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Shelter Island Board of Education candidates in their own words, asking for your vote

Four candidates seeking election to the Board of Education were asked to respond to questions about their backgrounds, qualifications and reasons for running.

The person who garners the most votes on Tuesday, May 16, will immediately be sworn in to take the seat that opened in March when Rob Strauss resigned to accept a teaching role in the school’s Science Department. The next two candidates with the highest votes will take their seats in July.

Following in alphabetical order are their statements.

Dawn Hedberg

I grew up in Sag Harbor but have lived on Shelter Island for about 17 years. My son, Jonas Kinsey, attended Shelter Island School from kindergarten to 12th grade and is now a senior at Suny New Paltz preparing for grad school. I volunteered frequently at the school throughout the time he attended and served on the PTSA Board as treasurer.

I own a used and rare bookstore, Black Cat Books, that I started in 1996 when I returned to Sag Harbor after several years of living on the west coast. I’m also a certified yoga teacher and I teach classes at the Community Center on the Island. In my spare time you can usually find me walking my Boston Terriers around the Center.

I first ran for a Board seat in 2020, having waited until my son graduated to avoid any conflict of interest. I think being the parent of a graduate, a business owner and an involved community member puts me in a great position to provide a unique perspective on issues.

Having volunteered at the school for 12 years, I still felt connected to the school community; the success of the Shelter Island School and its students remains dear to my heart.

I would like to see the cesspool project through to completion. This has been put off for years and I am eager to break ground. Additionally, I would love to see the purchase of a second van, the first of which was purchased this year and has been a great way to save money and expand local field trips. I will continue to advocate for and support arts and humanities programs that are continually expanding.

It has been a great honor to serve on the Board of Education for the past three years. There have been some tough and occasionally divisive issues that have come before us but it has been rewarding as well. Working with the unparalleled superintendent, Brian Doelger, Ed.D., this Board continues to find ways to improve and expand opportunities for our students without a tax increase these last three years. I hope to serve another term and continue this meaningful work with this group of dedicated, thoughtful volunteers.

Tracy McCarthy

I have been a long-time resident of Shelter Island and along with my husband Bryan, who is a North Ferry captain, have a daughter Eliza who is in the 6th grade at Shelter Island School. Growing up, I was a summer kid and worked all throughout high school and college at the Ram’s Head Inn and lived at the Chequit one summer.

I moved to the Island full-time three weeks before my daughter was born in 2011. I owned a publishing company in Connecticut and commuted back and forth every week for the first six years. In 2017, I was hired as the director of operations at Sylvester Manor and have been part of the team to bring the nonprofit forward. My role at Sylvester Manor involves many aspects, including overseeing all of the educational programming, the Summer Youth Program, field trips and curriculum. I have served as a Board of Education Trustee for six years and am seeking my third term. I have previously served on the Board of the Friends of the Shelter Island Library, volunteered with the Mashomack Dinner Dance, the Shelter Island 10K and the Shelter Island PTSA.

When I first ran for the Board of Education in 2017, the issue I was most concerned with was the continual change in leadership at the school. I am proud to be part of the Board that hired Mr. Doelger, the current superintendent. It is a pleasure to work with such a caring and committed educator and I feel Mr. Doelger has brought continuity and excellence to the Shelter Island School.

My goal for the next term is to focus on how we can work with the school cafeteria to provide more healthy options for the students. We are surrounded by fresh produce from farms, delicious seafood from the bays and pasture-raised meat and poultry. I know there are grants we can apply for and locals who can help make this a reality for our school.

Emily Parsons

I grew up on Shelter Island and attended Shelter Island School. I have spent my entire adult life working with children and I’m excited to return to the classroom this fall at the Shelter Island Early Childhood Learning Center. After being approached in the past to join the Board of Education, this felt like the right time to make a contribution like so many people in this community who I respect.

I am impressed with the amazing changes the school has made in the last 10 years and I’m excited for the opportunity to get involved on a deeper level. The addition of a Spanish language program at the elementary level is exciting and I would love to see that program expanded.

I hope to make a positive impact on the Shelter Island School system. I am eager to advocate for students and families while supporting diversity and equity, and guarantee a high quality education for all students.

Anthony Rando

My name is Anthony Rando; my life started on Shelter Island in 1996 when my parents purchased a home. In 2002, I was lucky to move here full time and call Shelter Island my home. I attended Shelter Island High School grades 9 through 12, graduating in 2006. I attended Nova Southeastern University, majoring in business administration, before returning to Shelter Island as the chef for our family business, Sweet Tomato’s. In 2010, I was hired by the Shelter Island Police Department as a Police Officer.

In 2011, I married my high school sweetheart Lindsay and started a family on Shelter Island. Lindsay and I are now the proud parents of three amazing boys, A.J., Vincent and Sebastian, all enrolled in our district. In 2016, I became the D.A.R.E. Officer for our Department. As D.A.R.E. Officer, I facilitated lessons on decision making and effective communication. In October 2018, I taught the first ever Over the Counter and RX medication DARE course in New York State. I was asked to pilot this course by the New York State D.A.R.E. Officer’s Association after expressing my concerns regarding opioid addiction and its impact on our community. I also implemented “Lunch with a Police Officer” that rotates all Shelter Island Officers through lunches with students. In 2022, I was promoted to the position of sergeant. As an Island resident, I value our community and volunteer through different organizations. As a PBA member, I have helped organize several community events, including Bike Day, Christmas Caroling, informative lunches for our senior citizens, and numerous other activities. I am currently a member of the Town’s Recreation Committee, a position I have held since 2017.

As a father of Shelter Island students, I am impressed with the level of commitment and devotion of the current Board of Education, administrators, teachers and staff. As a parent of a student with an Individual Education Plan, I am grateful for the compassion and experience our district applies to our students. If elected, I will work with other Board members to address enrollment. I would determine how we can attract private school students back to our campus. As a Board member, I will work to continue the impressive financial track record of our district. I will work hard to ensure every tax dollar spent is an investment in our students. I will foster conversations about the future of our community and what career paths will help those who wish to stay here. Those paths include careers in the trades, entrepreneurship, hospitality, landscaping, architecture and many more. As a Board member, I will help ensure our policies reflect diversity. It is essential that our students are taught how to be critical thinkers and taught to view an issue from multiple perspectives. It is of the most significant importance that our students respect one another regardless of individual points of view or personal choices.

If elected, I will work hard for our students, parents and taxpayers and with our school administration to provide the best education at the lowest cost.