Patricia Navarra emerged from the principal’s office at Jackson Avenue School, giving two thumbs up seconds before Mineola School District Superintendent Michael Nagler announced she unseated incumbent school board trustee Irene Parrino on May 21. The 15-year Williston Park resident beat out the Albertson attorney 933 to 684 votes.
Parrino exited the office after the election results were cheered by residents in attendance. The district budget totaled $86.1 million and passed 1,110 to 638. It showcased a budget-to-budget increase of 2.56 percent and a tax levy of 2.18 percent.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m still a parent,” said Parrino of the end of her board tenure. “I’m still going to go to meetings and do what I do every day.”
Tensions ran high leading up to the vote, with letters to the editor dominating local papers (including six in the Mineola American) and Meet the Candidates Night exhibiting jab after jab between the two candidates. The question of whether board members are “stakeholders”—meaning parents of children enrolled in the district—was a major topic of discussion leading up to Election Day, and vigorously debated by Navarra and Parrino.
“I’m thrilled,” Navarra said. “I didn’t know what to expect. We ran a quiet campaign via social media. To Mrs. Parrino’s credit, we had some fun. At the Meet the Candidates [Night], we each had our own view on our constituency.”
Navarra’s top priority is the common core and she plans to huddle with Assistant Superintendent Patricia Burns to examine how the district assesses students. She co-founded P.E.A.C.E.-People for Excellence, Affordability and Commitment to Education with Mineola School Board Trustee Artie Barnett.
“It’s a learning process and you learn a lot quickly,” School Board President William Hornberger said. “[Navarra’s] expertise, her enthusiasm, her educational background, her passion for children will be welcomed.”
Before the campaign started, Navarra touted her 75 hours of work with the Community Committee on Consolidation, which aided district administrators in reconfiguring the school district.
“I remember telling my friends from Jackson [Avenue School] that if I ran, [running a positive campaign] is what I wanted to do,” Navarra stated. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Parrino asserted that if she lost, there’d be no parent stakeholders on the board. Currently, Hornberger, trustee Barnett and now Navarra are board members with children in the district.
“I feel comfortable with what I did in my campaign. I’m disappointed [with the results] but it’s a vote. We have to respect with the residents wanted. Believe me, after looking at Oklahoma, this pales in comparison to peoples’ losses,” Parrino concluded, referencing the recent tornado that, at last count, killed 37 people and left thousands homeless.
Parrino said she’ll still volunteer at The Church of St. Aidan, teaching second grade. When asked for what advice she had for Navarra, Parrino said, “Good luck.”
“I’m looking forward to working with Mrs. Navarra,” said trustee Christine Napolitano. “I think she’ll make a wonderful addition to the board.”
Barnett would only say that the budget margin was a “great number” but declined to comment on Parrino’s defeat. He was outspoken on Parrino’s exclusive stakeholder claims in a letter to the editor in the May 17 issue of Mineola American, the saying, “Simply having children does not qualify one to sit in this position. Having young children in school is more than a challenge for a working mother like her and it has shown. It shows by her lack of preparation prior to meetings, [and] her failure to review the hundreds of pages of information made available to her a week prior, often waiting until just hours before the meeting to ask about the content.”
Nagler was encouraged that residents again passed the budget, which since has held a tax levy of 2.5 percent or lower since 2008. He welcomed Navarra and commended Parrino for her service.
“I’m happy the community passed a budget that was efficient and kept our programs intact,” he said. “There will be a time when we catch [Navarra] up on things that are current that she may not know about and work her into the fabric of the team and continue our vision going forward.
“Irene was a good trustee. She brought a welcomed knowledge as an attorney,” Nagler continued. “Contrary to popular opinion, [she and I] didn’t have a tumultuous relationship. We had a good relationship.”