It’s a five-way race for three open school board seats in the Riverhead Central School District this year.
Chris Dorr of Baiting Hollow, Greg Fischer of Calverton, Greg Meyer of Calverton, Yolanda Thompson of Aquebogue and Therese Zuhoski of Riverhead are seeking election to the three positions.
Dorr and Meyer are incumbents. Incumbent Kimberly Ligon has decided to step aside at the conclusion of her current term after six years of service.
Meyer, 48, the board’s longest-tenured member, is seeking a fourth three-year term. He and his wife Louise have three adult children who all attended Riverhead public schools, Meyer is a firefighter and EMT at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. He also works in the construction industry part-time. Meyer is a lifelong Riverhead resident.
Dorr, 48, who was first elected in 2013, stood for re-election in 2016 but placed third and thus was seated to fill the unexpired term of former board member Lori Hulse, who had been elected Riverhead Town Justice in November 2015 and resigned her school board position last January when she was seated on the court. Hulse had one year left in her term, which Dorr has now served. Dorr, who works for Nassau County BOCES, has three children, including twins who attend Riverhead schools. His eldest child is a 2013 graduate of Riverhead High School. Dorr and his wife Maria have lived in Riverhead almost 20 years.
Greg Fischer, 59, has mounted three unsuccessful campaigns for a Riverhead school board seat (2014, 2015 and 2016). He has also run for state senate, Riverhead Town supervisor, councilman and assessor. He said in an interview he will run for councilman again this year if his bid for school board comes up short again. Fischer is a self-described “turnaround strategist” and business consultant with a background in computer programming and software development. Fischer grew up in New York City and moved to Calverton in 2002. He has two children in Riverhead public schools.
Yolanda Thompson, 45, is a regular at school board meetings. She has a son in the high school and a daughter in Pulaski Street School. Thompson works as a home health aide and as a special education advocate. Thompson and her husband Daniel have lived in Riverhead Town for 16 years.
Zuhoski, 49, is the mother of four sons who are all Riverhead public school students. Three are in high school and the youngest is in sixth grade. A stay-at-home parent, Zuhoski has been involved in PTO groups in the various schools her sons have attended. She is currently the president of the Pulaski, middle school and high school PTOs. She and her husband Alex have lived in Riverhead almost 15 years.
Meyer said today he is running for re-election because he enjoys serving on the school board.
“I’ve been pretty happy with the results the past nine years,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been able to give to the community and the kids of the district. I’ve been able to add some positive things,” he said.
Meyer serves on the school board’s construction committee and audit committee.
“I’ve been a strong advocate for making sure we do the upkeep. You have to maintain things,” he said. He says the district’s repair reserve funds are successful because they allow the district to be responsible for its facilities.
Fischer criticizes the repair reserve funds, citing the tax burden on residents. He says the district is on an unsustainable trajectory as far as tax rate growth is concerned. “Our town does not have the median income for it.”
Thompson said she has considered a run for a school board seat for the past few years. After attending many board meetings, she said, “it’s time to serve the community from the other side of the podium.”
Thompson says the school board has “issues of respect” and should be more respectful to community members who address them from the podium. She advocates for greater transparency and more community involvement, including student involvement, in board meetings. She also spoke of fiscal stress and said she supports the state-mandated property tax levy cap.
Zuhoski says she is running to continue and expand her record of community service in the school district.
“I have really tried to invest my time giving back to our schools and keeping a finger on the pusle of our schools. I’ve been a strong advocate and supporter of Riverhead schools and of our town,” she said.
“I’d like to bridge a gap between our community and our schools. I’m someone who brings people together,” she said. Zuhoski has a master’s degree in psychology and worked in human relations in a corporate setting before starting a family. Since then, she said, “my life has really been devoted to and focused on my kids.”
Dorr, Meyer and Zuhoski have the support of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, the union representing Riverhead teachers, RCFA president Lisa Goulding said today.
The school district election takes place this year on Tuesday, May 16. Ballot positions were determined today at random by the Riverhead Central School District clerk, who pulled names out of a jar: Dorr, Thompson, Zuhoski, Fischer, Meyer.
In addition to the school board seats, Riverhead Central School District voters will be asked to weigh in on an operating budget for the coming fiscal year, which is currently being finalized. The board is scheduled to vote to adopt a budget at tomorrow night’s school board meeting at the high school. A public hearing will be held on the budget on Tuesday, May 9 at the high school.
Correction: The story as originally published incorrectly stated that Greg Meyer is the vice president of the board of education. He is a former vice president. Amelia Lantz is the current vice president.