Four candidates seek three seats on Board of Education

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Tracy McCarthy is running for an at-large seat on the Board of Education, hoping to unseat one of three incumbents in the election to be held May 16.
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Tracy McCarthy is running for an at-large seat on the Board of Education, hoping to unseat one of three incumbents in the election to be held May 16.

Four candidates are seeking three seats on the Shelter Island Board of Education this spring.

Three incumbents, whose terms expire at the end of June, are running in the May 16 election and Tracy McCarthy hopes to unseat one of them. She’s not targeting any particular candidate — all candidates are running for at-large seats, meaning the top three vote-getters will each be elected to a three-year term on the seven-member board.

Ms. McCarthy and her husband, Bryan, have one child who is in kindergarten. Ms. McCarthy said she wants to help enhance the elementary school program, with the goal of keeping most of the students who currently attend school here from changing to off-Island schools.

Linda Eklund, who is board vice president, has been a member since 2008 and is seeking another term. Among Ms. Eklund’s roles has been applying her business experience to the budgeting process for the district. She’s the member most likely to raise questions about specific budget items or to make the case for spending cuts, working to identify ways to spend less while maintaining the integrity of school programs.

Elizabeth Melichar was elected in 2011 and brings a wide educational background to the board. She’s been a teacher’s aide, a teacher, a principal and is now working for Eastern Suffolk BOCES. Ms. Melichar said she knows what’s current in the field and how to discern what fits on Shelter Island and what doesn’t.

Alfred Brigham Sr. the third incumbent running, is also an educator.

He and his wife, Rachel, have three children attending classes here in the 1st, 3rd and 5th grades. Mr. Brigham said he wants to be here to hand diplomas to each of his children upon their graduation. He wants, he said, the chance to serve again to ensure that programs and staff are all on course to offer educational excellence.

Mr. Brigham has been on the board for six years, initially voted in as a write-in candidate when he secured 44 votes in 2011.

Fellow board members have questioned Mr. Brigham’s attendance record, but never his knowledge about education. In the past year, he said he believes his attendance has been up to par with that of other board members.

Records maintained by Board of Education clerk Jacqueline Dunning during the past three years show that Mr. Brigham had eight absences in the 2014-15 school year while Ms. Eklund had one and Ms. Melichar none.

For the 2015-16 school year, Mr. Brigham had 10; Ms. Melichar, five and Ms. Eklund, one. During the current school year, Mr. Brigham and Ms. Melichar both had three absences to date while Ms. Eklund had one.

Ms. McCarthy said part of her campaign will be to focus on what she views as a constant turnover of leadership at the school, with the latest change represented by Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik leaving in August when his three-year contract expires.

He replaced Michael Hynes, who left after three years, to accept the superintendents’ job in the Patchogue-Medford School District.

Prior to Mr. Hynes, Robert Parry was an interim superintendent for a year. Sharon Clifford served five years, the longest tenure of any of the superintendents since 2000.