UPDATE: SATURDAY, MAY 13, 3:40 P.M.:
This story has been updated to reflect responses completed by Julia Pendola, who is running uncontested.
Elizabeth Cavuto vs. Adrienne Cirone, for trustee
Julia Pendola (uncontested), for trustee
Cavuto has lived in Bayport for almost 11 years and has two children in the district (one in middle school and one in elementary school). She grew up in Stony Brook and graduated from Ward Melville High School. She studied occupational therapy at the University of Scranton and received her master’s from SUNY Stony Brook. She has also been a pediatric occupational therapist working in educational settings for over 20 years, currently working with students who have autism.
Cirone is a proud Bayport resident for 23 years. She lives with her husband, Al Cirone, and two children, Logan (15) and Anastsia (11). She is a consistent supporter of the BBP School District and the community. Cirone has served as PTA Council co-president, Sylvan Ave PTA board member, committee chairperson, and district volunteer of many programs and activities for the last 10 years. As a dedicated special educator for 18 years and current school district administrator for six years, Cirone has devoted her entire life to public education. Her main focus is approaching issues collaboratively with open communication, well-thought decisions, and proactive solutions for the best student outcomes.
Pendola is currently running for a seat as a trustee on the Bayport-Blue Point Board of Education. She said she is a very proud Bayport-Blue Point alumna eager to help make a difference in the schools. She said she wants to ensure the school district continues on the trajectory in order to provide future generations the same opportunities if not more than she experienced.
“I have been lucky enough to live in Bayport-Blue Point for 21 years and see how our small towns have grown and flourished,” she added. “While I do not have any children, I am recently engaged and plan to raise my own family in Bayport-Blue Point.”
She has been a teacher for the past four years ever since graduating from Salisbury University.
“I recognize the accomplishments that the Bayport-Blue Point School District has made and I hope to continue to enhance the experience of the students who attend our schools every day,” she said. "I have been a teacher for the past four years, graduating proudly from Salisbury University. I recognize the accomplishments that the Bayport-Blue Point District has made and I hope to continue to enhance the experiences of the students who attend our schools every day.
Q&A with the candidates
QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY CONSTITUENTS
Q: Do you support grade clustering (i.e. The Princeton Plan) in BBP?
CIRONE: In sustaining a dropping enrollment at Bayport- Blue Point and offering equitable class sizes, grade clustering is one viable option in keeping buildings open, offering concentrated programming and maintaining district positions.
PENDOLA: Over the years, the Princeton Plan or grade clustering has been discussed at multiple meetings. It is very clear to me that the community would prefer our district stay as is and not move in this direction. For those reasons, I would prefer to continue with our three elementary schools as is.
Q: Would you advocate for adding lights to the football and LAX field as a trustee?
CAVUTO: No, I currently do not feel this would be an appropriate use of our district’s funds. I believe that our priority at this time should be getting students back in school and working to improve any gaps in academic and social-emotional growth that may have been caused by the school closures in 2020-2021.
CIRONE: Adding lights to the football and lacrosse fields are a safety measure for students while they are playing sporting events or attending activities at dusk. Lighting would increase community involvement and allow more groups to use the facilities. Adding lights to these fields would also mean responsible scheduling and consideration for the neighboring residents.
PENDOLA: Lights on the field would enhance our athletic program along with providing additional opportunities for our students and community to utilize the fields. If we were able to provide this opportunity to our students and community without jeopardizing programs or staffing, I would be in favor of this.
Q: Would you advocate for expanded busing services in BBP as a trustee?
CAVUTO: Yes. I believe this would greatly benefit our community by helping working parents and decreasing traffic for all of our residents.
CIRONE: I’m an advocate for providing needed services for students and families. Flexibility with routing may be necessary to fill the seats on current buses.
PENDOLA: I think expanding bussing is a great idea, especially since growing up I didn’t qualify for the bus. It would have been extremely helpful for my family if this were in place for me and my community members. It would be great to provide this additional service to our community members.
Q: Do you support bringing back overnight field trips once COVID restrictions are lifted?
CAVUTO: Yes. These experiences and traditions are important to our students.
CIRONE: Field trips are a wonderful way for students to experience learning beyond the classroom. When the CDC and state guideline restrictions are lifted, students and teachers should look forward to expanded learning opportunities.
PENDOLA: Field trips for our students are an extension of the classroom. Our students deserve opportunities outside the classroom to enhance the curriculum. I would be in favor of bringing back overnight field trips once it is safe for all.
Q: What specific school or district activities in BBP have you been involved in and how has that prepared you for serving on the BBP Board of Education?
CAVUTO: I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to be class parent for both of my children in various grades. I have served as Academy Street Elementary’s co-chairperson for the PTA Hospitality Committee and 5th Grade Committee. In addition, I have volunteered for various PTA events whenever possible, including the book fair and holiday boutique. Participating in these activities has provided me with experience in collaborating and working with school staff and other parents, organizing large events, and managing various budgets.
CIRONE: Over a 10-year span, I have been engaged in the school district serving as PTA Council co-president, serving on the PTA Executive Board at Sylvan Avenue Elementary School, created partnerships with the Great South Bay Drug Coalition, designated liaison for SEPTA, committee event chairperson for the fifth grade two times, committee chairperson for the Sylvan’s Got Talent Show for six years, committee chairperson for the Nominating Committee at Sylvan and an enthusiastic volunteer for varied events. I have taken NYS PTA workshops and participated in local NYS PTA legislative meetings. I have supported, volunteered, and attended meetings for SEA-BBS- Society Encouraging the Arts in Bayport-Blue Point every year and volunteered for the Senior Citizen Dinner Theatre and Safe Halloween events. I’ve been a member of and supported SEED- Bayport-Blue Point Student Educational Enrichment and Development Foundation. These roles have prepared me to deeply understand the many facets and interests of the school district. As a result, I have forged relationships with likeminded community members in honor of our students.
