There are seven candidates running at-large for three open seats. Anthony O’Brien is not running again. The other two incumbents are Marc Negrin and Bernadette Smith. The three candidates receiving the highest number of votes will be elected as members of the board of education for a three-year term.
MARC A. NEGRIN
Negrin has been a Patchogue-Medford resident since 1995. He has been married to his wife Tracy for 31 years, and together they have three children, all graduates of Pat-Med High School.
He attended SUNY Stony Brook and studied in natural and social science, graduated NY Chiropractic College with a Doctorate degree. He went on to become a tenured teacher assistant for Eastern Suffolk BOCES.
As an active community member since 2000, he is a volunteer coach, administrator, and board member for various youth organizations and school district support programs. He is also a certified Section XI sports official in 10 interscholastic sports, a member of Patchogue-Medford School District Athletic Department’s 5 Year Plan Committee and an appointed board of education trustee, as well as a BOE trustee to the Medford School Finance Committee and chair of the Medford Hall of Fame Sports Committee.
He was elected to the board of education in May 2018, where he also serves as the Medford School District Extracurricular and Audit Committee trustee. He was also elected second vice president of the Patchogue-Medford Board of Education.
“Now is the time to elect proven leaders who have demonstrated success and prosperity through the comfortable and typical times, but also have demonstrated the ability to navigate through the uncharted waters of a worldwide dilemma,” he said. “I have and will continue to be committed to the children and families of my community.”
He was elected to the seat in May of 2018 after an appointment.
“A school board member takes on one of the most important citizen responsibilities: overseeing the education of the community’s youth. In these challenging times for public education, school boards need to be comprised of individuals who find excitement and satisfaction in confronting tough challenges and working collegially to rise above them and help students in their communities succeed,” he said, hoping to grab the community’s vote again. “The key to being an effective school board member is to demonstrate effective leadership, bring and implement knowledge, utilize your experience and provide unwavering dedication. I know and believe that I am that board member.”
JENNIFER A. KRIEGER
Krieger said she is an experienced professional, enthusiastic volunteer, and dedicated mom who has proven her commitment to the Patchogue-Medford community. She and her husband Jack, a Patchogue Village trustee, live in Patchogue. They have two children enrolled in the Patchogue-Medford School District, as well as a 2006 graduate.
Krieger attended the Fashion Institute of Technology for marketing communications and enjoyed a successful career in New York City. Upon relocating to Patchogue in 2003, she advanced her business-management skills through employment at North Fork Bank and as a store manager for Borders Books while pursuing her bachelor’s in history and master’s degree in teaching social studies from Stony Brook University.
Upon the birth of her second child, she took time off from substitute teaching to raise her children. She has since dedicated herself to caring for her children and serving the schools and the children of our community. She has served on the Patchogue-Medford Special Education PTA (SEPTA) and River Avenue Elementary PTA boards, was a Girl Scout leader, is a religious education teacher, Ovations Repertory volunteer and has served many community nonprofits.
“As a volunteer in the school district for many years, I feel that this is the next step in my path,” she said of her reason behind running. “I want to help every child get a quality education and attain their dreams. I intend to work hard and do all that I can to make student life in the Patchogue-Medford School District the best experience of their young lives.”
Krieger has been endorsed by the Patchogue Medford Council of Teachers. If elected, she intends to focus on providing a supportive learning environment for every student that meets their diverse socioeconomic, educational and emotional needs.
Julian-Petersen lives in the district with her husband, Richard. Together they have three daughters. She graduated from Patchogue-Medford in 1986 and is now a 50-year resident of the district.
Professionally, she is an elementary school teacher and an involved NYSUT member. She is also an active member and liaison of multiple school board committees and has been successful in lobbying in Albany for the district. She is also a PTA member and leader, coach and director of youth sports and active volunteer.
“I am running because my experiences, qualifications, knowledge and dedication have prepared me to go to the next level. My love, loyalty, and dedication to our community goes deep,” she said, hoping to prompt the community to vote. “I have been actively involved for decades, and I will continue to support our children and community for many more years to come.”
Julian-Petersen also promises she has no hidden agenda and will stand up for what she believes: that every child deserves a fair, appropriate public education.
“I am committed to the community that I grew up in, dedicated to the district that educated me and an advocate for all children,” she added. “As an educator, my professional background provides me with the expertise and practices in the classroom and the educational system. Working with children daily helps me better understand what is best for their academic future within the financial boundaries the state places upon us.”
