BBP district heads to the polls
BAYPORT-BLUE POINT—School districts across Long Island will be heading to the polls on Super Tuesday, May 21, to decide on school budgets and board of education trustees. They will also vote on a second proposition that slightly opens up transportation to more riders.
Bayport-Blue Point School District’s proposed budget is $73,443,9666, which is below the district’s tax cap limit, according to reps. An average Islip Town home would pay about $319 more a year, where an average Brookhaven Town home should expect to see an estimated tax increase of $310 a year.
Last year’s budget was $71,761,393, which was up by 2.02 percent over the previous year, but once again, within the district’s allowable limit.
BBP’s board of trustees has three seats open. Vice president Brian Johnson is running unopposed for his seat. Jason Borowski is also running unopposed for a vacant seat, while John Kroog and Alex Wellems are vying for a seat that will be left open by Molly Licalzi. She has decided not seek reelection.
Licalzi previously served on the board from 2008-2013. She took a three-year break and was elected again in 2016.
There will also be proposition on the ballot.
Proposition 2 reads: “Shall the board of education modify its public transportation eligibility effective at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year for grades K-5 pupils only from the existing one and one-quarter (1.25) mile limit to a new one and one-twenty-third (1.23) mile limit at no additional cost to the District?”
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bayport-Blue Point High School gymnasium.
The candidate has lived in Blue Point with his family since June of 2016. He has a daughter who is a fourth grader at Blue Point Elementary School.
Borowski has a bachelor’s of architectural engineering from Pennsylvania State University (2005) and works as a mechanical engineer, heading up the quality assurance department for the facilities group at Century Engineering. He feels his professional background can be an asset to the district, which is currently in the middle of a roughly $30 million construction bond.
Borowski is also the president of Blue Point Community Coalition, the hamlet’s civic association.
“I am used to listening to community concerns and working collaboratively with others to help get them addressed, something that I believe will serve me well in a position on the school board,” he said. “The mission statement of our civic association is ‘Preserving Our Community.’ One of the best ways I can think of to ensure that is to maintain a top-caliber school district which, in turn, creates a next generation of Bayport-Blue Point residents.”
Borowski said the primary role of the school board is to work collaboratively with the school district administration to help enact policies that keep the best interests of the students in mind.
One of Borowski’s favorite things about the district is the character development program that was initiated by the current superintendent, Dr. Timothy Hearney. The program, he said, emphasizes strong social connections, having a go-to adult in the school, provides assemblies on a variety of social topics presented by the district’s social workers and psychologists, and recognizes students who exhibit qualities such as kindness and sympathy throughout the year.
“I believe the continued implementation of this program will lead to socially adjusted students who can transition to adults able to handle an ever-changing world,” he added.
Borowski said, as with most districts on Long Island, school taxes, which have been steadily increasing, are causing financial strain on some residents in the BBP community.
“I believe a comprehensive review should be performed on all aspects of the school budget,” Borowski said, adding that the district should also explore ways of generating revenue to help ease the burden on district residents. He cited the Energy Performance Contract, which was approved by district residents last year.
Borowski believes the Common Core has a “negative impact,” not just on the BBP school district, but those across the state as well. “Its implementation has manifested itself in higher and higher opt-out rates for standardized testing,” he said, adding that Common Core forces teachers to “teach to the test,” as opposed to having the freedom to tailor their lessons on a class-by-class or student-by-student basis.
“With the high opt-out rates, approaching roughly 90 percent when you include the percentage that opted out and those [who] were waived from the testing in Bayport-Blue Point, the sample size is so small that we aren’t even getting a statistically viable assessment on the performances of the students,” he continued.
Borowski said having a transparent relationship between the board and parents/guardians, along with the rest of the community, is “fundamental” to a successful school board. Borowski added that, as a school board member, he would be visiting PTA meetings for each of the schools in the district on a rotating basis.
“The intent of this will not be to present anything officially from the board, but to listen to the discussion, both good and bad, and help bring about solutions to some of the issues that are raised,” he said.
