A small crowd of people in the front lobby of Glen Cove High School erupted in cheers at 10 p.m. on Tuesday as district Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna wrote the results of the budget, capital reserve and Board of Education election on a whiteboard.
According to tentative results, the proposed $91.3 million spending plan for the 2019-20 school year passed, 913-483. The proposed establishment of a capital reserve passed as well, with 876 “yes” votes and 413 “nos.”
The Board of Education will welcome two new members, as challengers Lia Leone and Karen Ferguson were elected trustees with 796 and 584 votes, respectively. Incumbent Trustee David Huggins received 466 votes, challenger Daniel had 364 and incumbent board Vice President Alexander Juarez garnered 337.
When Leone saw the size of her winning margin, she covered her mouth with her hands as friends hugged and congratulated her. Ferguson smiled, and shook hands with everyone around her.
Leone’s campaign was a vibrant one, as she promoted her positions on social media and in person across the city. This wasn’t the first time she had offered ideas on how to improve Glen Cove’s schools: She was part of a committee that put together the $84.6 million school-infrastructure bond earlier this school year, and an active member of the pro-bond group Vote Yes March 12. While the bond was voted down, she said on Tuesday that she was thrilled to be able to help the district in her new role.
“I didn’t do it alone,” Leone said. “I had an amazing team of people. I’m humbled; I feel such pride. This is my city — I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m just ready to jump in and do what I have to do for these kids.”
She said she was excited about learning how to collaborate with the board to help students as best she can. Asked about the first thing she hoped to accomplish as a board trustee, she said, “We need to work on a bond. We need to get a number that’s going to work for the community, and get these buildings where they need to be as far as safety is concerned for our kids.”
Conversely, Ferguson quickly made her way out of the excited crowd, saying this was just “another day, another mission.” She said she was eager to take her place on the board, learn how it works and figure out how she can use her new position to benefit the district.
She agreed that creating another bond was one of the first things she wanted to do as a trustee. “We need to continue the mission of the schools,” she explained, “and make sure that we have a curriculum that meets all the children’s needs and, like I said at Meet the Candidates [on May 6], the whole-child education is important to me, and school safety and making sure that we have the funding that we need to do the best for our students.
Additionally, Ferguson wants to place a greater emphasis on the district’s ability to nurture students’ mental health and provide whatever aid it can in that area.
Rianna celebrated the passing of the budget and the capital reserve, both of which passed by large margins. “It shows that people are feeling confident with our budgeting,” she said. “I really think it’s a concerted effort on a lot of people’s parts. We thank the Board of Education for supporting our efforts as we go through the school year and prepare our budget, and for approving the budget that we’re proposing. We thank the community for their faith in us as they vote positively.”
Rianna said she was determined to help residents who voted “no” understand what the district needs. “We want to be able to ensure that they’re more comfortable, and they understand fully and we’re able to hear their issues as well,” she said.
Rianna credited the hard work and expertise of Victoria Galante, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, for the budget’s passage, saying that Galante worked tirelessly to ensure the district had a spending plan that covered its critical needs while remaining cost-effective.
One of the most significant changes will be the institution of a nine-period day at the high school. This will allow students to take on additional coursework, and also provide them with a mandated lunch period. Students in need of extra help in specific subjects will be able to take additional classes. The district will likely hire five to seven new teachers, some of whom may be part-time.
It will also continue to work toward increasing security throughout all of its buildings. The high school is set to add a new booth for security officers, and new cameras will be installed at all of the schools. Lockdown systems will also be installed at GCHS and at Gribbin and Landing elementary schools. And the district plans to replace the roof at Landing and install a new P.A. system at Deasy Elementary.
The capital reserve will be used to improve school facilities without drawing money from the budget. All expenditures coming from the capital reserve will have to be approved by voters.