Barbs were traded early and often during Meet the Candidates Night on Monday, May 6, which pitted Mineola School Board trustee Irene Parrino against challenger Patricia Navarra. Mineola Village Board trustee Paul Cusato moderated the verbal jockeying. Election Day is Tuesday, May 21.
Navarra, of Williston Park, addressed comments made by Parrino who stated she would be the only stakeholder with district children on the board if she were to retake her seat. Parrino, trustee Artie Barnett, and Board President William Hornberger all currently have children in the district.
“If anyone in this house thinks that raising teenagers makes you less qualified to sit on this board, I’d like to see a show of hands,” said Navarra. “Mrs. Parrino, the best is yet to come. Welcome to our high school.”
Parrino took another shot at Navarra, saying “her non-stakeholder orientation will be added to that of our other board members, who no longer have children in our schools.”
“My focus is on education,” Parrino said. “While I’m also interested in the school district being as cost efficient as possible…cost efficiency is a secondary focus. You will notice that my opponent’s focus is reversed. That is because she has no children in our schools after this year.”
With family members throughout the district, Navarra estimated that she’d have family in the Mineola School District for the next decade.
“We should focus on what we’re going to do for our children,” said Navarra. “One of the reasons I’m running is because my children are older and they have the breadth of experience of pre-K right through 12th-grade. Mrs. Parrino likes to dismiss the idea of slashing our dollars. Money means programs for children. The rest of Nassau County is slashing programs. We’re adding programs.”
Navarra took note of Parrino abstaining from the 2011-12 budget vote, arguing that it was done without explanation. Parrino, of Albertson, claims she opposed the budget because of community outcry and a tie-in to the budget with a Hampton Street School library construction project, which cost $2.1 million.
“I opposed both bonds which the community overwhelmingly rejected in its opportunity given to decide its fate,” said Parrino. “I objected to placing the funding of the Hampton Street construction project in the school budget. I felt that was a way of holding hostage the school budget vote.”
Two bonds were proposed to district voters during the drawn-out reconfiguration of the school district. Residents defeated $4.4 and $6.7 million bond offerings in 2011.
Navarra worked with the Community Committee on Consolidation, which aided district administrators in reconfiguring the school district. Navarra served as president of the District Council PTA from 2008-2010.
“Mrs. Parrino has characterized me as pro-consolidation,” said Navarra. “I was poster mom against consolidation. District council worked with the board of education to find other solutions. There were none.”
The district restructured the buildings to the “default option 1” which saw the fifth-grade move to Mineola Middle School and the eighth-grade move to Mineola High School. Willis Avenue and Cross Street School closed under this plan and since have been leased by Harbor Day Care Center and the Solomon Schechter Day School, respectively.
“My opponent has suggested in prepared statements to the press that she’s an independent thinker, but an abstention on a budget vote without an explanation is an empty argument,” said Navarra, commenting on Parrino’s abstained vote.
It’s been two years since the reconfiguration was finalized. Parrino said she agreed with resident opinion on the bond votes, but still holds her ground against school closings.
Parrino went as far as to call out Navarra on her reviews on RateMyProfessor.com. Navarra teaches at Hofstra University.
“There’s no qualification that you have an educational background,” Parrino said. “The fact that my opponent teaches at Hofstra doesn’t make her more qualified than I. If you read her [reviews] it indicates that she’s an easy professor and doesn’t provide testing.”
Navarra thinks the proof is in the pudding.
“You can’t argue with success. You didn’t have a choice. There was no other [reconfiguration] plan. If [Parrino] or Mr. [John] McGrath ever had a plan, I’m still waiting to hear it,” said Navarra.
Former trustee McGrath almost proposed a merger with the Herricks School District, which drew the ire of board members and residents. McGrath revealed the plan to the Mineola American in November 2010.