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Syosset Board of Education Candidate Q&A: Christopher DiFilippo

Syosset Board of Education Candidate Q&A

Description: Mr. DiFilippo is  and has been a resident of  Woodbury for 31 years, volunteering and participating in many community organizations. Mr. DiFilippo works in Information Technology as a Senior Project Manager. He has been a Board Member of Rolling Hills Association where he has been residing for the last 9 years and has extensive knowledge of and experience in working with purchasing and budgets.  He has two children; one is in the school district and the other in college.  He is a strong advocate of students with special needs. As a concerned citizen he feels it important to be actively involved in his community, and serves as an EMT for the Syosset Volunteer Fire Department, teaches Religious Education, is a member of St. Edward’s Men’s Club, the Knights of Columbus, Parent Member for the Youth Ministry and in previous years has coached youth sports and served as Cub/BoyScout leader for Troop 129 in Hicksville.

QUESTIONS

1. What is the biggest issue currently facing the Syosset School District and board?

The District:   The biggest issue is controlling the growth in spending by, among other things, challenging the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent over salary increases and unconscionable benefits, as well as engaging in substantive negotiations with teachers, administrators and support staff. Also, in the event any of the Superintendents retire before the current contracts terminate, they should not be unduly compensated at district expense, for example with “golden exit packages”.

The Board:  The duty of each Trustee on the BOE is to serve the members of the community as a “steward” of the District’s funds. The BOE needs to take input from the residents they serve and allow community participation. The BOE as a unit has the power to make decisions on behalf of the community but those decisions should reflect the wishes of the people they represent. The board needs to rein in operational costs while continuing to expand and enhance the quality of education each of our students receives.

2. What is something you believe the board does well? What is something you would like to improve?

Done Well: Overall, the Board has supported excellent academic, performing arts and sports programs which I would want to continue. In addition, the students’ grade performance is above the state and national averages, however many parents feel it necessary to supplement classroom education with private tutors.

Done poorly: There is no transparency; the BOE needs to be accountable to taxpayers.  Also they must reopen audience to the public during meetings and embrace the community on any question or concern, except for restricted matters of employment or HIPAA. The current BOE does not have working budget sessions open to community participation, which in my opinion can be very instrumental in efficient spending. In addition the BOE’s approval of the exorbitant compensation of our top administrators is a strong indication that overall spending is excessive. With all the unlimited spending and talent our High School did not make the top 100 list in this country as reported in Newsday.

3. What is something different that you bring to the table?

I bring Independence, I will collaborate with the BOE and work hard to have the school district efficient and continue to provide quality of education at the lowest cost to taxpayers. My combination of management consulting expertise along with the willingness to listen to the community on what’s needed and wanted is paramount. I have a track record of realizing cost efficiencies working in the financial field and making things happen. I am not afraid to question expenditures and am ready, willing and able to tackle the difficult issues. As a district we need to engage in cooperative programs to become more efficient, such as the Nassau County 21st Century Shared Services Initiative, which offers data and telecommunications services at lower costs.

I know I can make a difference and will be Your Voice on the School Board. At a recent BOE meeting the board implied that the School District focuses on “Tight Fiscal Management” and was highly praised by several auditors. The reality is that an auditor’s report merely validates that our school district adheres to its documented practices and controls. It does not mean the district is efficient in spending. We also need to adhere to NYS Education best practices and implement recommendations from the recent State Comptroller Audit report.

4. Fast forward five years. Name an achievement and a challenge for the district. (Essentially 1. how you would like to see the district in 5 years, and 2. put yourself ahead of the curve to anticipate future challenges).

Achievement:

Syosset will be a leader in having a BOE that serves the taxpayers by actually running our school district in the most effective and efficient way possible. Without harming the educational programs, we can have an Administration and teaching staff paid competitively and eliminate today’s unconscionable salaries. Also, entering into long term labor contracts will limit salary increases to inflation and increase employee contributions to medical and retirement plans.

Challenge: It’s a challenge to predict what will be in 5 years, given the economic variables at any given time.  I do foresee technological advances offered to the students. We should expect to see technological breakthroughs be available to our students so their minds are challenged. I envision a transformation in education/learning which extends beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. I also foresee new Superintendents with compensation and benefits greatly reduced from present levels. If we continue along “business as usual” in 5 years our annual school budget runs the risk of being over $228 Million, creating an estimated increase of 25% in your property taxes.

5. What makes the Syosset district special / what makes you care about the district on a personal level?

Our school district has a perceptive teaching staff that recognizes student talents as well as individual needs in regards to delivering the best education. We also have a wide variety of educational, performing arts and sports programs available to our children. I take great pride in the School District and in our community and continue to challenge myself to give more of myself. It’s our community and we should all work together to make it better.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sharon D Smith May 13, 2012 at 10:01 AM
Continued ... The downward trend in enrollment is expected to continue into the foreseaable future. Could there be any reason other than homes lost to foreclosure and people leaving the district because they can no longer afford to the property taxes? Bruce Willis said it best. "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." Taxpayers of Syosset, get out and vote in the school district elections on May 15. Vote FOR this year's budget because voting it down won't fix the lack of transparency and accountability. Be part of the solution by putting Chris DiFilippo on the BOE this year as the first step to a BOE that is both responsible and responsive to taxpayers. It is understandable that taxpayers with children in school and/or prominent positions in our community are afraid to publicly support the need for change but make sure in the privacy of the curtain that you vote for the change we so desperately need.
Marc Jamenson May 13, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Hey Chris, why do you think all these negative ads keep coming out about you and Josh? Is it the current board?
Jake Asman May 14, 2012 at 12:35 AM
It is great to see Josh Lafazan and Chris DiFlippo supporting one another and being on the same page.
Christopher DiFilippo May 14, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Hi Marc, I am not sure but during my campaign I do my best to speak the facts, not bring up comments from years back. We are in the present and need to not only realize that but to take steps for the future. In Syosset BOE elections we unlike other districts do not compete against another candidate, we should be running based on our skills, track record of community service and willingness to deal with all the "Voices" of the community and not be selective in our approach. Time has come for change and the next (3) elected BOE members must strive to be proactive, be available and efficient with our school budget.
Christopher DiFilippo May 20, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Dear Syosset School District Residents, Thanks to you for voting me into the Syosset School Board as a Trustee. The "Our Voice" of the 5800+ voters has spoken. Together we will continue to make a difference; our children all will have a bright future. I look forward working with the Syosset School District Administration and the Board of Education members. I will learn from the BOE members and strive to continue the excellence as well as seek opportunities for us to become more efficient. I congratulate Dr. Alan Resnick and Joshua Lafazan on winning the 2012 election. I also thank Sonia Rutigliano, Shari Dorfman for years of service on the BOE and John Moore for his willingness to run for this year’s election. I thank the many of those who supported me during my campaign, the others who attended “Know Your Candidate Night” and the others who made the right choice to elect me. After the election I have met many people and I enjoy the opportunity to discuss their concerns one on one. See you all soon and please attend the monthly BOE meetings. Sincerely Chris DiFilippo

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