Tuckahoe BOE race contested

By CHRIS EBERHART

The Tuckahoe Board of Education election will be a four-person race competing for two seats.

The upcoming 2014-2015 school year will mark the end of Jim Lombardi and Michelle Liscio’s terms leaving two vacant seats on the Board of Education.

TuckBOELombardi and Liscio have announced they will run for re-election alongside challengers Lenny Carraturo and Stephen Pagnotta.

The top two vote-getters will earn seats on next year’s board and serve a three-year term.

Although the budget was an overriding theme of the Review’s interviews with the candidates, there remains a disparity among the four candidates, each with a different priority and reason for running.

Lombardi, who is married with a son in the seventh grade, founded Level Next Consulting, a technology consulting firm based in New York, and brought his 20-plus years of experience in technology to the Tuckahoe school district. He said he set a goal before he was elected to his first term three years ago to create a more challenging curriculum and to “integrate technology into everyday life [inside the Tuckahoe school district].”

Lombardi said he did just that when he founded the technology committee in 2011, which he said was “the driving force responsible for the implementation of the district-wide wireless network” that provides internet access for students.

“As a technologist, I recognize the transformational nature of integrating technology in our students educational experience and providing them with the opportunity to become ‘always-connected’ learners,” Lombardi said.

As far as curriculum goes, Lombardi said he wants to incorporate the STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—program into the curriculum, which was included by the Eastchester school district for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year.

Lombardi also expressed his support for the current administration and said the school is on the right track.

“One of the most significant and long lasting decisions that a school board trustee can make is hiring the right leader, and I believe that we have made an excellent choice in hiring Dr. Barbara Nuzzi,” Lombardi said. “With her, and a significant overhaul in the staff these past three years, the district has a new sense of direction and purpose that can be felt with injection of new blood into the system.”

Lombardi’s support was echoed by fellow incumbent Liscio, who disagreed with the teachers union’s recent assertions during budget season that the school was “top-heavy” with administration.

“We need the leadership we have in place. We need the leadership and the structure to get us to where we want to go,” Liscio said.

Liscio, who works in the courts department in Eastchester, is married with three children in the Tuckahoe school district. She said she likes the direction the district is heading.

“The school is moving in a positive direction. There are a lot of good things happening,” Liscio, 48, said. “In two short years, we’ve taken our district from the stone ages in terms of technology to having an electronic device in each student’s hands [with the acquisition of 700 Chromebooks]. We’ve hired two superintendents and completed a needs assessment and [five-year] strategic plan.”

Moving forward, Liscio said her diligence and meticulous research before each school board vote and dedication to the budget, and to following the five-year strategic plan, will help the board for the next three years.

“I’m very hardworking and dedicated. I won’t make a decision without having enough information to do so, and I let the public know why I made my decision,” Liscio said. “Moving forward, we have a five-year plan that we need to stick to…We have tight financial constraints and decisions we have to watch. We need good fiscal oversight, which I think I can bring.”

Pagnotta, 44, is married with two children in the Tuckahoe school district and works as the director of operations for the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim.

Pagnotta said he’s running to give back to the school district and he said the skills he learned as the director of operations can help him do just that.

“Being part of corporate America, I learned skills—like leadership and team building, budgets and organizational marketing—and I can apply that to the Tuckahoe school district,” Pagnotta said. “It’s doing more with less, which is like corporate America. We have to figure out how to do more with less without jeopardizing our children’s ability to learn.”

If elected, Pagnotta said his first priority is “getting up to speed” with issues the board deals with but cannot be shared with the public, like teacher contracts and legal issues.

Beyond that, he said, “I want to sit down with each principal, superintendent, union head, PTA head and others to learn more about their biggest challenges and needs so that I can best serve them in helping the children.”

Pagnotta weighed in on the administration debate in favor of the current structure that’s in place.

“It’s a shame to lose any job,” Pagnotta said in reference to the elimination of a social worker that created a rift between teachers and the administration.

“You can have the best car or the best plane, but it’s not going to be able to perform without a driver,” Pagnotta said. “It’s important to have the right person in the cockpit.”

Carraturo, who is married and is the legal guardian of three children in the Tuckahoe school district, prides himself on being a dissenting voice in the “top-heavy” administration debate, and he said that’s why he’s running, to bring a different perspective to the board.

“In the past couple of years, there have been several events that have occurred, causing me to want to take a closer look at what’s going on within the school and this administration,” Carraturo, who works in corporate and investment real estate for Wells Fargo bank, said. “And when you start to take a closer look, you notice how the school has let go of teachers to hire additional administrators; how the addition of all these new administrators has forced the school to dip into the community fund to balance the budget.”

Carraturo, who’s been at odds with the school district since his nephew was allegedly suspended without due process last October, said it’s time for a different voice on the board.

“I wouldn’t be running for the board if I didn’t think that a fresh perspective was needed,” Carraturo said. “I’m the only one of these candidates that’s going to go against the administration.”

Carraturo said he believes there are too many administrators and said he wants to advocate more for the teachers, who he called “the most valuable resources.”

“The way the teachers are being treat right now is unacceptable,” Carraturo said.

A meet-the-candidates night sponsored by the PTA and League of Women Voters will be held on May 7 at 7 p.m. at Tuckahoe High School. The election will be held on May 20.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com