Virginia Healy, 61, of Wading River, is the only incumbent member of the current Board of Education seeking reelection this year, having first been elected to the board in 2020. She has been a district resident for 24 years and is the mother of eight children; the youngest two are currently a junior and a freshman at Riverhead High School. She has a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts and a certification in financial planning from Adelphi University. She is currently a homemaker. She has previously worked as a financial planner and as an educational consultant for a private school in California.
Why are you seeking election for the Board of Education?
I am currently on the school board and have gained valuable experience in the role of a trustee. I enjoy serving our community and I would like to continue advocating for the best interests of all our children. Last year, we approved a Five Year Strategic Plan, a transportation study and a technology plan. I would like to ensure that the major components of these plans are supported and seen through to fruition. I have served on the audit committee for three years and hope to continue to serve on that committee if re-elected. My flexible schedule has allowed me to serve on various committees where needed. I come prepared for the meetings and I will do the necessary reading and research.
If elected, what will be your top three goals as a board member?
Fiscally we need to prepare for the ending of the special state and federal aid for pandemic related learning loss and sustain future budgets within the tax cap and foundation aid which is now fully funded. Under the due no harm provision we will not see a decrease in our state aid but on the other hand, we will not see the large increases (aid) as we did these past three years.
We have space and security issues. Through committee work and recommendations from the Superintendent, we will address further security measures for each building as well as identify district need for space.
Support the plans we have recently adopted, such as the Strategic Five Year Plan and technology plan, so we can meet the needs of our students post pandemic and implement the objectives to increase student growth and achievement.
What needs the most improvement in Riverhead schools? How would you work as a board member to improve it?
We need to increase the graduation rate for all sub groups and decrease the dropout rate. The BOE needs to continue to support the initiatives implemented at the High school (nine period day, alternative school, Blue Waves Academy, evening school) and in our strategic plan (Thrive in Five) specifically the dual language program and expanding and strengthening the full continuum of services for the students with disabilities and the ENL students. We need to encourage better school attendance and reduce tardiness with continued outreach to our families. Most importantly, we need to commit to these programs and give them a chance to be successful. In the past, the lack of continuity in plans and programs has been problematic.
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?
Education law allows a BOE to expand its membership by one and many BOE have included a student board member. The student member will not be allowed in executive session or vote but would have a voice at the table to give their opinion on any topic being discussed, not just at the podium. This action would develop and engage our young people to be productive and engaged citizens, and foster diverse representation on the BOE. Critics may say our students are too inexperienced or immature for this role, I disagree. I think their immediate experience and understanding about our schools are invaluable and I have been continually impressed with our student representatives. If re-elected, I would ask my fellow trustees for their support. If we have consensus, we will do the research on how to implement it and update our policy. In New York, the proposal must be approved by the voters and re-approved every two years.
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 not favor asking voters to approve a capital construction plan. The community has not been supportive of additional bonding to add space. Borrowing costs are rising and we still have debt payments from prior bonds. We have been addressing overcrowding with reorganization of our spaces. We added eight classrooms at the high school by moving PPS, we have students at our North Star Academy and at the evening school. At the elementary level, additional classroom space is being created within the confines of the building. An option to explore in the future is to utilize a capital reserve fund to save for capital projects by using surplus monies from the district’s general fund. Not bonding the work keeps district debt low because we can avoid borrowing large sums of money and incurring interest costs. In 2018, the voters in our district approved a capital reserve fund for the cafeteria and that has been funding improvements in the cafeteria program. Any further development within our district should not receive school tax abatements. It is essential the district receives the funding when we need it to prepare for increased enrollment and the need for classrooms and teachers.
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 have strong planning, research and management skills and I keep current with information pertinent to education. I am organized and can handle the large amount of written information and material presented to the BOE. I enjoy working with my fellow trustees and I am proud of the collaborative work we have done this past year. It is important to listen and communicate as well as support each other even if we do not share the same perspective on an issue. That is how we reach consensus and get the work of the board accomplished.
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 have the support of the Riverhead Central Faculty Association, which has donated mailers, digital media resources and phone calls in support of my candidacy.
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