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COMMACK SCHOOL DISTRICT CANDIDATES FOR THE SCHOOL BOARD

 Tenga en cuenta - por el Departamento de Justicia se puede ver esta página en español (u otros idiomas) haciendo clic en el botón "Seleccionar Google traductor de la lengua" en la parte inferior de esta página.

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This year, residents will elect two candidates for two positions on the Board of Education (for a three-year term). Incumbents Steven Hartman and Justin Varughese are seeking reelection. Mr. Hartman and Ms. Fidalgo are running for one seat, and Mr. Varughese and Mr. Jurkovic are running for a second seat on the Board.  Bios and Q&As are below.
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Pauline Fidalgo

6 Soma Lane, Commack 11725 

My name is Pauline Fidalgo. I am willing to lead and support our district as we navigate into the future and continue the success they have built. I believe that uniting the community is the key and will allow the students to flourish. When children see adults working together for the greater good, they will mimic this in their school and personal life. I believe that creating an environment where the community demonstrates respect towards each other is the key to a successful future. Fiscal Responsibility and Diverse Leadership is also important so we may continue with our Blue-Ribbon Tradition.




Q. How long have you been a resident of the Commack area?
A. I have been a Commack resident for twenty-one years.

Q. Do you have now, or have you ever had, any children attend the District public schools?
A. I have a son in 11th Grade and a daughter who graduated in 2020.

Q. What is your educational background and current occupation?
A. I attended Nassau Community College and then Hofstra University. I have an associates in Liberal Arts from Nassau Community College and a Bachelors in Spanish with a minor in international affairs from Hofstra. I am currently a Legal Assistant at Martins Law Firm

Q. Of what school-related and/or community organizations are you, or have you been, a member?
A. I worked on the book fair when my kids were both in North ridge and was Class Parent for my daughter in 5th Grade and helped with the international night when my daughter was in the middle School I have advocated for parental choice for the last year in several organizations.

Q. Why do you want to be a member of the Board of Education and what talents (strengths) do you have that would contribute to the Board?
A. I want to be a member of the Board of Education to do my part in supporting parents and uniting the community. I think my strengths are that I am open to listening to other points of view and respectful of others.

Q. How many Board of Education is meetings have you attended during the last three years?
A. I have attended in person about 6-8 meetings in the last 3 years and others were watched virtually.

Q. What do you see as the role of a Board of Education member as part of our district governance team?
A. A Member of the Board of Education role is to provide support and leadership for the parents and students in the community, ensure that we are fiscally responsible and to provide programs that will allow students to be successful adults.

Q. If you are reelected or elected to serve on the Commack Board of Education, what would be your three priority areas for board/administration study and potential improvement for the district?
A. If elected to the board, my priority would be to learn as much as I can about how things are currently being done so I can support in the areas where the district is successful. Hopefully, I can bring a fresh perspective and work with the other board members to see where things can be improved upon.
My second priority, I would like to assist in ensuring the needs of each individual students are being met, and if not what I can do to improve upon them with community input.
My Third priority would be to potentially improve the way in which parents find out about class curriculum, my suggestion would be for teachers in the secondary level to provide a syllabus at the start of each course and all teachers provide a list of books that will be read in the classroom each year. This will allow for transparency between the classroom and parents.

Q. What is your definition of a “Comprehensive Commack Education?” Does Commack currently offer
this kind of an education, K-12?
A. A “Comprehensive Commack Education” is an education that will allow all students to feel that they are included and belong to a larger community of support. It also means that they have access to services and programs that will meet their needs and help them to be successful. I believe that Commack has done this in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Steven Hartman

42 Wheatfield Lane, Commack 11725

My name is Steve Hartman.   I am so proud of all the accomplishments that the Commack School District has had over the past nine years while I have been a trustee of the Commack School board and served as President as the past seven years.  There has been tremendous growth of access and opportunities for all students from grades K-12 with the support of my fellow board members.  We have introduced in the Primary and Intermediate schools programs such as Movements in the Arts, Enrichment for All and STEM lunch to allow them to have new areas of exploration.   The Middle School and High School students have a wide variety of electives to allow them to choose classes that best suit their interests.  A board member is the fiduciary steward of the district.  We continually put forth fiscally responsible budgets which maintain and grow programs while remaining within the tax cap.    As the Board President, I lead with understanding, compassion, and reason.  I truly understand the role of a board member.  I am an advocate for ALL children in the district.  I attend almost EVERY event, support our teachers, our volunteers and make time to listen to all voices of our Commack Community and will continue to do so in the future.   I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure ALL students receive a quality education in the Commack School district.   

