School Board elections: This year’s board candidates profiled

Voters will go to the polls next Tuesday, May 17, to elect three school board members, weigh in on the 2010-2011 school budget, vote on two bond proposals and decide whether to establish a capital reserve for Project FIT funds.

With just two candidates for three open school board seats, one of those seats could be determined by a write-in vote. If no write-in candidate emerges, the School Board would appoint a new member at its July 1 reorganization meeting or soon after.

The Reporter sent a questionnaire to the two candidates on the ballot, incumbent Linda Eklund and first-time candidate Liz Melichar-Lechmanski, asking that they answer the questions. Only Ms. Melichar-Lechmanski responded. The information below about Ms. Eklund comes from her responses to the Reporter’s 2009 candidate questionnaire and a phone interview last month.

Elizabeth Melichar-Lechmanski

TED HILLS PHOTO | Elizabeth Lechmanski

Age: 52

Education: Regents diploma, Hauppauge High School, 1976; liberal arts degree, Nassau Community College, 1978; bachelor of science in elementary education, 1980, and master of science in special and gifted education, 1981, Long Island University, C. W. Post; and master of science in school district administration with specialization in staff development, College of New Rochelle, 2000.

Employment/occupation:

1989-present: at Eastern Suffolk BOCES. I have spent the past 10 years as a central office administrator, principal, assistant principal and summer school supervisor. Prior to that I worked as a classroom teacher.

1987-2000: at Raynor Country Day School (private pre-K to grade 8) where I worked as staff supervisor and program coordinator.

1989-1991:  Western Suffolk BOCES general equivalence degree instructor.

1988-1989:  Hauppauge High School special education teacher

1987-1988: Garden City High School resource room teacher/coordinator

1986-1987: Martin Luther King Elementary School, Wyandanch, special ed teacher and department chairperson.

1983-1985: Copiague Junior High School, special education teacher

1982-1983: James E. Allen Western Suffolk BOCES, ELA special education teacher

1980-1982: Burr Junior High School/North Ridge Elementary, Commack, Resource Room Teacher.

Family: Husband, Scott Lechmanski; son, Michael Thomas Melichar; stepdaughter, Elizabeth Ann Lechmanski; stepson, Phillip James Lechmanski.

Ties to school: Son, Michael, is a senior at Shelter Island High School; husband, Scott, and both stepchildren are Shelter Island High School graduates; mother-in-law, Edith Lechmanski, is a former school board member.

Shelter Island resident since: 2004.

List any relevant experience you would bring to the board:

In addition to the educational experiences cited above, I have served on the Shelter Island Shared Decision Making Committee for the past five years.

Why are you running for this office?

This is something I have considered for some time now. I bring a wealth of educational experience, both from the private and public sectors, and believe I can make a significant contribution to the Shelter Island School District. With my son attending college in the fall, I will have the time to devote to this challenge.

What do you see as the most significant challenge facing our school?

Maintaining the balance of fiscally sound, quality educational programming for a diverse population of students while maintaining a connection between the Board of Education, administration, staff, students and the taxpayers of our Shelter Island community. The “commitment to transparency” made by the existing board requires a collaborative commitment to remain public partners in education, not only in financial transparency, but in the decision-making processes as well. Throughout this past budget process, I have heard many creative ideas yet to be explored. Difficult times call for diverse solutions. Utilizing the principles of shared decision making, all voices will be heard.

What are your priorities in negotiating employee contracts?

The climate of negotiations can dictate the climate of the work environment long after all parties have left the bargaining table. Regardless of the individual issues, effective and open communication is of paramount importance. The scope of negotiations must balance present-day financial considerations with quality educational services that can prepare our students for a successful future.

How can the school improve the educational experience of its students and what would you do as a board member to facilitate such an improvement?

It is important to encourage the voice of the students and their interests, guiding them towards the increasing demands of the 21st century. Creativity in scheduling diverse course offerings should be explored. My professional life has been dedicated to providing superior educational services in many forums: as a teacher aide, classroom teacher, a building assistant principal and principal, as well as central office administrator. I bring a documented record as an educational leader, negotiator and problem solver to the table. I am dedicated to making this commitment to the students and community of Shelter Island.

Linda C. Eklund

TED HILLS PHOTO | Linda Eklund

Age: 57

(The following is from Ms. Eklund’s responses to the 2009 Candidate Questionnaire):

Education: Except for a two-year stint in Maryland, all of my formal education has been in New York State, which is complemented by the empirical knowledge I have gleaned through business, parenting and being a life-long learner.

Employment/occupation: Self-employed since 1979; all businesses still in active operation.

Family: Husband, James; daughter, Elizabeth; sons, Jonathan and Andrew; mother, Janet Carlson and sister-in-law, teacher Jenifer Corwin.

Ties to school: Parent of three Shelter Island graduates; repeat member of the Budget Review and Shared Decision Making committees, completed required training in consensus building; instrumental in acquiring information regarding the National Education Foundation from Washington, D.C. for the superintendent; past substitute teacher in elementary, middle and high school; producer and assistant producer of Drama Club’s first productions; chaperone of 2002 senior class trip when no faculty was available; held Girl Scout meetings in the school for the three years I was their leader; PTSA member since 1985 and president for two years.

Created the “Island Boosters,” who raised enough money to secure the fall sports program for the students when the budget was defeated; volunteered my establishment and personnel services for the annual Honor Society induction dinners and numerous other events for and including students. School Board member since May 2008.

Shelter Island resident part-time since 1954, full-time since 1973.

Relevant experience:

1. I have owned and operated three businesses since 1979, all of which are currently active. I have had the pleasure of employing Island students for much of that time.

2. I have three children with very different learning styles that range from gifted to requiring additional support. While they all graduated from Shelter Island, I experienced the different teaching styles of other schools they attended during part of their high school years. Through this experience, I have been better able to see where the education at Shelter Island could be improved and better able to understand what might be possible within our school setting with the talent and dedication of the staff we already have.

3. As an employer of students since 1979, I have created friendships that exist today, thus giving me the opportunity to discuss what they felt were the pros and cons of their experience while attending Shelter Island School and, especially, how they fared after graduating.

What are your priorities in negotiating employee contracts?

We need to be fair to the employee to insure motivation and attract good people while remaining fiscally responsible to the district and stay within expected limits of expense.

Why are you running for this office?

The following is Ms. Eklund’s response to a question in an April 19 phone interview: I think there’s still a lot to be done. I think that this current board has done a great deal to bring the building into compliance, and also put the property on a schedule of repairs and maintenance so that we are not faced again with these massive amounts of repair work. I have never gone through the contract negotiations which I find to be very interesting so far; I look forward to being a party to that. I think that moving the school from the concepts or mindsets of how things are run in the ‘80s and ‘90s and moving this school to current day and beyond, that’s what I’d like to be a party to. I think that we have laid the groundwork, and I just want to see that done.

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