When Karina Montalvo learned there was a vacancy on the Shelter Island’s Board of Education, she felt the time was right for her to step up.
“I had been thinking a lot about how to give back to the community,” she said. “I had been so warmly embraced by everyone on Shelter Island when I came here.”
Ms. Montalvo, who is from the Dominican Republic, said her experience growing up had also been on an island that had a very welcoming atmosphere. She first visited Shelter Island when she was 22, then met her husband and stayed on. Their family has a maintenance business on the East End; her father-in-law is the school’s custodian.
Her husband, Jose, played on the school’s basketball team before attending Casenovia College and Suffolk Community College to earn a business degree.
The Montalvos have two sons, Liam, 7, and Max, 5. Max attends school on the Island; Liam, who has Down Syndrome, attends school in Cutchogue. “When we drive by our school,” Ms. Montalvo said, “Liam wants to know why he can’t go to school with Max. But at Cutchogue, he has amazing interactions with his team.”
She spent two years searching for the right program for Liam before deciding Cutchogue was the best. “At the end of the day,” she said, “my goal is for Shelter Island to have a good program for kids who have any type of disability.”
Ms. Montalvo studied hotel administration in the Dominican Republic, and also spent 20 years dancing, in modern and classical ballet. She hopes to bring that background to the board, as an advocate for the arts in the curriculum. Teaching the arts, she said, like sports, is important in developing discipline.
“And we live in such a beautiful place, that if we start early to develop their creativity, it will really bring a lot out of the children,” she said.
Ms. Montalvo spoke highly of the school’s curriculum, saying it has improved in recent years and she hopes to be part of helping it continue to improve.
She had consulted Board President Kathleen Lynch when considering joining, with questions about how friends and neighbors react once they know you’re on the board. Ms. Lynch was able to answer all her questions based on her own experience, reassuring Ms. Montalvo about taking the step. “Once I came to the first Board meeting, I felt like I belonged,” she said.
When the board vacancy was occasioned by Jason Lones’ relocation and resignation, some trustees urged that a new member be appointed as soon as possible, using the opportunity to add diversity to the board. Teacher Michelle Corbett also spoke in favor of having a board that more reflected the diversity in the school.
A friend texted Ms. Montalvo the story from the Reporter saying that applicants were welcome, and Ms. Montalvo took it from there. She said she hoped to add another perspective to the board as part of the Hispanic community, but also as part of the community in general, and, as a parent, she knows many of the Board members and looks forward to working with them.
“Everyone on the board is so committed,” she said.
And during her first meeting, she added, “Every issue was considered so thoroughly.”