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 Robert Scavo.
If Scavo 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.
Career & Technical Education Teacher at Western Suffolk BOCES
Do you have children? Do they attend Sachem presently, or did they graduate from Sachem?
I have three children, Andrew graduated from Sachem High School East in 2018 and just finished his sophomore year at State University of New York at Binghamton. My twins Sarafina & Matthew are currently in 7th grade and attend Seneca Middle School.
Johnson & Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island. Have an A.O.S in Occupational Science
State University of New York at Oswego, earned my permanent Public School Teaching License in 1993
Organizations and activities:
During my 47 years in Sachem I have served as a volunteer for many youth organizations including Sachem Little League, Sachem Sports Club as well as the Sachem Warriors baseball team as a coach. I have been an advisor for 21 years in the Skills-USA youth organization that promotes student leadership and community service. I also served as an officer on the Birchwood Civic association for 3 years and served on the Sachem Board of Education for 12 years from 2006-2018 elected by fellow board members as a President or Vice President for 9 of my 12 years.
I am running this year for a trustee position on the Sachem Board of Education. I am a lifelong resident of the Sachem School District and graduated from Sachem North in 1986. While serving on the Board of Education, I had the opportunity to be part of the planning and implementation of many successful educational initiatives. My background and experience in the field of education spans almost three decades as an educator and my extensive knowledge in school budgeting, collective bargaining and contract negotiations, superintendent searches and educational law will allow me to have an immediate positive impact on the difficult decisions and fiscal challenges that the Sachem School District will be facing in the coming months. During my first 9 years on the Board of Education, I averaged a tax increase of 1.2% per year that was well below the New York State 2% tax cap or consumer price index.
I have always strived to be fiscally responsible and advocated for taxpayer sensitive budgets while maintaining the high quality educational opportunities for our children. I have always voted in a manner that protected best interest of our students and community as a whole. We are going into a very challenging school year with a lot of uncertainties due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Shortfalls from state educational aid is almost certain and financial decisions that may affect our children's educational experiences can be impacted. Difficult financial decisions may have to be made during the academic school year and my years of experience dealing with budget allocations will be beneficial in addressing these financial challenges that may lie ahead. A comprehensive plan has to be established with input from all of stakeholders including our administration, teachers, county health officials, facilities staff as well as community on how to safely open schools in September in a manner that protects our children and our staff from exposure to the Covid-19 virus. A secondary comprehensive plan must also be established on what school will look like should we have to return back to a long distance educational model if a secondary Covid-19 outbreak should occur in the fall. It is essential that every student have the technology including tablets or Chromebooks as well as support to be successful and our teaching staff needs to have administrative support, training and resources for using this technology to continue to provide the highest quality of education that Sachem is known for.
A superintendent search has to be conducted to replace our district leadership with a highly qualified leader that will guide the district in the right direction. Lastly, a number of contracts are expiring and have to be addressed in a manner that is taxpayer sensitive while also being fair to our staff. My extensive experience with these challenges in the past paired with my educational experience will allow me to start addressing these issues immediately in a manner that will always put the well being and safety of the students, community and staff as my primary concern. I have always been a positive voice for our students, community and staff and will continue to do so in the future should I be elected to the Board of Education.
For further information, You can visit my Facebook page "Robert Scavo for Sachem Board of Education" to learn more about my experience and years of service to the Sachem School District.
OnSachem asked readers to share questions they would like the candidates to address.
What attributes are you seeking for the new Superintendent for Sachem?
While serving on the Board of Education, I have the opportunity to conduct two superintendent searches as well as an interim superintendent search. My experience in this area is extensive as I have been part of the process on several occasions. I served as the vice president at the time that Mr. Nolan and Dr. Graham were interviewed and chosen as the superintendent of schools in Sachem. When considering a candidate to serve as a superintendent, I look for someone that has extensive experience as a successful teacher, building administrator experience as well as district office experience. More so, I look for someone that has a strong work ethic and communicates well with students, community and staff. I also want a person to lead this district that has the highest moral standards, listens to different opinions and does extensive research before rendering a recommendation to the board on implementing educational initiatives and direction. Most importantly a candidate that will embrace the Sachem district and community as if it was their own.
What ideas do you have to advance Sachem academically?
While serving of the board, I was very vocal in the planning and implementation of the Smart Schools Bond that awarded 11 million dollars to Sachem to upgrade it instructional technology including the purchase of Smart Boards, document cameras, tablets and Chromebooks needed to enhance and further the educational opportunities for our children. I believe that it is important to include technology along with different media types and innovative teaching models to produce a successful educational experience that educates the whole child enhancing the physical, mental and social or emotional development of every student. We have to continue down this path that was initiated a few years ago as part of our board goals and is instrumental in the education and success of our students.
