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 Stephanie Volpe.
If Volpe is elected, she 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.
SAHM (stay at home mom) and part-time medicaid broker
Do you have children? Do they attend Sachem presently, or did they graduate from Sachem?
Yes two boys. One is a 6th grader at Seneca and the other is at WHBLC (Boces program).
Sachem North Graduate
Suffolk County Community College A.A.S. Liberal Arts
Organizations and activities:
Previous board positions on Merrimac PTA and currently on WHBLC SEPTA, including Vice President and Treasurer, Parent Member for Sachem Committee of Special Education and Committee of Preschool Special Education for 16 years, a member of the Suffolk County Inclusive Accessible Supportive Housing Committee (IASH), Board member of Parkland Civic Association and numerous volunteer positions for charities for children with special needs. Also voted on to the Sachem Legislative Committee member although, due to the pandemic I have yet to start. Endorsed by multiple currently seated Sachem BOE Trustees and endorsed by Long Island Opt Out.
As a Sachem graduate and long time community member, I worry about the future of the district since we just lost our Superintendent. I feel it is important to have board members who have a diverse background so that all members of the community have a voice. I am a strong advocate for children with special needs and I also place high value on providing all children opportunities in school that enhance their education. Those that know me will agree that I will advocate for someone’s child as if they are my own.
OnSachem asked readers to share questions they would like the candidates to address.
What attributes are you seeking for the new Superintendent for Sachem?
First and foremost we would have to pick the most qualified person for the position. The attribute I would look for most is someone that is willing to dedicate more than a few years to Sachem. I would look for someone who would be expecting to fill the length of their career working for our district. The timing of our current Super leaving is absolutely brutal in both length of time he was here and the fact that we are currently in a pandemic. I am disappointed in the unfinished work left and that we as a district were finally heading in a better direction and becoming financially stable. Nothing destabilizes a school district more than the sudden vacancy for Superintendent. We need a candidate dedicated to Sachem for the long haul.
What ideas do you have to advance Sachem academically?
Technology is of the utmost importance and the place where Sachem lags educationally compared to other neighboring districts. Wifi not being in the buildings is so limiting, that if we are going to move forward, we need to update our technology.
How would you approach the pandemic’s impact on schools, ranging from education to facility cleanliness?
Safety, both with physical health and mental heath, should be our primary concern. We need to address the density in the classrooms and that is directly connected to the student/teacher ratio and class size. Obviously having the appropriate staff to address the cleanliness and sanitation of the schools needs to be in place as well. I would like to have a committee formed of parents, students and educational professionals to help create a plan for September.
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?
Statements on this have been too varied from our governor to even begin to have a clear answer. Governor Cuomo has suggested a 50% cut in aid then 20% and last time he mentioned it it could be 10%. Any of those would be a pretty significant financial blow to our district. I would always vote to maintain educational programs as first and foremost then plan accordingly depending on the budget given from the state.
What experience do you have with collective bargaining and negotiating legacy and long-term contracts?
My experience has been throughout various organizations and businesses starting when I previously owned my photography business, interestingly photography is a contract heavy profession. I have also negotiated on behalf of our PTAs (when I was Treasurer especially) with different vendors to provide educational programs for our children. These contracts are booked through the Boces Cultural Arts program and have to meet criteria set by Sachem Administration in order to be brought into our schools. I take pride that while managing approximately $120,000 per year budget of PTA funds I was able to cut expenses and raise revenues to unprecedented amounts in conjunction with the president and board. As a result we were able to bring in more programs for the students while spending less. All of this while providing 100% transparency of how the funds were being used. I would use those skills in negotiating for our children if elected as a trustee.
Have you attended a board meeting in-person during the past year (prior to the meetings moving virtually during the pandemic)?
Yes I have.
Have you served on any Sachem Board of Education committees in the past year? If yes, which ones and in what capacities?
Yes, as mentioned above, previous board positions on Merrimac PTA and currently on WHBLC SEPTA, including Vice President and Treasurer, Parent Member for Sachem Committee of Special Education and Committee of Preschool Special Education for 16 years, a member of the Suffolk County Inclusive Accessible Supportive Housing Committee (IASH), Board member of Parkland Civic Association and numerous volunteer positions for charities for children with special needs. Also voted on to the Sachem Legislative Committee member although, due to the pandemic I have yet to start.
Have you been involved in the district or community recently? Explain.
Yes, in addition to all the above, I volunteer regularly with charities that help people with special needs. I actively raise funds for those charities as well as volunteer my time when needed. Recently in March I started, with another mother, a special needs Friends Chat online to help combat loneliness during this pandemic. Every night we host a zoom session at 7:30pm EST. In this chat we have had many companies reach out and offer their service to help entertain our friends, from a DJ company, to a music company, to famous musicians/broadway stars, to a life coach and Zumba classes and more. It has become extremely successful and what started with 6 people is now 35-50+ people a night. We have had a variety of celebrities drop in and visit on different nights. It is something that I have grown really proud of and look forward to. It has helped me more than it has helped our friends.