Riverhead Board of Education candidates Matthew Wallace, left, Andrew Nadeau and Laurie Downs.

There are three candidates running for two open seats on the Riverhead Board of Education this year.

Incumbents Laurie Downs of Riverhead and Matthew Wallace of Calverton are seeking re-election. Andrew Nadeau of Calverton is running for the first time.

All three candidates answered the same eight questions posed by RiverheadLOCAL about the school district and what they would do if elected.

There are seven elected trustees on the board of education, the agency authorized by state law to set educational policy for the district. Each member is elected to a three-year term. It is a volunteer position; board members receive no salary or other financial compensation.

Following, in alphabetical order, are brief biographies for each candidate and their answers, unedited, to RiverheadLOCAL’s questions. The candidates were asked to keep their answers to each question at 200 words or less.

[ Jump to Downs Jump to NadeauJump to Wallace]

The election takes place tomorrow, May 17. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the district’s four elementary school buildings. Residents of the school district for at least 30 days prior to May 17, who are registered with the Suffolk County Board of Elections are eligible to vote. Voters will cast ballots at the elementary school that a child living in their home would attend.  Find your polling place here.

On the ballot tomorrow is the school district’s proposed $169.7 million operating budget for the upcoming school year, which requires a 1% tax levy increase, and an authorization to spend up to $56,000 in cafeteria capital reserve funds to cafeteria equipment for three school buildings. Expenditure of cafeteria capital reserve funds has no impact on the tax levy. [See separate story for budget details.]

Laurie Downs

Laurie Downs, 66, is the current president of the board of education and is running for her third term as a trustee. Board members elected her president of the board the last two school years. Before joining the board, Downs filmed board meetings for broadcast on cable and reported on board activities for the WRIV “Dawn Patrol” radio show. She has two adult children who went through the district and is a former PTO president.

1) Why are you seeking election to the Board of Education

I’m running because the students have lost a lot because of the Pandemic. The mandate for masks is gone and behind us. It’s Education time. Get back on track. We have a new Superintendent that’s on the right track, I’d like to continue to support him. Straighten things out. Our students need us more than ever before.

2) If elected, what will be your top three goals as a board member?

1- aligning unaligned programs from grade to grade, building to building.

2- Accountability – Everyone from top to bottom and everyone in between. That also includes students. In a school, everyone has a job. Do your job, do it to the best of your ability. 

3- Graduation Rate- We need to focus on why certain groups just aren’t making it. The administration needs to look closely. Using our diversity as an excuse doesn’t cut it anymore. The district must dive in headfirst and correct the problem.

3) What needs the most improvement in Riverhead schools? How would you work as a board member to improve it?

Transparency is something that has started to improve and something I have and will continue to work on. As a Board member this is very difficult, we have numerous laws, rules, and policies that the State has put in that hold us back from reporting or speaking on or about certain things or people. This is extremely frustrating not only to the public but also to a board member. Remember, I was outside at that podium myself for 16 years asking the same questions that I get asked. I have to just keep working to find that fine line.

4) Do you think there is a district policy that should change? If so, what is it, why should it be changed, and how would you work on the board to change it?

I’ve been on the policy committee for 6 years. We continually look at our policies and update or change certain parts of them. It’s a very tedious and long process.

When changes are made they are put on the agenda for everyone to read.The Board as a whole and the public can comment and make suggestions.

The policy for this process is that they must have 3 readings before they are voted on and accepted or it’s back to the drawing board.

5) The COVID-19 virus is still a potential threat to the health of students and staff in the district. If COVID-19 cases rise in the school district’s area and New York State does not take action, would you support instituting temporary precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus? Why or why not? If you would support precautions, which would you favor?

I would like to keep the procedure we now have, It’s up to the individual to wear a mask or not. Precautions?? It would depend on what it is, but I wouldn’t support virtual learning again.

6) Do you favor the district asking voters to approve a capital construction plan to increase classroom capacity in the high school? If not, how should the district deal with overcrowded classrooms?

We need help from the community, however, we all know the four letter word “Bond.” As a school district, we have nothing to do with the influx of student enrollment. We all know districts can’t turn a child away, but we could use help from our Town. One way would be, to hold out on the build-out of housing for a while. The IDA could stop with PILOT payments and make us a special district where we could get 100% of what should be coming to us. These monies can be put into Capital projects. With that money and a little help from taxpayers, we can get additions added.

7) What skills or abilities would you bring to the school board and how would you put these to work to improve how the board functions?

With 20 plus years involved with the district, 16 years at the podium, and 6 years on the board, I bring Knowledge and history of the board’s prior accomplishments and failures.

