Meet the candidates for Sayville BOE

Candidates address diminished state aid, Pride displays, Island Hills

PTA hosts BOE contenders


On Monday, May 6, the Sayville PTA held a Meet the Candidates Night for the upcoming May 21 school board election at the middle school cafeteria.

In attendance was Katherine Van Dorn, who is running unopposed, incumbent Kelly Sack and challenger Teal Rizzo, and Desmond Megna, whose opponent, Kyle Valentine was not in attendance due to a prior engagement.

Dozens of community members were present for the event and submitted questions on index cards to be asked anonymously by the PTA.

Here are some excerpts of the questions asked and the candidates’ responses that evening:

What do you believe the top needs are of our district?

Megna: Fiscal responsibility for the future… the Governor took a shot showed her hand and let the community know what the future holds… we need to start being responsible now… a lot of the issues in the community came because we were taken by surprise.

Rizzo: Obviously state aid is huge worry… I don’t [think] we’re fair partnership if they don’t fund us at least 50 percent. That’s what we should be fighting for at least from the state… if we could shift that burden that would be less on us… there are districts where taxpayers pay 90 percent of their budget.

Sack: …Fiscal responsibility and working on our budget is important for next year… it will be important we get down to the nitty gritty and fund our programs and keep our teachers here…we need to continue to improve the communication from the district to the community… I want to make sure all stakeholders are represented in those communications.”

Van Dorn: From what I hear as a teacher and as a community member, people have expressed that the board is not transparent and I believe that the board is composed of good people who mean well and I believe we can do a better job at explaining what is allowed to be discussed in public session. I think it would be helpful to educate the public on the purpose of executive session and what the board will discuss in private.

How do you feel about board of education term limits?

Megna: This is an interesting question for me because my son is young. I’m invested in the Sayville School District for the next 12 years because we’re not going anywhere. [I] would I love to serve that whole time, I would, but I do believe in term limits. I know that we have people who have served on the board for decades and I applaud that, I think that’s amazing, but refreshing, new blood, new opinions, I do think that’s important. I would support that even if it meant I wouldn’t be on the board [for] my son’s entire educational career.

Rizzo: By having term limits, you do have a more diverse population over time making up the school board. That’s what we need, diversity. We’re a diverse community… I think it’s wonderful; however, it is up to volunteers to step up; not many people run for school board.

Sack: Being on the board for the past three years has shown me the value in those more senior board members who have history, who know what has worked in the past [and] what has not worked in the past. That’s valuable to the board. As soon as you get on the board, you hit the ground running… you need that history and experience to learn… I think there could be a middle ground regarding this discussion of term limits. I would be interested in discussing [it] further because I do see more than one viewpoint.

Van Dorn: I think the way Sayville runs it works quite well, because there is nothing worth more than experience. People can come with new ideas and people do want to run for an open seat that will happen too as we see now… I think what we’re doing works well and I really value people who give up their lives for an extended period of time to Sayville.

Where do you stand on book bans?

Sack: This is an easy one. No, I don’t think books should be banned. They should [be] categorized for children based on their appropriate need… I like the policy my son has in the middle school and when they’re reading books that the parent may not approve of it, they send home a permission slip and the parent gets involved. The parent looks at the book, potentially discuss [it], maybe they even read the book… I don’t think books should be banned.

Van Dorn: I do not believe in the banning of books and I do believe in having the same as parental consent. It’s wonderful that at Sayville we do teach “Catcher and the Rye”; it really is a book students remember forever. It is about the passage of life. We don’t ban it; other districts, too.

Megna: I’m a fifth-grade teacher, and we read “Hunger Games, Catching Fire,” “Mockingjay,” “Harry Potter,” and I can tell you as a 16-year veteran teacher, when I run into kids I taught, that’s why they remember… I don’t think books should be banned. I do think parents should be allowed to opt out for whatever reason may be. I’ve had  kids opt out of “Harry Potter” because of the religious aspect. I’ve just created alternate assignments; they never felt excluded.

Rizzo: I absolutely do not believe in banning books. I believe in our Constitution, expression of speech and oneself, unless you’re impeding on someone else’s rights. However, there are books—I have two children, nine years apart, they matured at different ages—and they could not grasp certain content in a mature manner, so I believe, like everyone else, the parental permission slip may be a work around, but I am fine with that.

Do you support the school displaying information for Black History Month, Pride Month, etc.?

Van Dorn: I do. I do support it. We should value all human beings.

Megna: Sure. I live right off [redacted] and one of the first things that happened when we moved out here within three weeks, there was a Pride parade down my block, a Black Lives Matter parade, and a Blue Lives Matter, and I thought it was awesome, everyone was great, everyone was respectful.

Rizzo: I do, and actually there’s a Pride display case on the second floor… I advocated last year that it was moved down to the main lobby to be more inclusive… I absolutely believe in Black History Month, in Pride Month, and I would love it down here.

Sack: We should offer a community of acceptance, or inclusion, all different types of people. Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives matter, there should be no exclusion of any one group.

If we have a decrease in state funding next year and we cannot increase revenue, where should we first make cuts?

Rizzo: I think our administrative budget, central office is high. My priorities are instructional.

Sack: We’d have to form committees with stakeholders in the community… we never want to cut programs… maybe look at enrollment, maybe we can combine these two classes… we should look at ways to increase revenue.

Van Dorn: Very simply, we could review our budget line by line and see where we overbudgeted and overspent. We never want to negatively impact students.

Megna: The priorities are instructional programs… because that impacts kids… the first thing to make sure is that the cuts are equitable.

How do you feel about the Island Hills project?

Rizzo: I assume you mean the Island Hills zone change. There is a massive proposal for that property. I am absolutely not for that. I fear for our environment. It will change the landscape of our community… I love that we’re a small community and small district… I have great concerns, I’m not for it.

Sack: I think the overwhelming majority of the community is not in favor… it would definitely put a strain on our area, what they’re proposing is enormous. I mean, everyone knows about the merge, we can’t get home from work on a regular day, with hundreds of new units of families… draining our resources, increased pollution. And we wouldn’t even have those students. We would be having all these issues in our town and we wouldn’t even be getting the state aid. I know as a board we wrote a letter against the zone change. We are definitely open to the community with their opinions and what they want to share.

Van Dorn: I have to be honest, this is a topic I haven’t really investigated. My sister was against it… but [to be] totally honest, I need to research it. There are negative and positives to everything.

Megna: On the surface, I’m against it. I think it would be disastrous for the community as a whole. However, when you see something like [that] and there’s such negative press behind it, my first question is always, what would the benefits be? If you’re trying to sell this to us as a community, town, and you want us to get behind this, what are the benefits going to be for the Sayville community? And if the benefits don’t even come close to outweighing the negatives and the detrimental factors, then it’s got to be a “no.” 


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