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Four Candidates Seek Three Northport BOE Seats

Incumbents Stephen Waldenburg and Donna McNaughton seek re-election; newcomers David Badanes and James Maloney round out the ballot.

Northport School Board President Stephen Waldenburg, Jr. and VP Donna McNaughton, who are running for reelection this May, will be joined by local attorney David Badanes and financial planner James Maloney. Kristen Gavin, who filled the remaining one year term left open by former Trustee Tim Madden's move from the district last year, is not running.

Here's a look at the four candidates, in the order in which they will appear on the ballot:

Donna McNaughton, who has already served one three-year term,  has attended BOE meetings since 2004 and attends BOCES meetings as well. She spends an average of three nights a week on in-district Board business but also has attended budget meetings in Commack, Kings Park, Elwood and Harborfields to "get the perspective on what other districts are doing."

McNaughton is most proud of the work the Board has done on the budget during her tenure. "I'm proud that we were at two percent before the law required it," she said. As for the struggle this year to reach a compromise at a 1.68 percent levy, McNaughton said she was proud that concessions were made, adding that she has "complete respect" for Trustee Joe Sabia who cast the dissenting vote. "The bigger issue is that people need to vote."

Her one regret is the lack of a contract with the teachers' union. "I think we"ll get there. It will take time but I don't think it's for lack of effort on either side."

Unfunded mandates continue to be a source of concern. Asked for some possible solutions, McNaughton said she'd like to see the state's recent relaxation on the "one seat on the bus for every child" law given a bit more teeth so that districts could take polls on how many children actually require busing, just as they conduct free lunch surveys.

Stephen Waldenburg, Jr. has served on the Board since 2000. A lifelong resident of Northport, he still volunteers with the Boy Scouts and plays the trombone for the Northport Community Band.

Waldenburg thinks the 1.68 percent is very reasonable. "Northport is like the poster child for the two percent tax cap. We've been doing it for four years in a row." As for lowering the rate any further, Waldenburg thought that was a bad idea, noting that if the District takes more money than it ends up needing, that can be considered misappropriation of funds. "We're trying to predict what's going to happen by the end of 2013. That's tough."

Like other Board members, he is concerned about contract negotiations and says he's attended the last several small meetings involving the union head and attorney as well as district councel and McDermott to try and "help get something started."

One of the biggest challenges that Waldenburg sees is resolving the APPR issues and meeting new testing requirements. "I don't want teachers to be stifled by the structure of some of these tests. That's a big challenge." He'd love to be able to focus more on what he calls "pure education" of students. "I think that's the real reason for the Board -- to make sure that's happening."

David Badanes is a 15-year resident of Northport with two school-aged children. He has attended four-five BOE meetings this year and is currently a Director on the Northport Chamber of Commerce. Badanes is also an assistant softball coach and has volunteered at several of the events held at Norwood Avenue Elementary School.

His biggest concerns are the lack of a teachers' contract and what he says is padding of the budget as a result. "It would be a lot better if they knew how much they had to pay teachers."

The proposed development at  is also worrisome. "If that comes to fruition, there will probably be a large influx of students." Badanes also cites National Grid and improvements to buildings and grounds as issues that need to be addressed.

As for the 1.68 percent levy, Badanes said he felt he never heard the "zero percenters" come up with any plans. "I never heard specifics which I don't like." He has a meeting scheduled with McDermott and Assistant Superintendent for Business Kathleen Molander next week to delve further into the issues of reserves and expenditures.

Badanes added that he'd like to see the length of the Board meetings shortened. "To have these meetings go until 1 a.m. is just crazy."

James Maloney has been a Northport resident for the past 5 and a half years. He has three school-aged children and has been to nine Board meetings since the start of the school year. He's a soccer coach and volunteers at several school events.

Asked about the 1.68 percent tax levy, Maloney thought it could have been lower. "I felt we could have been a bit tighter," he said, adding that could have been achieved through more use of reserves and more reductions in expenditures.

"The district is required to to spend 96-97 percent of a budget each year. We're not even close."

Currently a financial planner, Maloney has worked in the financial world for the past 17 years and says he's not a numbers cruncher but a problem-solver. "People come to me for solutions. Let's look for a solution that works for everybody."

His biggest concerns: settling the teachers contract quickly, LIPA's tax grievance, and the state of the district's buildings. "Not enough money is being spent on the buildings."

Maloney also noted that it seemed to him that there's a need for more training when new members join the Board. He also thought the budget needs to be made more clear to residents.

Residents will vote on the budget and trustees on Tuesday, May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

Phil M Sr April 21, 2012 at 11:52 AM
We need more of Joe Sabia's type on the board. No educators or their spouses should be allowed to run for seats!
Concerned Citizen April 21, 2012 at 03:08 PM
"No educators or their spouses should be allowed to run for seats!" - Be ALLOWED to run? I would not vote for a union advocate, but this is a democracy.
Concerned Citizen April 21, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Waldenburg: "...A poster child of the tax cap." How about a poster child of building a warchest of taxpayers dollars over years by over budgeting and underspending, and then patting yourself on the back for increases below the average district on LI... Mr. Waldenbug probably ran a Three-Card-Monty operation in his youth. But you're right Mr. Waldenburg, NEN School District is a classic example of why the Governor proposed the tax cap... Schools that took money from taxpayers unnecessarily and built above-the-average, huge reserves.
Dad of Three April 21, 2012 at 04:01 PM
When a resident of a different but nearby district, I remember the former long-time superintendent being hailed by some former trustees as someone who knew where to hide the bucks so that they could be pulled out later to "keep down tax increases" when times got tough. That is a scheme, plain & simple, and it is the kind of action that the SEC & the Financial Accounting Standards Board heavily criticized with some companies "managing" their results so that it would appear better to shareholders and the market. I don't mind (though I might not necessarily vote for it, unless such action was justified) if a board of education and school district had been honest enough with their voters, the taxpayers, to say "we feel it would be prudent to set aside "x" this year as we are anticipating negative consequences from action by the State Legislature", & asked the voters to approve such amount over and above what was actually needed for the following year. But, let's face it, It doesn't look like any district that had massive reserves, like Northport, did that. So, it was a shell game, or, as Mr. Citizen implied, a Thee Card Monte scheme. Aside from that, from witnessing him in action, as well as his two predecessors, Mr. Waldenburg is a terrific improvement over either Arlene Munson or Warren Arthur, and he is much more respectful of alternative views from the audience. I feel that he does merit our support with the above caveat regarding honesty with the voters.

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