Kroog has been a Bayport resident for over 17 years. He is married and has three children in the district; two are in middle school and one is in high school.
Kroog graduated from St. John’s University and has post-graduate credits in elementary education. He is currently a district sales manager in the medical industry. Kroog said his professional background could be helpful in a potential trustee seat.
“Achieving goals” is important in his work field. “That’s what a board does,” Kroog added. “It assesses the situation and solves the problem.” Kroog has also been the president of Bayport-Blue Point Youth Lacrosse for about five or six years and was on the board for a few years prior. He sees being on the school board as “another opportunity” in his community.
Kroog doesn’t foresee any major changes in the district. When we last spoke to him, during his last run for school board last year, Kroog said he would “like to [help contribute] to Dr. Hearney’s vision of what he’s trying to accomplish [within the district].” Kroog more recently said he wants to help “create a culture and environment where students and teachers can succeed.”
Having grown up in Lindenhurst, one of his favorite things about BBP is its size. It’s “more intimate” and has “fewer lawyers” than other districts on Long Island, he said.
Kroog isn’t a fan of Common Core. “It’s a challenge,” he said, adding that the curriculum tries to “[fit] everyone into the same system. Everyone learns differently.” He added, “Teachers need flexibility. Common Core doesn’t provide that.”
In regards to the type of relationship the school board should have with the community, Kroog said everyone has to be open and collaborate on the task at hand. “There needs to be an open dialogue,” he added. “And, in all fairness, the school board is part of the community.”
Wellems has been a Blue Point resident for five years. He and his wife have two children in the district. The couple’s daughter is a second grader at Blue Point Elementary School. Their son starts kindergarten in the fall.
Wellems has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and a minor in economics from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the director of clinical supplies operations in research and development for a large health care company.
When asked about what he felt qualified him to be a school board member, Wellems cited his service on the district’s most recent budget advisory committee. He is also the vice president of the Blue Point Community Coalition and coaches second-grade girls lacrosse. In addition, Wellems is a member of Friends of the Bayport-Blue Point Library and Blue Point Elementary PTA.
“My professional experience, education and contributions on the budget advisory committee provided the experience and background for the fiscal decisions and responsibility required of a board member,” Wellems said. “My involvement in multiple community organizations and the PTA has given me the opportunity to understand community dynamics and uniqueness that is Bayport-Blue Point.”
Wellems wants to be on the board to help maintain and improve on the success that BBP has obtained and “ensure that the tools and services are available to educators and the administration to continue to provide an environment where all students can thrive.” Wellems also believes the primary role of the board is to “establish a vision” and “enact measures that reflect the consensus of the board, community, and district staff that ensures all of the district’s students receive the best possible education.”
One of BBP’s strengths, according to Wellems, is its relatively small size. The district has about 2,200 students in grades K-12. Wellems also applauded the administration’s efforts to enhance security. “I would like to see continued emphasis in the emotional support of our students as well,” he said, adding his view that Family Wellness Nights and other programs have had a positive impact on the district.
When asked about Common Core, Wellems said, “I firmly believe that if an assessment is going to be utilized, it cannot be used to merely sort students or criticize and ‘benchmark’ educators. The school district must practice assessments for learning [that] allows assessments of students’ comprehension of a skill or unit in real time.”
Wellems said this provides educators the ability to identify at-risk students early, adjust instruction for each student’s needs, and provide continuous monitoring of students’ performance and progression. “It is clear from BBP’s 80 percent opt-out rate (with another 7.5 percent waving the test) in grades 3-8, that Common Core is viewed solely as a benchmarking exercise and not one that is providing the needed educational benefit,” he added.
In regards to the type of relationship he feels the board should have with parents and guardians, Wellems said the board must solicit feedback and understand the concerns of parents, as they are the ones advocating for the best environment possible for students. “The board must form partnerships with local groups, including SEED, civic organizations and the Bayport-Blue Point Library,” he said. “These organizations can provide benefits to our students, which may not be otherwise available at a school district level.”
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