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Update: Five Vie For Seats on Massapequa School Board

Board will elect new member next month with retirement of Thomas Caltabiano.

There Massapequa Board of Education will have a new look in the summer as there will be an open seat in next month's school board election.

There are two seats up for grabs in the May 15 contest, but only one incumbent will be on the ballot.

Current Board President Maryanne Fisher will be running for re-election but the Board's secretary, Thomas Caltabiano has decided not to run.

"Nine years is a long time," he told Patch Tuesday morning, when asked why he's stepping down. The longtime trustee said he's most proud of the role he played in getting drug sniffing dogs into the schools.

There will be a total of five candidates vying for the four seats including Fisher, who said that there are two elements she considered before deciding to run again.

"The first is can I continue to effect positive growth and improvement in the dynamic Educational Program that Massapequa Public Schools has offered its community and its students?" she said. "I know that I have the same passion for improving student achievement now as I did in 2003 when first appointed to the school board. So the answer to my first question is yes."

"Secondly, I wanted to know if I had the community's support. I believe I've been supported by the Massapequa school community for nine years and have been asked to run for a fourth term.  We've come a long way as a school district over the past several years and I hope to continue to be part of the decision making that has made Massapequa Public Schools something to be proud of."

Also on the ballot are Joseph Marsh and Dianne Sheffield, the two candidates endorsed by the Massapequa Committee for Educational and Fiscal Responsibility. The two candidates are hoping to take both seats to gain control of the board along with trustee Gary Bennett, who received MCEFR's endorsement last year before he was elected.

“Dianne and I believe that the school district budget has been increasing at an unsustainable pace, and we are tired of our programs – sports, music, art, etc. – being held hostage to that ever-increasing budget," Marsh, who serves as MCEFR's vice chairman said. "We – the administration and the community alike – need to realize that the question isn’t ‘academics vs. athletics/art/music’, but how to provide excellence in BOTH without bankrupting the taxpayers.”

Sheffield, who serves as the group's treasurer, echoed that philosophy.

“Joseph and I believe that the school district’s administration is top-heavy, uninspired, and unresponsive to the community," she said. "We seek to change that – to streamline the administration, to re-invigorate the community and staff of the school district, and to foster open and honest communication between the district and the taxpaying community.” 

Another candidate looking to be elected to his first term is local businessman Joseph LaBella.

"I'm in a good position in life right now. I own my own business and I have the flexibility of time to dedicate to it," he said of his decision to run. "What actually prompted me was when I heard about the layoffs. In business, and I've been doing this for 30 years, when people are laying people off, it's usually a failure on someone's part and I felt that maybe my expertise could be useful."

LaBella said he has three children who graduated from the district.

The fifth candidate, Richard Carozza, is a businessman and member of the Massapequa Chamber of Commerce and Sons of Italy.

His campaign released a statement saying, "he believes that Massapequa School District must contain costs, and he believes that the district needs to spend the funds it has more wisely. He is interested in applying his extensive business acumen and education to improved planning for the short- and long-term for Massapequa School District and its children.

"Carozza is committed to cutting excessive administrator salaries and positions, cutting unnecessary waste by centralizing purchasing and stopping the duplication of work functions and practices.  He believes in rewarding quality educators with merit raises and job retention.  Carozza wants to hold school administrators accountable to the tax payers by instituting fiscal discipline with zero-based budgeting.