PENDOLA: As a proud alumnus, my passion is education. From my educational experiences, I am prepared to work as a team player with my fellow trustees in order to improve our district. I want to give back to my community and volunteer my time in the field I am passionate about – a field that I will have a long career in, serving students.
Q: (From the Town of Islip NAACP) How do you define critical race theory? How do you feel critical race theory relates to school BBP policy and curriculum?
CAVUTO: Critical race theory is difficult to define as it can mean many different things to many different people. Generally, I believe it is a theory that racism exists in our society. I feel that Bayport-Blue Point’s policy and curriculum should foster an environment of inclusion, acceptance and empathy. A few ways this may be done would be to expose our students to diverse viewpoints and opinions, teach about different cultures, and offer various clubs to improve understanding of different groups.
CIRONE: Critical race theory is a framework that has been around since the 1970s which examines how policies may perpetuate systemic racism.
Bayport-Blue Point is moving forward with the work in CARE - Cultural Advocacy Respect and Empowerment Committee, which is aligned to the district goals. The mission statement reveals the commitment to championing diversity, empowering individuals, and strengthening community through empathy and inclusion. The goal to elevate marginalized voices and foster an informed, inclusive, and empowered BBP community is a direct correlation to New York State’s Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework expressing that all school districts develop policies that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for all.
PENDOLA: I believe all students should leave Bayport-Blue Point schools with a thorough understanding of multiple cultures and appreciation of those in our community. When we choose to support our community members, we strengthen as a whole.
Q: (From the Town of Islip NAACP) The 2019 Hofstra study on teacher diversity on LI’s public schools indicated that our teacher workforce on Long Island does not reflect the diversity of Long Island’s student body. What do you feel is the role of the board of education in fair hiring practices? Do you have a strategy to recruit and retain teachers and administrators of color?
CAVUTO: I believe that fair hiring practices should be based on a candidate’s qualifications and merit, irrespective of race, ethnicity or gender. BBP should aim to recruit and retain the most qualified candidates for all open positions. Strategies such as offering strong mentor programs for new employees, advertising for open positions in diverse communities, and collaborating with various institutes of higher learning from different geographic areas may help to attract a more diverse work force.
CIRONE: Collectively, the board of education has a role in fair hiring practices as they set policies for the hiring process, approve positions, and then budget for the salaries and benefits. District administrators and staff follow steps in the hiring process and interview to select a candidate that best meets the district’s goals and shared vision for the highest student performance.
There are many strategies to recruit and retain teachers and administrators of color. The most important strategy is to ensure that DEI – diversity, equity, and inclusivity – is a goal that is communicated and committed to. Anti-bias training may be needed for interview committees to be successful in retaining viable candidates of color. In addition, the district may need to expand outreach opportunities with universities and colleges in searching for candidates.
PENDOLA: Declined to answer.
SPECIFIC CANDIDATE QUESTIONS
Trustee Candidate Julia Pendola is publicly listed as a sixth-grade teacher at Bridgehampton School District where current Bayport-Blue Point Board of Education president, Michael Miller, is a principal.
Pendola was asked the following questions regarding her current employment and declined to comment:
•Are you currently untenured in your position as a 6th grade teacher at Bridgehampton school district?
•Is Principal Michael Miller (also BBP Board of Education President) a direct or indirect supervisor of yours? (E.g. does he observe your classroom performance, make any evaluations of your work product, have the ability to bring disciplinary charges against you, make recommendations for promotion?)
•What effect do you feel your work relationship with President Miller will have on your ability to vote independently?
•How will you ensure that his position over yours at Bridgehampton school district will not influence you as a Board trustee?
Bayport-Blue Point School District gave the following statement regarding Pendola’s candidacy:
“We have asked council to review the applicable law and have not been made aware of any information which would preclude any of the candidates from being eligible to run for a BOE seat.
Please understand, the district does not disclose any information regarding the Board of Education candidates and, in respect for their personal privacy, does not comment on their employment status. The Board members are volunteers and any personal information beyond what is legally required to enter the race is at their discretion to share publicly.”
President Michael Miller was also asked his opinion of any possible influence his position as principal at Bridgehampton School District, where Pendola is a sixth-grade teacher, might have on her neutrality and ability to vote independently as a trustee.
Miller reiterated the statement previously released by the school district on this matter.
Elizabeth Cavuto (only) was asked the following questions by the community in regards to a promotional candidacy flyer she circulated on social media:
Q: Can you provide detail on what a "traditional and fundamental"-based curriculum entails? What part of the current BBP curricula do you feel meets or does not meet the threshold for "traditional and fundamental?"
CAVUTO: As someone who has worked in schools for over 20 years, I believe it is imperative to focus on building a strong foundation in core subject areas (math, English, science, history). Common Core has forced teachers to focus on “teaching to the test” rather than allowing them to reach their students in creative, often more effective, ways. While technology is extremely important, I believe students should continue to use paper/pencil, learn handwriting/cursive, read physical books, etc. I believe that recess and physical education are essential to students’ success. As a BOE trustee, I would advocate for focusing on fundamental skills and this type of “traditional” approach to education.
Q: Are there specific fiscal policies the BOE has currently enacted that are not “sensible and conservative?” How would you go about undoing such fiscal policies?
CAVUTO: If elected, I would advocate for sensible and conservative fiscal policies to ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent in the most efficient way possible.