as well.

He said he has not noticed any board members who come from an academic or otherwise “rigorous” background, and believes his career in research science will be an asset.

At the board meetings, Sivaraman said he is one of very few people who ask questions about proposed budgets.

He said he believes there is a sense of “fatigue” among board members when they view proposed budgets because they have seen so many budgets over the years. Smaller budget items that need increases might seem miniscule to the board, but to residents like him that are unused to multimillion-dollar budgets, these increases are substantial, Sivaraman said.

The district will hold a budget hearing May 13 at 8 p.m. at The Wheatley School at 11 Bacon Rd., Old Westbury. Board members will present a proposed budget at the meeting.

District residents are set to vote on the budget and elect two trustees May 21 between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at The Wheatley School.

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