broke taxpayer April 18, 2012 at 02:44 AM
My understanding is that Mr. LaBella's son is a teacher in the district and protecting his son's job is the reason he is running. I hope that is not the case. We need school board members who are not running for personnal interests but to represent the entire community.
Joe La Bella April 18, 2012 at 03:13 AM
True my son is a teacher in the district, obviously the broke tax payer doesn't know my family, my son can stand on his own merits. If elected to the board I will be just and fair for the entire community. Joe La Bella
broke taxpayer April 18, 2012 at 10:51 AM
True I do not know your family. But I do know that we need trustees who are truly independent. We have seen past board presidents who were a retired teacher and the husband of a teacher. It seems to me that when we are talking possible layoffs you would have a difficult time agreeing to something that may impact your son's job, just as any caring parent would. Nothing personal, but I will be casting my vote for someone with no ties to the staff. Just one taxpayers opinion.
Rob April 18, 2012 at 12:27 PM
I think that you are unfairly judging Joe here. I do not know him or his son but to rule him out becuase his son is a teacher is wrong. I would bet that every candiate has some personal ties to an employee in the district. Hear what they all have to say and vote for the one you like best, not the one who has no ties to the staff becuase they all do.
Pequa Mom April 18, 2012 at 03:18 PM
There will be five candidates vying for two seats. My understanding is that at least 2 of the candidates have never even attended school board meetings or been involved with any school committees? How do you run for a position you know nothing about? You have to ask the question…who asked you to run…in the 11th hour...and why? While I commend anyone that wants to volunteer their time and energy....and take the time to run...it is admirable...to vote for someone with such a large learning curve at this very critical time is not in the best interest of this school district and community. You need board members that understand our budget, finances, programs, student issues, policies etc. and can hit the ground running. The other 3 candidates that have already donated their time to learn about these crucial issues are the ones that will stand out as qualified candidates. I urge voters to really take the time to pay attention to the backgrounds, history, and qualifications of all the candidates prior to casting their vote....it will make a difference in the very tough times we have ahead of us, and the future success of our district and community. And it is not true that all candidates have ties to the staff....ask them yourself at "Meet the Candidates" night on May 2nd, 7:30PM at MHS.
concerned citizen April 19, 2012 at 12:36 AM
I have attended school board meetings on a regular basis for over 25 years, and am sure that I have seen all the candidates there at one time or another. I also personally know of many volunteer community activities that one of the two have been involved in. To state that two of the candidates do nothing for the district is an outright lie. People should be careful what they post without actually knowing the candidates.
pequa4me April 19, 2012 at 01:29 AM
We lost two good administrators to Levittown schools this year, Gr. Grossane and Ms Von Esshun. (sp) From what I read, that district is doing very well with him at the control panel. Maybe we can use some change at the control panel as well. Just a thought.
Jarrett April 19, 2012 at 09:42 PM
I personally know Joe Labella (Big Joe). I am situated in one of the poorest districts in PA. In my district there have been many flawed decisions that impact the students because of poor financial decisions. For one thing there are two schools, in one district, and in one county. So with that said most of the tax payers’ funds go to the county seat school. “Big Joe Labella would not let this happen in your school districts....” This is very unfair to the students because lack of funds mean fewer activities the other school can provide to their students. Not only that, they have let go teachers also. That is the biggest impact. I want you all to picture foster care children. They go though many families, but what they do have is constant people in their life, their teachers. Take that away and they most likely will not truly connect with people again. Big Joe again would fight for this not to happen. Joe Labella is a visionary with a strong sense of ambition for what he believes in. Not only is Joe a very smart person, he is a hard worker (NOT LAZY). He would serve your community proudly and bring prosperity. Vote Big Joe!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mark B. April 19, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Local community, please read below comment about Mr. Labella from Jarrett. I would like to hear more about Mr.Labella. He sounds like he has guts to make the right choices..........
Smashing Pumpkin April 20, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I too, would like to speak about Mr. Labella. He was my volunteer CYO basketball coach when I was in elementary school. To say I was the weakest player on the team would be an understatement. Mr. Labella made sure we all played the same amount of time on the court, no matter what our skill level was or what the score was. To this day, I still remember him telling me I was going on the court in the 4th quarter of a very tight game. I realized that with Coach Labella it was all about fairness, and not about winning at any cost. Never again did I experience this with another team. He not only is the fairest man I know, but will make sure the right decisions are made, regardless of his personal interests. He taught me at a very early age in life that it truly takes guts to do the right thing. I will definitely be voting for Mr. Labella!!!!