I’ve also made relationships within the district inside and out. To make improvements of the Board, well I advocate that board members must speak. Voice their truth, their concerns.

The board members will not always be on the same page on some issues. When the board is split it only proves they represent the community fully because the community will also be split on those same issues.

8) Have you accepted contributions, either financial or in-kind (such as accepting the donation of literature, signs, phone bank staffing, social media services, advertising, etc.) from any source? If so please identify source, type and amount.

I am proud to have the support of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, which has donated lawn signs and made phone calls in support of my candidacy. [Back to top of page]

Andrew Nadeau

Andrew Nadeau, 32, is a 2007 Riverhead High School graduate and this is his first time running for the board of education. Nadeau is an independent duty corpsman in the U.S. Navy who is currently being discharged for refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine. He has three young children who are not yet of school age.

1) Why are you seeking election for the Board of Education?

I am a father of 3 and my oldest is entering kindergarten next year. As a medical provider at a Military Academy during the pandemic, I’ve seen the effects of a bureaucracy run amok. I believe that many of the governments recommendations/mandates during the pandemic are counterproductive and, in many cases, harmful. These past two years have made it clear to me that the parents in the school district do not have a say in their children’s health decisions. I am being discharged back to my home of record in Riverhead after over 12 years of serving as a Hospital Corpsman and I refuse to stop protecting. I believe we need to decentralize public schools and that the community’s needs would be best met if the Town of Riverhead had more of a say in the educational process and New York State had less.

2) If elected, what will be your top three goals as a board member?

To protect students, teachers and staff from unconstitutional mandates i.e. forced masking, forced testing, forced vaccines, forced isolation/segregation.
Decentralize the school district from New York State’s central control.
Create a school system focused on the concepts of personal responsibility and liberty.

3) What needs the most improvement in Riverhead schools? How would you work as a board member to improve it?

My philosophy is that parents have the authority to determine what kind of education is best for their children. I believe the government has a monopoly on education and all school policies it produces further its monopoly. I will do everything in my power to give parents the right to decide. This is no small task. I’ve met many outstanding residents while petitioning who are fedup with the COVID cult and would prefer having a choice in whether or not to participate in its rituals. Any system that promotes, let alone mandates, harmful drugs or medical interventions, and censors its scientific opposition shouldn’t receive more of your tax dollars to continue its abuse of your community’s children. I believe that any system that willfully tramples your rights for years on end should be abolished.

4) Do you think there is a district policy that should change? If so, what is it, why should it be changed, and how would you work on the board to change it?

Students can be expelled from school for not wearing a mask under section five of the districts Code of Conduct if there is a mask mandate in effect. I would eliminate the possibility of discipline for refusal to wear masks or implement a mask mandate ban.
I find New York State’s removal of religious exemption for vaccines for public school students to be abhorrent and a grotesque violation of our rights as Americans. Riverhead CSD should be challenging this ruling which coincidentally was passed just before the declared health crisis and unprecedented vaccine propaganda we all endured.

5) The COVID-19 virus is still a potential threat to the health of students and staff in the district. If COVID-19 cases rise in the school district’s area and New York State does not take action, would you support instituting temporary precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus? Why or why not? If you would support precautions, which would you favor?

I agree that the virus is a threat. The question is, how much of threat? I believe that children are the least vulnerable population and that this panic induced health crisis is a government power grab. New York State and the school system should not be in a position to decide if students will be masked and injected with EUA government produced drugs to attend school. These decisions should be left up to the parents.

6) Do you favor the district asking voters to approve a capital construction plan to increase classroom capacity in the high school? If not, how should the district deal with overcrowded classrooms?

I believe that the free market has created comparable alternatives to our traditional method of education for a fraction of the price. And if there is no room in the budget to fund a traditional in-person education AND sports/enrichment programs simultaneously without taxing our neighbors further, it may be time to assess why educating children the way we do continues to increase in price.

While petitioning, several voters brought to my attention that a local church is enrolling waves of new students into our district that don’t reside in the district. If this were true it would pose many concerns regarding facility capacity, residency laws, allocation of funds per student, and the safety of the children enrolled.

7) What skills or abilities would you bring to the school board and how would you put these to work to improve how the board functions?

In the US Navy served with maritime and aircraft security units. I am a qualified anti-terrorism watch officer and Phoenix Raven Mission Commander. My heavy security-based background will aide in the decisions aimed at protecting students and staff.

As an Independent Duty Corpsman, I am specially trained in clinical and tactical medicine, preventative health measures, water and facility sanitation, administrative procedures, program management, and logistics/supply.