She also noted that she is a product of the district.
“Successful schools are those where every stakeholder of the district works together for the common good of its students and community,” she continued.
Her goal, if elected, is to work cooperatively with good communication.
“I am fully prepared to do my homework and engage in good discussions to provide our children with the educational future they deserve and watch the financial dollars being spent,” she said. “We truly are all in this together!”
Salazar has been a resident of the Village of Patchogue since 2008. He said that as a parent of two children enrolled at Bay Elementary School, he believes it would be both a privilege and honor to represent the communities of Patchogue and Medford on the board of education.
“I believe that education is a vital aspect of any thriving community, and I will look to provide the children and families of this district with the best education that will allow them to become prosperous and happy members of society,” he said.
Salazar has experience as a special education teacher, coach, department chairperson and assistant principal in the Copiague School District for the past 15 years.
“I believe that my extensive experience in education as both a teacher and administrator will provide valuable insight that will produce rational and informed decisions, in order to reflect the needs and values of our community,” he added.
If elected, he promises to increase communication between all stakeholders of the community, incorporating residents, school officials and the board of education, to ensure all voices are heard.
BERNADETTE M. SMITH
Smith said she has spent the past two decades as a “force for change and an advocate for our community and our children.”
As member of the board of education for the past three years, she has served on the Extra Curricular Committee for two years, where she helped launch the integrated basketball team and community band. She served on the district’s Wellness Committee and is currently chairing the Buildings, Grounds Constructions & Security Committee, and serves as a member of the District Equity Committee.
A resident of Patchogue for over 20 years, he and her husband Harry, a union stage carpenter, are parents of two Pat-Med graduates and one current Pat-Med senior.
Smith has also been actively involved in the PTA for over 10 years, serving as PTA president at both Medford Elementary and South Ocean Middle School, and is was a Jenkins Honorary Lifetime Award Recipient in 2016.
Smith is an Ithaca College graduate with a degree in theatrical production. She had a successful career as union stage manager, working various national tours, a season with the Alvin Ailey Company, and other regional and Off-Broadway productions. She has been actively involved in supporting and advocating for music and arts programs throughout Pat-Med. Recently, Smith has continued her education toward becoming a board-certified health coach.
She is also endorsed by the Patchogue-Medford Congress of Teachers.
She said she is “committed to building a district that sees the strength in our diversity, ensures all students have a voice, and promotes the difficult but important conversations that foster real progress.”
Diaz is a longtime resident and mother of a 10-year-old in the Patchogue-Medford School District. She also works in the community, servicing women and their beauty needs as a proud daughter to immigrant parents from Peru.
“I was inspired to run because I have talked to a lot of people in my community about many different obstacles they have faced and have not been able to resolve due to the lack of resources from the district,” she said. “My community also feels like they do not have someone that can represent them, such as understanding our culture and language.”
She hopes to be the voice for the Latino population in the community while also providing the appropriate resources for every child’s needs.
Her goals include having representation in the district, creating inclusive programming for special education and bilingual children, and getting real assessments on the high school dropout rates.
“We as Latino parents have a right to attend all these extra school activities, but most don’t because we feel as if we aren’t being heard,” she added. “We do not see others like us and it makes us feel uncomfortable.”
She also cited the difficulty in not knowing the language and coming to a new place. She hopes to see an increase in bilingual staff to make the schools more welcoming.
JUSTIN A. CONKLIN
Conklin is a 24-year-old third-generation Patchogue-Medford alumnus. During his time in Pat-Med, he was involved and active in the many different organizations, including being the vice president of the Class of 2015 for all four years of high school career, vice president of the Leo Club, and being one of 13 original members of the Principal’s Leadership Council.
While studying at Dominican and Concordia College, Conklin was involved with many organizations as well, including being the president of the freshman class, vice president and co-founder of Love Your Melon Dominican College, and participating in many leadership forums and committees throughout the college. At Concordia, Conklin was a member of the fraternity Omega Psi Et, whose mission is to help and serve the college and Bronxville community; member of Men with Distinction; and a part of many choirs that played a big role in the college community.
Conklin is now a second-generation member of Lions Club International, the father club of the club Conklin was in at high school called the Leo Club. Conklin is the youngest active member and the only member that was in both Leo and Lions Club. Conklin served as the district 20-S Leo president from 2019-2020 and the liaison for the Lions and Leo clubs at Patchogue-Medford.
He said he feels he has learned a sense of community and leadership through the many organizations he was a part of.