Pequa Mom April 20, 2012 at 05:47 AM
It is true that I don't know all the candidates personally, and from what I am reading, Joe La Bella appears to be a good person that does his fair share of community service, volunteers, and is well liked. I never mentioned anyone's name in my comment, for a reason. I did not want to target specific candidates by name, but wanted to make a point. I was suggesting that voters make sure they research who they are voting for. I too have attended school board meetings for over 20 years...so I am sure I know you...since there are usually about 10 of us in the room, including school personnel...and we all know each other...and who is present....and who isn't. I am also quite aware of the names of the members on the school district committees. What I stated is not a lie. Go check the school board sign in sheets over the past few years. Check out the names of the other district committee members. Then tell me what you find. As I stated, it is very admirable of community members to run for the board..but as I also said...how do you know if you want to be a board member unless you have attended board meetings and know how the district is functioning and what their issues are? The volunteering I was referring to was all school related...not community related. You may be a great lacrosse or basketball coach...but it doesn't mean that if you haven't been involved in school related issues, that your learning curve won't be greater than those candidates that have. No disrespect intended.
Pequa Mom April 20, 2012 at 06:41 AM
I too have volunteered in many community activities as well as school related volunteering. They are totally different. Understanding the school system, school budget & finances, mandates, state policies, federal policies, student related issues, personnel issues, programs, curriculum, union issues, etc. is not something you pick up in a meeting or two. I am not diminishing the volunteering done by any of the candidates in a community capacity, but I was specifically referring to the volunteering of the three candidates that have already been involved in school district related volunteering and already have an understanding of the issues by attending board meetings/committees. The question of why a candidate wants to run for the school board is a valid one. What is their motivation? What prompted them to run during one of the toughest economical times in education history? What knowledge and understanding will they bring to this board? I think you misunderstood my comment. I give credit to anyone that wants to run for the school board..it's a tough job..especially now. I ended with the suggestion of checking out the candidates backgrounds, history, and qualifications, and to meet all the candidates at “Meet the Candidates" Night. How is that offensive to anyone in particular? If a candidate is strong..it will show. That is still my suggestion. Again, I apologize if I insulted anyone..it was intended to make a point. I think that some people might be a little over sensitive.
broke taxpayer April 20, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I agree with Pequa Mom. It doesn't matter how great a coach or person someone is, experience and a prior committment to the school community is important. We need trustees who have knowledge of what is going on along with the history of MSD. Without that knowledge how can you effectively question the information given? The difficult times ahead call for knowledgable people who can bring new ideas and are willing to question the status quo. If you have no knowlegde of how the schools work and the financial and legal issues involved, you can not be effective. School district run very different from businesses. I say Mr. Labella, or any one else who may be interested in running, should start to come to school board meetings, join committees and get an education first. As for me, as a parent I would never put myself in Mr. Labella's position. I could not make a decision that is best for the community as a whole knowing it would hurt my child. I guess Mr. Labella is a better person than me.
Mass Parent April 23, 2012 at 03:28 AM
I met Joseph Marsh at a Board Meeting two years ago. He made a good impression on me then, showing a great interest in education. He had good ideas and appeared to be very open-minded. Since then I have got to know him through my son's Scout Pack and I am very impressed with him as a leader who takes charge and communicates effectively. He is also a natural with the kids.
Mass Parent April 23, 2012 at 03:29 AM
A good thought ... everything starts from the top and works down ...
Mass Parent April 23, 2012 at 03:33 AM
He sounds like a great coach - but a great coach does not always translate to a great board member. I would like to learn more about all the candidates.
Tim Taylor April 24, 2012 at 03:38 PM
I am supporting Joe Marsh and Dianne Sheffield---they have extensive knowledge about the budget as long time members of the budget and finance committee----in the next several years due to the cap and economic conditions some critical decisions will have to be made---I for one want people who are like minded in philosophy about who a boardmember represents as well as people who know how to navigate these trying times with the least impact to our programs and employees----please support these two---Tim Taylor---Massapequa School Board Trustee---
Pequa5 April 24, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Good idea Tim. Let's have 3 of the same voices on the BOE and take democracy out of the equation and have the same old ideas- cut, cut cut, and not worry about our kids future.
Tim Taylor April 24, 2012 at 06:50 PM
