Budgets, board and Sewanhaka proposition on ballot for NHP-GCP

Budgets, board and Sewanhaka proposition on ballot for NHP-GCP
District voting will be held Tuesday, May 17. (Photo courtesy of the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School Union Free District)

Residents in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Union Free School District will be voting on three proposed budgets and three open seats on the Board of Education in next week’s election.

On the ballot is the proposed $45 million schools budget, the Sewanhaka Central High School District’s $227 million budget proposal, the Hillside Public Library’s proposed $3.6 million budget and a trustee seatand Sewanhaka’s capital reserve proposition.

The $44,593,905 adopted proposal is a 5.37 percent increase in spending from the current fiscal year and the proposed tax levy increase of 1.54 percent falls below the allowable tax cap of 2.18 percent.

Homeowners can expect a $59.46 average increase for the year, which amounts to $0.16 daily, officials said in a community newsletter. 

The Hillside Public Library recently adopted a $3.6 million budget, a $505,525 spending increase from the current year. According to library officials, there is no increase in library taxes.

For Sewanhaka, a proposition on the ballot feature’s the district’s plan to spend almost $6 million in capital reserves to upgrade the kitchens and cafeteria at Elmont, Carey, Floral Park and New Hyde Park high schools. Because Sewanhaka’s budget is made for five high schools in its districts, they have consistently been larger because of it.  

On the trustee ballot for the Hillside Public Library, Peter Pinto is running unopposed for his own seat for a five-year term beginning July 1.

In the Board of Education races, five Vice President Kathryn Canese is running unopposed for her own seat. 

Canese is a past president of the Hillside Grade School PTA and previously successfully petitioned the district to remove schools as polling places after a school had a lockdown drill during an election.

During her PTA stint, she said her focus was on ensuring that everything would be done to the benefit of the children, with an emphasis on improving the safety of the school. Canese said she also worked to bring in cultural arts and found a calling in advocacy issues.

When she was running in 2019, she was elected for the first time after beating Dr. Sangeeta Nischal for Ernest Gentile’s vacant seat.

During the campaign, Canese said her goals “are very much in line with the goals our current school board has adopted,” while prioritizing transparency between the community and district. 

A New Hyde Park resident since 2004, Jennifer Kerrane currently works as a nursery school teacher in Manhasset. The incumbent is currently seeking a fourth three-year term and has been part of the process for recent administration hires in the district, including a new superintendent, among other things. 

Kerrane said she believes her experience and collaboration efforts with the current board would serve her well if re-elected. 

“There’s nothing that one board member can do without the support and connection with the rest of the group,” Kerrane said. “We have to be a team and come together and find out from the community what’s needed, from the schools, the teachers and most importantly the students. See what’s needed and where we can fill in, we’ve done a very good job of that.”

Katherine Bannon, a Long Island native and resident since 2019, is currently a teacher with the New York City Department of Education. She is on the New Hyde Park Road School PTA and said she is running to increase her involvement in the district after moving here months before COVID-19. 

Bannon is a graduate of Pace University with a master’s from CUNY in childhood education. Professionally, she has volunteered to educate adults in basic literacy programs and headed the English Department in a multilingual International Baccalaureate independent school before teaching with the Department of Education. She said she is running to help promote cultural inclusivity while pushing to expand socially conscious curriculum

“I feel that empathy is the foundation of everything,” Bannon said. “I wholeheartedly believe that if people treat others with compassion, then it can only lead to a positive thing. I am completely dedicated to socially conscious curriculums.  Where we live is such a diverse place and it deserves to be celebrated and I think it’s very important to be celebrated more throughout the school system.”

Bannon said she wants to help make the district a reason for younger people to stay on Long Island as opposed to moving elsewhere.

Incumbent Patricia Rudd was on the board for 15 years before taking a two-year hiatus in 2014 to move to Michigan for work. She also served as vice president of the board for one year during her first stint. Rudd moved back and returned to the board in 2016 after defeating Shamini Sivalingam for an open seat.

One of Rudd’s main goals is to continue her lobbying efforts in Albany and Washington on behalf of the district in order to see more state aid, she said.

Rudd has spent years lobbying for education in both seats of power and is a member of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association. She said her passion is legislation and she believes that the federal government should give more control over education to the states. 

“My main goal has always been to lobby for our fair share of taxes and all state aid and this is the first year we’ve actually gotten a huge increase, about 9 percent more state aid than we usually get,” Rudd said. “I’m really proud of that.”

If re-elected, Rudd said she would put an emphasis on expanding programs and curriculum and believes she has the experience to do so. 

“I know where we’ve been and where we need to go, to continue to push and how we need to keep taxes down on Long Island while still getting a great education,” Rudd said. “I’m fighting to keep the community’s taxes down.”

Gjergji Shuku, a Queens native and resident of New Hyde Park for about eight years, said he’s running to take a bigger role in his two children’s education while bringing “some sanity to the insanity of the last two years.”

The challenger said his main priority if elected would be to increase the district’s state rankings and expand financial literacy. 

“I think it’s a very important area and that we should equip our kids with being able to manage money, understand it and make them able to make proper choices as they grow up,” Shuku said.

Shuku is a graduate of St. John’s University with a bachelor’s degree and master’s in finance and works for the federal government.

“I care about my kids and want them to succeed, I would assume that every parent wants the same thing,” Shuku said. “I hope voters will vote for the right candidate and even if it’s not me, I definitely promise I will be a lot more involved in attending board meetings and challenging some of the decisions the board might make in the future.”

Voting for the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park district will be held Tuesday, May 17, at Michael J. Tully Park, 1801 Evergreen Ave., New Hyde Park from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

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