He is also currently a security guard for Garda World.
“I would like to improve on having the district be more transparent with our community, more accountability to our superintendents and staff, do my fiduciary duty for the taxpayers and the district,” he said of his run for school board. “I want to help our district go back to the basics in life and help form our children to become productive members of society. I am running for a seat on the Patchogue-Medford Board of Education because I love my community and I want to give back to the school district that helped build a good foundation for me and my family’s life.”
SOUTH COUNTRY SCHOOLS
Three candidates will be vying for two seats. Two incumbents, Chris Picini and Cameron Trent, will be running to serve another term against newcomer Melissa Aguanno-Walker. The vote will be at-large.
Picini will be seeking his fourth term. He has served as a trustee for nine years and was the president of the board for three. He is a CYO basketball coach and a member of the DO-Dads club/Rocketmen Basketball. He is also a member of the Nassau-Suffolk School Board Association executive board and serves on the N-SSBA Legislative Committee, as well as chair of the South Country Executive Committee. He has three children in the district, twins in fifth grade and a senior at the high school.
“Back in the fall when we were discussing bringing our students back to full-time, in-person instruction from the hybrid model, it was clear at that point that there was a perspective missing among many of the board members,” he said. “I fully supported a return to in-person instruction based on the negative impact I witnessed in my own children as well as their peers. It’s been made clear through the data that school is one of the safest places for our kids. Transmission rates have been extremely low due to the protocols and procedures put in place by the administration.”
He also said he will focus on low-income families and the students that became disconnected from learning due to the pandemic.
“I want to continue to be a voice for all students,” he added. “As a board member, I believe we need to provide oversight to our administration while being mindful not to micromanage the superintendent.”
Trent will be seeking reelection. He graduated from Bellport High School in 2015.
“There is more work to be done,” he said of the reason behind running again. “As a district, we need to advocate for our students in and out of the buildings, increase the district's transparency and communication, support our students’ social-emotional well-being, and make sure there is equity and acceptance in our schools.”
Due to COVID, he said, there isn’t right or wrong answers, but most of the struggles have never been solved before. He said he will continue to make decisions based off of student needs and what is in their best interests.
“Our students will always share their thoughts and suggestions with us, if we’re listening,” he added. “Students know how they learn, they know what they need to succeed –all we need to do is ask them."
Aguanno-Walker is a graduate of Bellport High School running for a seat on the board of education. She is married to Keith Walker, also a graduate of Bellport High School. Together they have a 3-year-old special-needs son.
Aguanno-Walker is a former social worker for teenagers in foster care and former Suffolk County prosecutor. She currently owns a law practice specializing in criminal defense, traffic court, family court, and uncontested divorce. Personally, she is also an animal rights advocate and has hosted several fundraisers for local not-for-profit animal rescue organizations.
“I decided to run for the school board because I was unhappy with the decision to keep children out of in-person instruction for so long,” she said. “I believe they should have gone back full-time many months ago.”
WILLIAM FLOYD SCHOOLS
Two seats are open on the William Floyd School Board of Education. Three will be running for one seat and incumbent president Robert Vecchio will be seeking reelection for the other unopposed.
Three candidates are running for the seat currently held by Thomas Gross, who is retiring from service after 15 years on the BOE.
NICK PAPPAS TAYLOR
Pappas Taylor and his wife, Desiree, are lifelong residents and proud special-needs parents of two boys, ages 5 and 7. Pappas Taylor is a 13-year veteran teacher and former special education administrator. He is also a William Floyd alumnus (Class of 2000).
Pappas Taylor first began his advocacy in 1999 when he worked with local government officials to secure sidewalks and lighting at Smith Point Beach.
While enrolled in teacher preparation through St. Joseph’s College undergraduate, Dowling College graduate, and Stony Brook University’s postgraduate programs, Pappas Taylor worked in various local government positions, including chief of staff to former councilwoman Carol Bissonette, assistant to the commissioner of the Town of Brookhaven Parks Department, and an aide to then Suffolk County clerk and current Brookhaven Town supervisor Ed Romaine.
Pappas Taylor also volunteered with the William Floyd Community Summit, the William Floyd Budget Advisory Committee, director for the Bay Area Civic Association, head coach for the Mastic Sports Club baseball program, founder of the Class of 2000 William Floyd Alumni group, founder of the William Guiducci Memorial Scholarship Fund, 4th Degree Knight with the Knights of Columbus, 21-year member of the National and Local PTO, William Floyd Athletic Hall of Fame committee, William Floyd Distinguished Alumni Committee, and served as an original stakeholder in the William Floyd CTE committee.