@Pequa5---with 6 kids it should be obvious I'm concerned about their futures----with the tax cap in place we were at a 4.5 mil deficit---you either cut programs or you cut employees----there's no other place to cut---the supt. and the board agreed we would not touch programs this year---we can't say the same for next year----we did our best to minimize the impact of the tax cap---we offered a retirement incentive to try and save as many as possible----unfortunately not many accepted and the young, highly motivated and vibrant employees were let go---thats not my law thats state law--last in first out---for further discussion you can call me anytime and I would be glad to sit down with you----
an old guy April 29, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Instead of letting monitors and lesser paid employees go, threatening hard working teachers, and of course, the obligatory "let's cut sports programs," the board may want to look into some of the assistants TO the assistants of school officials that are roaming through this top heavy district.
Mass Parent April 29, 2012 at 06:08 PM
What happened to this comment: (came to my e-mail) Hi Mass Parent, Marcus Grier also commented on Update: Five Vie For Seats on Massapequa School Board. "17 months after the ribbon cutting at the Massapequa High School's Cyber Cafe, Superintendent Charles Sulc, Deputy Superintendent Alan Adcock and the Board of Education have not paid the General Contractor for the work performed. What a disgrace." To respond view the comment on Patch.
Mass Parent April 29, 2012 at 06:11 PM
My reply to Marcus Grier is that I guess Charles Sulc rates paying the bills on the same level of importance as responding to parent phone calls and e-mails .... a bunch of us still waiting for responses ....
Mass Parent April 29, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Pequa Mom, I don't think for one second that Joseph Marsh and Dianne Sheffield are looking to present more of the same old ideas, in fact, in some instances, just the opposite..
Pequa Mom April 29, 2012 at 06:29 PM
I think you meant to direct your reply to Pequa5, not Pequa Mom. My comments above have pointed out the importance of electing School Board members that have been involved in, or have knowledge of School district finances, attend Board meetings, and are familiar with the obstacles facing school budgets and the responsibility of a Board of Ed position. I am quite familiar with Joseph and Dianne's qualifications.
Pequa Mom April 29, 2012 at 07:04 PM
I too am curious as to what happened to that comment. It was not objectionable; nor inappropriate. I attended a Board of Ed meeting (some time ago) where the General Contractor wanted to question the Board about the District's failure to pay his bill for services rendered. He was advised that they (legally) could not address his issue in a public meeting. The GC stated he had written letters, but he still wasn't getting any resolution....he was still advised they couldn't discuss it...and to please address it (again) after the meeting. You could sense his frustration....especially to have to bring his issue to a public forum such as a Board of Ed meeting. While we don't know all the particulars of both sides, and I'm sure there are two sides, it is disturbing that this issue can't be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. And the GC is a local family; whose children are/were MSD students....it is really quite sad that this is still dragging on. My suggestion to the Board of Ed is to get it resolved...quickly... and to settle it before any additional legal charges are incurred (which we can't afford).
Mass Parent April 29, 2012 at 08:44 PM
YES, I absolutely meant Pequa5 - sorry about that!
Mrs. O April 29, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I would think that a board trustee would have to remain as objective and not endorse anyone.
Mr. Russo April 30, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Mr. Labella should not be disqualified from a Board appointment simply because his son works within the district. Perhaps if he was already on the board, alternative measures would have been considered before deciding that laying off 30 teachers was a starting point for budget adjustments. And as far as the district's failure to pay its debts to a local contractor and community member for his services, is anyone surprised? Legal charges are free, as far as the district is concerned...because lawsuits are largely "confidential" and don't appear in the visible budget...so why not just add the bill to all of the other hidden costs the public never gets to see? Would anyone know about the non-payment issue if this gentleman wasn't forced to mention it in a public forum? Where there's smoke, there's fire. If that's how the district does business with a community member, I can only guess what unseen costs are being swept under that giant rug that's thrown out the back door. I bet this lack of intuition and ethics is a big reason why the better administrators flee the district as quickly as they can.
MHS4Joe May 10, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Joe LaBella is Massapequa. Resident for over 30+ years. Three successful children whom graduated from MHS. Joe LaBella and his two sons reside in Massapequa, and now his children plan to raise their families in the same town that they grew up in because of the strong family value structure of the village. When I was growing up in that town it provided me with a great childhood, and education. He is the man who will do what is right by others, and for the town. Joe LaBella understands the importance of education, and how great Massapequa's school system is when educating the youth of the future. The job is bigger than any one reason for running, and that is why "Big Joe" is the candidate for the position.
tony May 15, 2012 at 01:29 AM
To the best of my knowledge the other candidates may also hae relatives working in the district Mr Taylor also has a relative working in the District.

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