Patricia Aitken, a mother of three Manhasset High School graduates, wants all district children to receive the educational opportunities hers did.
“I feel very pleased and proud with how they have benefited from the fine education they got in Manhasset,” Aitken said of her children. “It enabled them to go onto successful careers in college and university and afterwards.”
Aitken, who has served for 12 years on the Manhasset Board of Education, is seeking re-election to a fifth 3-year term. Her candidacy is unopposed.
Voting will take place on May 16 from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. in the Manhasset High School Gymnasium.
“This is about forming future young adults and future contributing citizens,” Aitken said.
Before she joined the Board of Education in 2005, Aitken spent time on the district’s advisory committee for finance, incorporating skills she developed in corporate banking and financial restructuring, she said.
“The district was in a very different place at the time,” she said. “I started to become more involved when there were financial issues and concerns about spending.”
Since her early days on the board, she said there “has been a real complete transformation” in the district.
The shift has included “anything from an improved teacher tenure process to an improved budgeting process,” she said.
She credited administration officials like Deputy Superintendent for Business and Finance Rosemary Johnson and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Charles Leone for helping “to improve things in terms of course offerings and students taking AP exams” as well as “broadening athletic offerings and strengthening the arts.”
She said the Board of Education has “taken a more active role in policy” since she joined.
“We didn’t have bylaws when I first came onto the board,” she said. “We are a governance board that oversees policy.”
She said challenges faced by the board in upcoming years include the state mandated tax cap, which “doesn’t allow a lot of wiggle room.”
Even before the tax cap law passed in 2011, the district “self-instituted that discipline, we kept saying be both fiscally responsible and try to provide the best education for kids.”
Another issue for the district is that “young adults today face a lot of pressure academically,” Aitken said. ‘We need to make sure we’re educating students and trying to relieve those pressures.”
“It’s still a school but part of a tight-knit community in Manhasset,” she added. “Maintaining that characteristic is important while raising kids and turning them into young adults.”
She said the choice to run for re-election was influenced by the impending retirement of Superintendent Charles Cardillo and the transition to incoming Superintendent Vincent Butera, who will begin his tenure on July 10.
“I think the perspective of continuity and stability is important in that transition,” she said. “I look forward to working with Vincent Butera as superintendent.”