Three Candidates Seek Two Open Board Seats

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This May, Hicksville residents have the opportunity to vote for three candidates seeking election to the Hicksville Board of Education.

President Phil Heckler, Vice President Brenda Judson and newcomer Kyle Singh will be running for two open trustee positions on the board when Election Day rolls around on May 15.

The Hicksville News asked the candidates to fill out a questionnaire describing their accomplishments and their vision for the district’s future—the candidates all responded, and the Hicksville News presents their answers here. Residents can also learn more about the candidates on Monday, May 7, during the PTA Council’s meeting at Old Country Road School at 8 p.m.

Elections will be held on Tuesday, May 15, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at residents’ designated elementary school.

Phil Heckler

I am a 43-year resident of Hicksville, married, with two daughters who graduated from Hicksville High School and two of three grandchildren currently attending Hicksville schools. I have served as School Board President for five years. Previously, I served as the chair of the finance committee. My community service includes membership on the Governor’s Downtown Revitalization Committee, the Hicksville Garden Civic Association, the Jerusalem Ave. Traffic Study and former Co-President of the Gregory Museum. But my most rewarding civic involvement has been the six years that I have had the honor to serve as the Hicksville School Board Trustee.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Hicksville School District right now?

Our immediate challenge is to hire an exceptional leader to replace [Hicksville Superintendent of Schools] Dr. Bonuso. To help ensure the construction of the district’s first swimming pool, air conditioning for all class rooms, as well as the upgrade of libraries, auditorium and technology classrooms within budget, safely and with minimal disruption to the ongoing education of our students. Next year’s budget will include a 1.89 percent tax increase while adding several educational enhancements. At a time of rising inflation and Federal restrictions on local tax deductions, we must continue to live within the two percent cap by continuing to find efficiencies and re-purpose existing resources so that we can add more new programs that will benefit our children. The diversity of our community is one of our biggest assets, yet we must nurture those assets by helping students with limited English to thrive in our school. And we must develop a whole child strategy to deal with the Governor’s evolving education reforms that so many see as counterproductive.

What is important to you to accomplish/change in the district?

It is regularly reported that many of the jobs awaiting the class of 2032 do not currently exist. The district therefore needs to modify curriculum for 21st century skills. Employers want workers who can work together, be problem solvers and show creativity. Furthermore, artificial intelligence will replace many jobs. However, we will still need plumbers, electricians and other trades, so we need to further expand our career programs offered at BOCES or within our high school. Finally, we need to offer social, emotional skills and support to address everyday stress and distractions.

Brenda Judson

I am a 38-year Hicksville resident. I have two daughters who graduated from the Hicksville School District. I have a master’s degree in human resources. I have been a Hicksville Board of Education trustee for the past six years, and the vice president for the past two years. I am the chair of both the Safety and the Policy Hicksville School District committees.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Hicksville School District right now? How are you working to solve them?

A few of the issues I have made the effort to educate myself on include: federal, state and local funding; security and safety; bullying, physical and mental health; opioid abuse; testing and assessment; and teacher professional development and retention. Immediate plans include but are not limited to: hiring of a new superintendent of schools to replace the retiring superintendent; additional pre-k offerings to supplement the existing classes at Dutch Lane and Woodland School; installation of safety and security mantraps this summer in seven of the nine district schools with the other remaining installations scheduled for the summer of 2019; security guards in each elementary school building; hiring of additional school psychologist; and a myriad of technology upgrades.

What is important to you to accomplish/change in the district?

Of importance to me is: hiring of a new school superintendent; furtherance of the “Whole Child” initiative, whose commonsense tenets are undeniably beneficial to the overall development of healthy and happy children and frame every aspect of my vision; and focusing on safety, security, mental health, bullying and teacher professional development and retention.

Kyle Singh

I’m a first year student at Georgetown University. I’ve lived in Hicksville since the fifth grade and am a product of the Hicksville public school system. This is my second time running for the Hicksville school board. My team of 15 high school students and I have met every weekend for the last four months and have been campaigning hard to ensure that every student has the opportunity to live up to their full potential.

I am running for this seat because I believe we need a new voice for change on our school board. This seat represents an opportunity to act upon the values I stand for and that the community believes in. I believe that students deserve better than they’ve been getting. We need a new approach.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Hicksville School District right now? How will you solve them?

The biggest challenge facing the district right now is a deep-rooted inequality in the classroom and in the broader school system. There are a series of problems that stem from this and all are often deemed as unfixable. We need to create new opportunities for students to lead in the classroom and we need to make sure that we have a fair system overall. We have a huge problem of cheating at the high academic levels in our schools. We must implement a tangible honor code system to prevent the spread of cheating. So many times teachers do other work during exams. The simple act of awareness coupled with different versions of tests significantly curbs an age-old problem. It is wrong that it takes years for students to start a club—the most important way a student can cultivate leadership. We need to make sure we hear their voices when they are passionate about something. The biggest challenges in the schools will not be fixed with simply money and budgetary fixes. They will only be fixed with an honest and open dialogue. This is something that will require time, energy and passion.

What is important to you to accomplish/change in the district?

The most important thing I want to accomplish in this mission is to make sure students have their voices restored in their school system.

The most important distinction in this campaign is that I represent real hope for change. I am fighting for a departure from the systematic traditions that have blocked students’ growth. I have heard the voices from our community and the consensus is clear. It’s time to implement the change we know is possible. To those that are wary of my time management, I have been traveling every Thursday to Sunday this year to work for my campaign. I will keep my commitment to attend all meetings in advance and craft my schedule around all board-related duties.

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