I am currently attending my last semester in the George Washington University’s Bachelor in Health Sciences Program. Health science encompasses a variety of sub-disciplines, all of which relate to the application of science to health. Topics of study include medical research and study interpretation, clinical practice, and public health management.

8) Have you accepted contributions, either financial or in-kind (such as accepting the donation of literature, signs, phone bank staffing, social media services, advertising, etc.) from any source? If so please identify source, type and amount.

I received just under $300 in donations for my campaign from individual donors for which I used to purchase yard signs. Noah Zenger, a digital designer, created my campaign art out of the goodness of his heart and I am extremely grateful. Many residents of Riverhead have reach out to me in support of my campaign and I thank you for your support. I think there are many more people who feel the way I feel. If you’re with me, I need your help. I need your ideas. More importantly, I need you to stand up and speak when something isn’t right. You’re braver than you think. WE need you to stop complying with mandates that misguide our youth. Win or lose, the fight isn’t over. I’m here to defend. Help take back our schools from Albany’s grip. Restore power to the parents. VOTE NADEAU. [Back to top of page]

Matthew Wallace

Matthew Wallace, 51, is the current vice president of the board of education and is running for his second term as a trustee. Board members elected him vice president this past year. Wallace is a licensed practical nurse at Northwell Family Health in Riverhead. He is also an EMT and volunteer firefighter in the Wading River Fire Department, where he previously served as captain. He also serves as a commissioner of the Wading River Fire District. He has four children — two who attend Riverhead High School and two who are graduates of the district. 

1) Why are you seeking election for the Board of Education?

I am running for the Riverhead Board of Education to continue being a voice for the students, to continue with committees I have been involved in and to continue to work with the new superintendent to better Riverhead District. As a board member for the past three years I was a part of the search for our new superintendent, I have been involved in the facilities committee where I worked on the capital project and worked to make updates that are desperately needed within the schools happen, ie. updating the restrooms and security, as well as addressed the  ongoing issue of overcrowding through restructuring. 

2) If elected, what will be your top three goals as a board member?

Work with the budgets proposed so that the community is satisfied yet the schools are able to meet the needs of the students to have the budget accepted by the community.  The contingency budget was very difficult for the district as a whole and we need to prevent it from happening again. 

To regain student opportunity and get the students engaged meeting the students physical, mental and social needs. 

To develop a reorganization plan throughout the district to address the overcrowding within the schools

3) What needs the most improvement in Riverhead schools? How would you work as a board member to improve it?

Restructuring and working with the community, addressing students physical, social and mental needs ensuring equal opportunity for all students, and regaining the communities trust within the schools. I would suggest these areas all be addressed through committees.

4) Do you think there is a district policy that should change? If so, what is it, why should it be changed, and how would you work on the board to change it?

No

5) The COVID-19 virus is still a potential threat to the health of students and staff in the district. If COVID-19 cases rise in the school district’s area and New York State does not take action, would you support instituting temporary precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus? Why or why not? If you would support precautions, which would you favor?

First and foremost any precautions which are mandated by NY State, Riverhead School District is bound by law to follow.  Failure to follow these mandates will result in the school district being sanctioned by the state.  These sanctions include but are not limited to the loss of State Aid and the removal of Board Trustees from office.  There are a number of variables to consider for the Board of Education to consider the implementation of COVID-19 precautions without State intervention.  Suggesting what temporary precautions to take in the absence of having information on all these contributing factors would be mere speculation. 

6) Do you favor the district asking voters to approve a capital construction plan to increase classroom capacity in the high school? If not, how should the district deal with overcrowded classrooms?

I am in favor of the proposal of a new bond for needed classroom space, However, I believe that reorganization needs to be addressed first. The facilities committee was able to come up with 8 additional classrooms at the high school. 

7) What skills or abilities would you bring to the school board and how would you put these to work to improve how the board functions?

My Experiences from being on the BOE for the past three years and being a fire commissioner have given me experiences with looking over procedures and rules to be sure they are carried out and followed, alleviating any investigations into wrongdoing. 

8) Have you accepted contributions, either financial or in-kind (such as accepting the donation of literature, signs, phone bank staffing, social media services, advertising, etc.) from any source? If so please identify source, type and amount.

I am proud to have the support of the RIverhead Central Faculty Association, which has donated lawn signs and made phone calls in support of my candidacy. [Back to top of page]

Correction: The original verson of this article incorrectly stated that Matthew Wallace lives in Wading River. He lives in Calverton.

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