Erica Murphy, 38, of Manorville, is seeking her first term on the board. She has been a district resident for 14 years and is the mother of two children who attend kindergarten and 3rd grade at Riley Avenue Elementary School. She has a master of business administration degree in accounting and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from St Joseph’s College. She currently works as a senior staff accountant at Garritano CPAs CFOs in Islandia. She is retired from a 20-year career in the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard, where she worked in several roles, including aviation resource management.

Why are you seeking election for the Board of Education?

I chose to run for the school board because I felt the higher calling to serve this community by advocating for the children of this district with the hopes to provide opportunities that will allow them to succeed and achieve their goals. I feel that my background with interpreting and developing policy along with my skills in accounting and tax, I would be an asset to the board and community. I started my service to my community when I joined the Air Force while a senior at Riverhead High School and completed a 20-year career serving both New York State and my country. I feel I can bring my dedication and experiences to the Riverhead Board of Education to continue moving this district forward and be a voice for our children and the educators of the district.

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

Three important issues I seek to work on as a member of the board are:

Budget: This district has unfortunately seen the effects of a contingency budget when it failed several years ago and we do not want this to happen again. The board can support the district with the budget by ensuring that a solid and transparent budget is presented to the residents that makes sense. Taxpayers especially today are concerned with state of the economy and the continually rising costs of living so when they show up to vote, we want them to feel confident that the monies being levied are fiscally responsible and are going to be utilized in an effective manner both benefiting the students and supporting the teachers.

Security: Especially in light of recent events in our community, the board can work with local law enforcement agencies to update and maintain all the security plans we currently have to ensure they address the current safety concerns. The board is currently working with Riverhead Police Department to get a SRO in our schools which I believe will be a move in the right direction to ease concerns of parents, staff and students. This issue also incorporates the budget, ensuring we are funding necessary staff and equipment in place to ease the minds of the staff and students when they walk into the building every day.

Transportation Routes – From personal experience, the staffing and transportation of students during the school day has been a challenging experience for the students, parents and drivers. I feel the board should take a closer look at routes that have students at the elementary level on the bus sometimes from 45 minutes to an hour on both ends of the school day. Drivers are doing their best to be timely with their routes battling kids struggling on long rides, local traffic and weather conditions. The board should look to make sure routes make sense and there are enough buses per school.

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

An area I would like to see improve is a larger community presence at meetings and events. I think there is a gap or break down that prevents residents from becoming more involved with their schools or that their voices are not being heard. I have seen this at the PTA level where there are not enough volunteers at the school events. Our community is a vital tool and heart of our schools. I would love to see more people coming to meetings, working together on issues and working with the board to develop changes within the district.

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?

At this time, there are no specific district policies that I feel need to be immediately changed. I do, on the other hand, think that the board and district administration should continually review policies to ensure they are updated to comply with the current governing regulations and laws. The board should also be reviewing policies to ensure they are effective and relevant to every day like in the schools incorporating updated resources and technology being utilized by students and staff.

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 do favor the district asking voters to approve capital construction expenditures to increase classroom capacity in the high school because I feel it gives the residents an opportunity to contribute to the district and have a voice in the taxes they contribute. The hope is that if they can have a direct say in how the funds are utilized then they are more likely to approve the budget year over year. Capital improvements are definitely needed for all of the facilities in the district and I know the Board has been working hard to strategically put these improvements in motion. I hope to continue this work if I am elected to a position on the board.

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?

I feel that from both my military and accounting/tax background, I bring a lot of valuable skills and insights to the board. Through my Air Force training, we were instilled with three core values that I also consider pillars of my character: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. I believe that through my professional and supervisory experiences with the military, I bring an ability to assess situations, interpret policy and provide solutions. If I am elected, I will work hard every single day to coordinate and work with members of the board and district to make sound decisions resulting in effective results. I will utilize my vast accounting and taxation knowledge to ensure fiscal responsibility with budget and agenda items brought forth in front of the board. I believe I have the ability to listen to different viewpoints on a topic and make an informative decision that will be beneficial. I also have Riverhead pride that runs deep in me dating back to my days as a student in our classrooms and hope to bring to the board.

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.

At the date of these responses, I have not accepted any monetary financial contributions. I currently maintain the social media accounts used for my campaign. I also have been supported by the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, which has donated mailers, digital media resources and phone calls in support of my candidacy.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: