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Franklin Square Board of Education candidates share platforms

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Franklin Square residents had the opportunity to get to know the candidates running to fill the Board of Education seat left vacant by Joe Lewinger — who died from the coronavirus on March 28 — at a Virtual Meet the Candidates Forum on May 21.

During the hour-long conversation, moderated by JoAnn Schwartz, president of the Franklin Square Interschool Council of Parent Teacher Associations, Diane Hansen and Anthony Vellon shared their ideas for the next school year, as the Franklin Square School District works to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Hansen, who has served on the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee for the past 12 years, said she is running for the one-year term because she has the time to commit to the board, as the last of her four children is graduating from John Street School this year, and said the board is “all about the kids, and making sure they get the best education.”

To do so, she said, she would work with local officials to get students back to school next year. She has already worked with Leg. Vincent Muscarella to install speed signs in front of the John Street School.

Additionally, Hansen said she is concerned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement that school districts throughout the state may face state aid cuts of up to 20 percent at any time next year. As a member of the Budget Advisory Committee, she said, the district officials have to be responsible with what they cut, and suggested they hold off on some expenses such as the replacement of a school bus and new textbooks.

Hansen also said that the district should work with parents to help them deal with technological issues, and suggested the Board of Education create a liaison to the PTAs or hold joint PTA and board meetings. 

Vellon, meanwhile, has participated in Washington Street School PTA events, and is a district business manager for the New York City Department of Education. He said he understands the complexities of a school district and has a “plethora of knowledge and background experience” in school budgeting.

The students need to feel like their cultures are represented in lesson plans, Vellon said, and noted that if he were elected, he would like to have the outgoing seventh-graders partner with the incoming ones to help them adjust to the high school district.

Additionally, he said, district officials will have to reassess its needs as a result of the pandemic — when the district switched to online learning — and go through the budget to see where cuts could be made.

“There’s not just one issue that school districts face,” Vellon explained.

Ballots will be mailed to every registered voter who took place in last year’s budget vote, as well as any residents who have been added to the tax rolls since then. They must be signed and returned in the provided envelope by June 9 at 5 p.m.