LAKE RONKONKOMA, NY (OnSachem.com / OnTownMedia.com) — Eight Sachem residents are running for three open seats on the school board. OnSachem invited all eight candidates to participate in a profile. In the following profile, OnSachem introduces readers to James Mancaruso.
Mancaruso is presently a member of the school board and running for reelection. If Mancaruso is reelected, he will be among nine members of the board. The Sachem Central School District is the second-largest suburban school district in New York State with an enrollment of approximately 13,500 students. There are 10 elementary schools, three middle schools, and two 9-12 high schools. The June 9 election will be held by absentee ballot this year because of the pandemic.
Bond Trader. 30 years of Financial Services, 10 years of Municipal Bond Credit Analysis, 20 years of Banking and Trading
Do you have children? Do they attend Sachem presently, or did they graduate from Sachem?
I have two children who both attend Sagamore Middle School in 6th and 8th grade.
University of Massachusetts, BA in Economics, 1991
Registered Representative Series 7 and 63 licensed in all 50 states
Organizations and activities:
Municipal Bond Club of New York
Sachem Sports Club Board member / volunteer youth football coach
26 years ago, I chose to live and raise my children within the Sachem school district because of the diversity and level of education the district provides to its community. As a resident I understand how important education is and I want what is best for our community.
I have spent nearly 30 years in the finance industry. I understand the significance of credit ratings and how it affects borrowing costs. Working through financial challenges brought on by prior economic shocks over these years has given me experience that will help in creating a budget process that emphasizes fiscal responsibility while maintaining programs and ensuring that Sachem educators and the community therein get adequate resources to allow for the best possible education for our students. Because of this current pandemic, it is inevitable that we will have state aid cuts, but with my financial background I plan to explore different possibilities where our students are not going to be continually affected.
It will take a collaborative effort among all stakeholders to get through these challenges. We must work diligently to create curriculum needs for all students. I am a strong advocate for all special education programs, extracurricular activities, and sports. I believe in educating the whole child. Having a sound, proactive approach to these potential devastating state aid reductions will help Sachem navigate through these challenging times.
Two very important challenges that we are immediately facing are finding a Superintendent and navigating what a new normal in education is going to look like because of this pandemic. We need a Superintendent who is strong enough to work through these demands to do what is best for our students and the teachers educating them. Further, we need to explore what we can do as community members, parents, and educators to make this a smooth and safe transition back into the classroom for our children. We need to refine our plan in the event we must ever fall back on online learning such as coming up with a common platform that is easily accessible across the board for our students where learning can be achieved. I support our teachers and would like them to get the proper training in distance learning methods so they can continue to be as strong in the online world as they are in front of the classroom. I plan to work collaboratively with administrators and teachers to help be the voice that bridges our community and district needs for the betterment of our students.
OnSachem asked readers to share questions they would like the candidates to address.
What attributes are you seeking for the new Superintendent for Sachem?
I would seek a Superintendent who truly wants to invest in Sachem. This community has a long, rich history. We need someone who will stay involved and respect traditions and keep them alive. An individual who is a problem solver, allowing input from all stakeholders. In my 30 years on Wall Street the most successful leaders develop by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. With the difficult financial challenges ahead caused by Covid-19, we need a leader that understands the potential devastating cuts Sachem could be headed for, and is able to consider making tough decisions that will have as little impact on our children's education as possible.
What ideas do you have to advance Sachem academically?
We need to revolutionize our system built on old structures and ideology. Integrating technology into the classroom is an effective way to connect with students of all learning styles. It gives students the opportunity to enhance interaction with their classmates and teachers by encouraging collaboration. We must make sure all students have tablets or Chromebooks and our staff have the technological support to enhance these educational opportunities. Sachem lags far behind when it comes to integrating technology into classroom learning. Properly used technology can assist students to acquire the skills they need to thrive in the complex, highly technological knowledge-based economy.
How would you approach the pandemic’s impact on schools, ranging from education to facility cleanliness?
Should we be forced back to distant learning in the fall we must have a comprehensive plan in place that addresses the issues associated with distant learning. Our teachers and students need the technology and support from administration to provide ways to increase face to face interaction and more personalized instruction. Every student must have Chromebooks or tablets and technological support to help our teachers provide instruction. We need a comprehensive plan for our maintenance and custodial staff to keep our schools safe and clean. This plan needs to include input from all our stakeholders, county health officials, teachers, administrators, as well as the community. A plan that works specifically for Sachem, understanding the challenges that come along with its size.
With the economy in financial crisis and the potential for state aid to be reduced for Sachem, how would you approach identifying and implementing cuts or reduced services?
All cuts have a negative impact on our students, the reality is how do we minimize the effects. The students' education must always come first. We need to lobby Albany, even in the worst financial situation education and opportunity must be preserved, not allowing political leaders to make students feel any impact of political games. All non-essential items that have the least impact on Sachem educational opportunity must be explored, including cutting administrative costs, and other non-essentials, with the least impact on our students.
What experience do you have with collective bargaining and negotiating legacy and long-term contracts?
I have extensive experience negotiating long and short-term contracts as the principle and head trader of my municipal bond group. The last 10 years I supervised the fixed income department and headed negotiations on their behalf. A collaborative effort is always the key to successful negotiations including all stakeholders and having open and transparent dialogue.
Have you attended a board meeting in-person during the past year (prior to the meetings moving virtually during the pandemic)?
I have served as a Sachem Board Trustee for over a year, in that time I missed one meeting due to a personal conflict.
Have you served on any Sachem Board of Education committees in the past year? If yes, which ones and in what capacities?
I served on the Budget Advisory Committee, unfortunately due to Coronavirus we have not met in a considerable time.
Have you been involved in the district or community recently? Explain.