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 Jon Siegel.
If Siegel is elected, he will be among nine members of the school 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.
Do you have children? Do they attend Sachem presently, or did they graduate from Sachem?
I have 3 children who all attend Sachem, 2 of them are graduating this year and the other is in High School
Dowling College, Social Science
Organizations and activities:
My name is Jon Siegel and I am running for the Sachem Board of Education as an INDEPENDENT Candidate, I am NOT being endorsed by any Teachers Union nor allowing them to fund my campaign. I am lifelong resident of this Community, former Board trustee (2006 to 2009), Sachem graduate (class of 1986), homeowner, and parent; I also take great pride in our district and the great things we have accomplished. However, as we all know the COVID-19 Pandemic has thrown not only the Sachem Community but also the rest of our Country into a time of uncertainty. This uncertainly has not only changed our way of life and the way we educate of our children, but it has also brought potentially devastating financial impacts to our State which will inevitably trickle down to a reduction of State Aid for our district. Additionally, our District also has the monumental task of replacing our Superintendent, a position pivotal in moving our District forwards. These daunting tasks, amongst many others are going to require tough decisions be made by our Board of Education, and these decisions while difficult must be in the best interest of the Community. These decisions may have impacts on the way our District has operated previously and therefore will mandate Independence from all special interest groups or affiliations. Based upon that I feel that I am the right choice for your Vote. I will NOT let you down. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to reach me via Facebook at Jon Siegel for Sachem Board of Education.
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 feel that any individual that takes over as our Superintendent will have some very large shoes to step into as our past superintendents have done some amazing things with our District. We should be looking for a Superintendent that has a proven record of accomplishment in working with a District as diverse as Sachem. We need someone to think beyond the State’s “Standardized Testing” requirements and look at putting plans in place for educating our students in a manner that works for them. They will also need to be seasoned in ensuring that both our youngest and our Special Needs students receive the educational needs they require. I would also like this individual to have extensive experience in dealing with local politicians and our various labor unions. I also believe that we may be able to promote from within for this position.
What ideas do you have to advance Sachem academically?
I believe we need to look beyond the State's standards and focus on what is best for our students. I do not believe there is a cookie cutter type of education for every student. We have students that will be moving on to Ivy League colleges and students that will be pursuing Trade Schools and they both deserve a proper education.
How would you approach the pandemic’s impact on schools, ranging from education to facility cleanliness?
I believe this is going to be a fluid discussion, as the CDC guidelines for reopening schools contain a lot of ambiguity. I also believe that we do need to return our students to the buildings and begin exposing them to some level of normalcy. This return is not going to be without challenges and the possible reductions in specials and extracurricular activities but I also believe that this reduction may be the new “normal.”
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?
I see this as the most concerning issue in our District's upcoming goals. We need to start with what we want for our students and balance this against what we can afford as a District. I also see that before any cuts are made we, as a District will need to rally around our Elected Officials in Albany to do what is right for Sachem. However we will also need to be prepared if Albany fails us, and then we will need to look at making some tough decisions. These could include refinancing debt, requesting temporary concessions from our Collective Bargaining Units, reallocation of staffing, and under the worst-case potential reduction of services. I also understand that these words may upset some community members however anyone that is going to promise you that going into the unknown that things are going to be the same or better is merely patronizing you for your vote. Again, these tough times will require tough INDEPENDENT Board Members make these decisions.
What experience do you have with collective bargaining and negotiating legacy and long-term contracts?
During my tenure on the Board, we were able to negotiate fair and equitable multiyear Contracts with our Labor Unions, which helped the District. Additionally, I also have over 25 years of experience in negotiation Multimillion-dollar Construction Contract that I feel would assist in this area.
Have you attended a board meeting in-person during the past year (prior to the meetings moving virtually during the pandemic)?
I have not been attending in person, however I have kept abreast via the District's website and documentation
Have you served on any Sachem Board of Education committees in the past year? If yes, which ones and in what capacities?
As mentioned above, I did serve on the Board as a Trustee between 2006 and 2009. I successfully unseated a tenured Board Member that has recently returned to the Board last year.
Have you been involved in the district or community recently? Explain.
In the past year, my focus has been on my Children’s education and has not been community related.