District 24 community members gave Tony Iadevaio a standing ovation at the district’s Board of Education meeting on March 27, after he announced that he would not seek re-election this spring. He has served almost 40 years on the elementary school district’s Board of Education and more than 30 years on the high school district’s board — becoming Valley Stream’s longest-serving school trustee.
“It’s been half of my lifetime,” Iadevaio, 80, said at the meeting, “and it’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the children.”
He first got involved with District 24 in 1979, when he began attending school board meetings to protest the proposed sale of the William F. Donahue School, which was the district’s only school building north of Sunrise Highway. Iadevaio’s four children attended Donahue, and he suggested that rather than sell the 13-classroom facility to a developer for $750,000, the board offer it to Nassau BOCES with a clause to buy it back in 90 days if the school’s projected enrollment increased. The board members, he said, wouldn’t listen.
“I then decided I was going to run against the board president,” Iadevaio told the Herald. He was officially elected in 1980.
As a board member, he once again tried to preserve the Donahue School, but his efforts failed.
One night in 1982, the school’s head custodian left water running in the building, causing mold to form. As a result, the state Department of Health would not let the district reopen the school, and the board was forced to sell the building to Lynbrook-based Mangone Homes for $1.75 million — $1 million more than the district would have received under its original proposal. The district used that money to lower the tax burden on residents for the next 10 years.
Iadevaio continued to fight for education in District 24 long after that. About 15 years ago, he proposed implementing full-day kindergarten based on programs in District 20 and in the Elmont School District, which had erected modular buildings to house their kindergarten classes. Before that, Iadevaio said, the district only had a half-day kindergarten program, and as a result, the district’s 5-year-olds only received about an hour and a half to two hours of education a day.
Iadevaio said he has also strived to ensure that the board works for the residents, and to diversify its makeup. To that end, he visited education activists, including current board President Donna LaRocco, and asked them to run. “Everything worked out really well, as far as I’m concerned,” he said, adding that he was proud that the district has not had a budget defeated since he has been on the board, because he tried to ensure that “every child got the best education that money could buy.”
“He’s dedicated his life to education here in District 24,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. Don Sturz. He said that when he was first hired as the superintendent in August, Iadevaio helped him transition into the community. “I think he and I will continue to be friends in that capacity,” Sturz said.
In the Central District, Iadevaio served as board president five times, and has handed out diplomas at graduations to the children of alumni whom he had given diplomas to years before. Additionally, he read to students on Read Across America Day and cut the ribbon for the district’s annual Lights on for Education celebration, which highlights students’ work. “He supported kids’ endeavors by showing up to events,” said Maureen Henry, the South High School principal, and Central Schools Superintendent Bill Heidenreich noted that Iadevaio was a “true public servant.”
Iadevaio also worked with District 13 Trustee Bill Stris to form the Residency Advisory Committee, which comprises trustees from District 24, District 13 and the Central District who meet semiannually to monitor residency compliancy in the school districts. Stris said that they formed the committee about 30 years ago because community members feared that nonresidents were attending the Valley Stream schools without paying taxes.
More impressive, Stris said, was Iadevaio’s work as the legislative aide for all four Valley Stream school districts. In that capacity, he has traveled to Albany to advocate for additional school funding and for measures that would improve school safety. For that work, he received the Everett R. Dyer Award for Distinguished School Board Service in 2013.
“What he’s done as a legislative aide, that was yeomen’s work,” said Stris, who has served alongside Iadevaio for more than 30 years. “He will be missed.”
But after almost 40 years serving the community, it was time to step down, Iadevaio said, citing health issues and his desire to spend time with his two grandchildren and his wife, Antoinette, who said that they have always scheduled their vacations around board meetings.
“We worked everything around his meetings,” she said, adding that he would never neglect a meeting. “Now it’s time for him to relax.”
The Board of Education vote will be held on May 21. Trustees John Maier and Kimberly Wheeler are up for re-election.