As a board member, Pappas Taylor said he seeks to work with the current board in creating change for the better. Namely, analyzing the district’s homework policy, position on standardized testing, inclusion of students with special needs and the overall process of the Child Find mandate, teacher and administrator retention, and overall policies that impact school building/district culture.
“[My] first priority is to foster relationships and genuine connection between all stakeholders in the William Floyd School community,” he said.
JENNIFER N.G. HEITMANN
Heitmann grew up in Shirley and graduated from William Floyd High School in 1991. She graduated from Colgate University in 1995 and Hofstra Law School in 1998. Heitmann is a lawyer with over 20 years of litigation experience. She started her career as a prosecutor with the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office and has been in private practice since 2001. She currently lives in Shirley with her husband and two children, who are both students in the William Floyd School District.
She has been a regular attendee at board of education meetings for the past eight years and is an active community volunteer. Her community involvement includes the William Floyd Alumni Association, Cub Scout Pack 88, supporting local food drives and cleanups, helping with local soccer and baseball teams, and an annual scholarship for a graduating senior. For the past five years, Heitmann and her husband volunteered their time to bring the Floydbots, a competitive robotics program, into the district at the elementary-school level. By January 2020, that program spread to two elementary schools and one middle school, and the district was selected to host a regional competition for over 25 Long Island schools.
She said she is motivated to volunteer her time for the board of education because public school education has always been an important issue to her.
“Education is more than just academics – a quality public education system considers character, citizenship, emotional and mental health, opportunities for diverse learning and skill development, efficient use of tax dollars, and preparing each and every child for their next step in life,” she said. “As we recover from the pandemic, [I] support the restoration of a diverse variety of programs and services for the students.”
Meyer has lived in Mastic his entire life and the William Floyd School District for the past 18 years. He and his wife purchased a home in the William Floyd School District community and now raise their eight children there.
“As a New York City firefighter, I have served the residents of NYC and I am looking to further expand my services and contribute to my home community as a member of the board of education,” he said of his motivation to run.
Before he was a firefighter, Meyer was an educator in the New York City Schools as a middle school teacher and dean of students.
“In this role, I learned the importance of community for my students and the impact that a sense of community has in an adolescent’s growth and development,” he added. “A strong focus on student equity and the continued support of each student’s social and emotional needs is even more important than ever before.”
He said he believes in hard work and dedication.
“Family, friends and community are the foundation needed to build the future of our district and continue with our rich history of community pride and excellence,” he said. “I have no personal agenda and I am not advocating for major changes. I am an open-minded community member that wishes to listen to the concerns of others and help to improve upon the incredible foundation and history at William Floyd.”
His goal, he continued, is to work with administration to support working families in maintaining affordable school taxes to support the district’s needs.
BOB VECCHIO-RUNNING UNOPPOSED
Vecchio has worked in health care finance since 1991, and oversees the financial operations of a multi-corporate company with annual revenues exceeding $25 million.
He was first elected in 2003 as a trustee of the William Floyd Board of Education. In 2006, he was elected as the president and still holds this position today. During his tenure, William Floyd’s graduation rate has increased from 67 percent to reaching 90 percent.
In 2007, under Vecchio’s leadership, William Floyd High School was the first high school in NYS to have a OASAS-licensed clinic housed on their campus for services for adolescents. In 2015, Vecchio was recognized by the New York State School Boards Association by receiving their first ever Champion for Change award. In 2019, he was also awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Nassau Suffolk School Board’s Association.
Vecchio is also co-chairperson of the Brookhaven NY chapter of Our Community Salutes, a national not-for-profit that annually recognizes graduating high school seniors who are enlisting into the nation’s armed forces. Since 2016, he has hosted a weekly radio show titled “Spotlight on LI Schools” on 103.9FM LINewsradio a JVC broadcasting station.
Vecchio is also a trustee for his local church, St. Jude’s R.C. Church located in Mastic Beach, and he has been a member of the Brookhaven Town Board of Ethics since 2016 and serves as its vice chairman
He said he is looking forward to continuing the work to further increase the academic performance of the district as we navigate away from post-COVID restrictions and enhance offerings on all grade levels and expand CTE opportunities at the secondary level, so all Floyd students will be college and/or career ready when they graduate from Floyd.