How would you approach the pandemic’s impact on schools, ranging from education to facility cleanliness?
As I mentioned previously, a consortium of professionals needs to be created and a comprehensive plan has to be established with input from all of stakeholders including our administration, teachers, county health officials, facilities staff as well as community on how to safely open schools in September in a manner that protects our children and our staff from exposure to the Covid-19 virus. A secondary comprehensive plan must also be established on what school will look like should we have to return to a long distance educational model due to a secondary Covid-19 outbreak should one occur in the fall. It is essential that every student have the technology including tablets or Chromebooks as well as support to be successful and our teaching staff needs to have administrative support, training and resources for using this technology to continue to provide the highest quality of education that Sachem is known for. Should we be forced back to long distance learning in the fall, students and teachers need the technology, resources and support to be able to provide our students with face to face instruction as well as special services as required in a student's IEP's for our special needs learners. The maintenance and cleanliness of our buildings will be a key factor in preventing the spread of this virus and recommendations from the director of facilities must be considered when developing these comprehensive plans.
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?
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Governor Cuomo's office has already indicated that due to a loss in tax revenue, Sachem could see up to a loss of 8 million dollars in State aid. This clearly poses several challenges for the district that could lead to impending cuts to budgeted items. The very first thing that has to be considered is that any cuts made to the budget has to have the least impact on our students educational experience. The students education and opportunities must always be the main priority and should be preserved in even the worst case fiscal crisis scenario. Budget wishlist items such as tools, equipment, and other non essential items that have little impact on our children's education would have to be removed first. Non-aligned administrative raises would have to be put on hold until any financial crisis is resolved before it could be considered again. Budget lines would have to be closely reviewed and examined to ensure that budget contingencies were not over estimated resulting in a large surplus of monies at the end of the academic year. Alternative revenue sources have to be explored such as refinancing bonds at lower interest rates to reduce budget expenditures. My experiences over the years as a school board member and knowledge of fiscal oversight will certainly be beneficial in addressing any fiscal shortfalls and aid reductions that the State may throw at us.
What experience do you have with collective bargaining and negotiating legacy and long-term contracts?
During my tenure as a school board trustee, I have participated in the negotiation process of more than 24 contracts within our collective bargaining units as well as several nonaligned contract extensions. During the negotiation process, I always remained sensitive to the taxpayer and negotiated in good faith with all of our bargaining units. Prior to and during the height of the fiscal crisis in Sachem, all of the collective bargaining units stepped up and agreed to either a freeze in salary step or in some cases a hard freeze saving the taxpayers millions of dollars over the life of their contracts. They understood the fiscal stress our district was suffering due to the tremendous cut in State aid and agreed to help well before other districts even considered it. We have some of the most amazing employees and staff members in the Sachem District that truly care about our children and our district. At desperate times of need, they worked with us to make ends meet so that our students can continue to have and enjoy the wonderful educational opportunities that we have today.
Have you attended a board meeting in-person during the past year (prior to the meetings moving virtually during the pandemic)?
While serving as a board trustee for 12 years, I believe that I only missed one unscheduled meeting as a result of being out of town with my family. In my estimations, that is probably close to 400 meetings that I attended or presided over. During the past year, I have reviewed agendas, minutes and audio recordings on the Sachem schools website to keep informed of what was going on in the district.
Have you served on any Sachem Board of Education committees in the past year? If yes, which ones and in what capacities?
During my 12 years as a BOE trustee, I served as the board liaison to the budget advisory committee in which I met with a committee comprised of community members that represented a broad spectrum of the Sachem community. On that committee, there were individuals that were retired with no children in our school as well as members that had school age children to single professionals and even local business owners. As a member of that committee, we consistently reviewed the proposed budget to determine if it was balanced or in some cases made recommendations to the BOE for consideration before adoption. We consistently reviewed past practices to see if they could be approved upon. The committee made several cost saving recommendations to the BOE including converting district mailings to digital formats, recommendation of a driver's education program for our students at no cost to the taxpayers as well as evaluating field usage fees and school lunch fees to create outside revenue sources. The efforts of this committee saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years and was a very valuable tool that provided checks and balances to the proposed budget. I also served as part of the SAVE committee which consistently met to improve the safety and wellbeing of our school aged children.
Have you been involved in the district or community recently? Explain.