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Meet Elmont and Franklin Square's board candidates

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Nine Elmont and Franklin Square residents are running to serve on the Boards of Education and library boards. Two of the Board of Education races are contested, and members of the elementary school boards also have the opportunity to serve on the Sewanhaka Central High School District board.

The Elmont races

In Elmont, incumbent Anthony Maffea is running to retain his seat on the Board of Education against challenger Simmonie Swaby, and Tiffany Capers is running for Karen Taylor Bass’ seat. Bass is not seeking re-election this year to spend more time with her family.

Additionally, Elmont residents have the opportunity to re-elect Suzanne Schatz and Livingstone Young to the library board.

Maffea is completing his 12th year on the board, and is the second-longest serving board member. When he first ran, he said, he wanted to get more involved in the community, which he moved to in 1999. He was already on the Elmont Dads’ Club, a Little League coach and a Cub Scout leader, so, Maffea said, joining the Board of Education “just seemed like the next step.”

Since then, the board has implemented a STEM program, a robotics club and a Model United Nations program that was being run successfully at the high school level. “We’ve really made a hard push to educate the whole child,” Maffea said, adding that the Model UN program was “just something to broaden their horizons.”

If he were re-elected, he said, he would like to expand the district’s extracurricular programs and create more rooms for computer labs. “I want to make sure that our kids are graduating with all the tools they need going forward,” he explained.

Swaby, meanwhile, has lived in Elmont for 12 years and formed the Muscle Moms group in 2018 to promote civic participation. She also helped form the Elmont Community Task Force, which she describes as “a group dedicated to supporting causes that benefit Elmont.” She now serves on the Belmont Community Advisory Council and is the Den Leader for Cub Scout Pack 294.

Professionally, Swaby is the treasurer for Angels Over Alligator Pond, Inc, a nonprofit that provides resources to a community in Jamaica, where Swaby was born and raised. 

She has two children in the district, and said she has “a passion for education.” If she were elected to serve on the board, she said, she would want to expand on the district’s STEM programs, increase parent participation in the district and build on its “very good public education system,” saying she understands the needs of the students.

Tiffany Capers is also running for the Board of Education in an uncontested race. She moved to Elmont in 1998 and has since served on the Elmont Association of Girl Scouts and various Parent Teacher Associations. Her daughter, Morgan, is now set to graduate from Elmont Memorial High School, and Capers said she sees the chance of being a Board of Education trustee “as a way for me to continue to support our Elmont students and serve the community.”

The Franklin Square races

In Franklin Square, Diane Hanen and Anthony Vellon are running to fill the seat left by Joseph Lewinger, who died from complications of the coronavirus on March 28. William Leder is also running for re-election unopposed, and Maxine Yarczower is running for the library board.

Hansen has lived in the district for 28 years, and has served on the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee for the past 12. Additionally, she has served on the John Street Parent Teacher Association, was a Girl Scout leader and a religion teacher at St. Catherine of Siena. “I have been on many of these committees for a long time, so I have learned a lot,” Hansen said, noting that her youngest son is graduating from John Street School in June, so she will have more time to commit to the Board of Education. “Being a Board of Education member is a huge commitment, and now I have the time, along with the good base of knowledge, you need.”

In a Meet the Candidates forum last month, she suggested that district officials work with parents to help them deal with technological issues and that the board create a liaison to the PTAs. She also said district officials should be responsible with what they cut to make up for any cuts to state aid next year, and suggested they hold off on some expenses such as the replacement of a school bus and new textbooks.

Her opponent, Anthony Vellon, has lived in Franklin Square for four and a half years and has two daughters in the district. Both Anthony and his wife, Marlin, are teachers in New York City and are members of the Washington Street School PTA.

He decided to run for the Board of Education because he felt it was the best way to give back to the community with his skills and expertise in education. Vellon is an education administrator for the New York City Department of Education and previously worked as a district business manager, overseeing several school budgets that totaled nearly $150 million. Additionally, he has trained teachers and staff in de-escalation and restorative practices.

“I truly believe that both my academic and professional background would be an asset to the Franklin Square Board of Education and all children in our community,” Vellon said, noting that he wants to work with community members to improve the schools “for the future of our children.”

At the Meet the Candidates forum, he emphasized the importance of “educating the whole child,” social-emotional learning and 21st century learning skills. He also said that students need to feel like their cultures are represented in lesson plans, and suggested that district officials go through the budget to see where potential cuts could be made. 

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

Finally, Maxine Yarczower is running unopposed for the Franklin Square library board. She has lived in Franklin Square for six and a half years, and has always attended the library board meetings, where she noticed a lack of community involvement. As a new board member, she said she would like to change that, noting, “I hope we, as a whole, can bring to the forefront just how valuable the Franklin Square Public Library is to this community.”

Ballots for these races have been mailed out to all eligible voters in the Franklin Square and Elmont school districts. They must be signed and returned in the provided envelope by June 9 at  p.m.