Mineola resident Denise Tercynski said one of her biggest priorities, if elected to the East Williston Board of Education, would be making the district more transparent and rebuilding trust with parents.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of community members and they feel there is a lack of transparency and don’t feel the district is always being honest with them,” Tercynski said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “Our district is fantastic. We have excellent facilities and caring, great teachers. No one in the community should be unhappy, but they are.”
Tercynski is challenging Mark Kamberg, trustee and president of the board, in the May 16 election for a three-year term. Tercynski, a Mineola resident since 2011, currently works in the Great Neck Public School District and is a current member of The Wheatley School PTO’s executive board. Prior to the executive board, Tercynski’s involvement included volunteering on committees in all three schools in the district and serving on the Willets Road School’s PTO executive board.
Tercynski said it may take time, but it’s paramount for any district to make families feel comfortable again about their relationship with their schools or school board.
Recent Board of Education meetings have had discussions on diversity, equity and inclusion programs and attempts by Project Veritas, a right-wing group known for deceptively edited exposé videos with ties to prominent conservative and Republican groups nationally, to make its presence felt in some of Nassau County’s public school districts.
The district said in a March statement that Wheatley School Principal Joseph Weiner was filmed without his knowledge or permission while answering questions about his experience with DEI at his previous district, which was then edited and altered outside the context of the conversation.
“I think everything starts with regaining the community’s trust when it comes to parents and our children,” Tercynski said. “Hearing ‘distrust’ and ‘your child’ potentially in the same sentence is like oil and water. Once that is restored, and restored over time, people will start to feel comfortable again and I’m dedicated to making sure that happens.”
On transparency, Tercynski said many parents expressed to the district that recent hiring practices did not have much diversity, specifically referencing three candidates who were recently hired with affiliations to EdCampLi.
Superintendent Danielle Gately, assistant superintendent for Instruction and Personnel, Edward Kemnitzer and The Wheatley School’s Weiner are co-founders of EdCampLi, which describes itself on its website as “a grassroots, teacher-led event that brings together educators from across the region to share their ideas and expertise.”
The seventh annual EdCampLi last fall featured hundreds of educators from Nassau and Suffolk Counties and offered over 60 workshop sessions on education-related topics.
“Our parents and community want to know that we’re getting the best candidates for our district, not just the best candidate that happens to be affiliated with EdCampLI,” Tercynski said.
Another priority of Tercynski is making sure each child has all the resources they need to be successful and would consider incentivizing teachers to hold extra-help hours that parents can opt into for their child.
“There are many students that are either neurodiverse or require some lessons to be taught to them in different ways,” Tercynski said. “I think we need to provide every child with the educational opportunities that they need.”
Tercynski said she knows the school district is a “magical place” with dedicated teachers, great students and the tools to succeed. The challenger added that she hopes to bring a balanced and thoughtful approach to the district and board.
“I want to work on creating an environment where every student has the opportunity to succeed, the parents feel heard, involved and that the community is part of the education process,” Tercynski said. “I’m running to be the voice of the community.”