Q. How long have you been a resident of the Commack area?
 
 A. My wife, Dorian, and I have been residents of Commack for 25 years.

Q. Do you have now, or have you ever had, any children attend the District public schools?
 A.  I have two children.  My son is a graduate from the Commack High School Class of 2017 and my daughter graduated last year from the Commack High School Class of 2021.   

Q. What is your educational background and current occupation?
 A. I obtained my undergraduate and master degrees in mechanical engineering.  I am the Engagement Director of a medical device design firm.   Our company is involved in the design of a variety of medical devices used throughout the world.   I manage multiple projects from both a financial and time management perspective.  I also serve as the chief technical lead for these projects as well as the key stakeholder for client management.  I currently have over 15 different engineers reporting directly to me.  

 Q. Of what school-related and/or community organizations are you, or have you been, a member?
 A.  I have been involved in a variety of activities throughout the community over the past 25 years in the community. I have been on the board of the Commack School District for nine years.  I have been the current President of the board for the past seven years.  I have been part of a variety of school - based community focus groups whose mission relates to advocacy and enhancing community relationships.  I chair the Legislative Advocacy Committee (LAC), which is comprised of administrators, students, teachers, and community members.   The Legislative Advocacy Committee was formed by the Board of Education in implementing solutions regarding legislative matters.  Our recent legislative advocacy work has resulted in bullet aid from Senator Gaughran for a new Mock Trial Courtroom in the Commack High School.  

I have been a proud PTA Member for over 18 years, and I have attended PTA meetings in all the different schools.   I attend the PTA Monthly Council meetings as a representative of the Board of Education.   In addition, I am the President of the Board of Trustees for the Commack Public Library and have been a member of this board for over 17 years.    

I have been involved in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of America and have served in many different roles with the Scouts over the years including assistant Cubmaster, den leader, committee member and still serve as merit badge counselor for the BSA.  In 2020, I received the Excellence in Education Award from the Boy Scouts of America.     Six of the scouts who started with me as Cub Scouts achieved the highest rank of Eagle Scout.  

I have been a mentor to high school students involved in the Science Research Program and attend Career Days in both the Middle School and High School to discuss engineering and imparting my knowledge to the students regarding the engineering field.  
I have also been working with the 9-11 Committee and I have volunteered for the Commack Coalition of Caring on their Medicine Take Back Program and educating the community in regarding the dangers of substance abuse and internet safety.   
 Q. Why do you want to be a member of the Board of Education and what talents (strengths) do you have that would contribute to the Board?
A. As a current member of the Board of Education, I have always worked with all my fellow board members throughout my nine years.  I do not represent any one community- based group as I represent the entire community.  The Board works together with our Superintendent as a team to set the direction of the district.  I have a great understanding as a board member of the roles and responsibilities of a board member including fiscal governance of the district, which is one of the key foundations of a board member.  In the current climate of the unfunded mandates, I will continue to work with the board to maintain and grow our programs and at that same time stay within the tax cap as we have done every year. 
I also will continue to use my knowledge to ensure that our children are provided with the access and opportunities to grow at each stage of the development from K-12.   I want to continue to explore new ways to grow and enhance all our programs so that every student benefits.  I have been an advocate for education and will continue to do so.   We need to work with our elected officials to continually let them know what makes Commack such an outstanding district and how they can help ensure that we maintain this level of growth.      

 Q. How many Board of Education meetings have you attended during the last three years?
 A.  I have attended all Board of Education meetings in the past three years.   In addition, I have attended all the Special meetings, Budget Information meetings, Audit Committee meetings, Executive Session meetings and Board Retreats.
 
Q. What do you see as the role of a Board of Education member as part of our District governance team?
 A.  The role of a member of the Board of Education is one of oversight of the entire school district.  The School Board is a team and they work collectively together to set the goals of the district.  It is the role of the Superintendent to put the goals into objectives and plans into actions, which the board reviews throughout the year and provides feedback.  The board are the overseers of the fiscal state of the School District.  It is the role of the board member to understand the budget, review, and provide recommendations and in the end put forth a budget to be voted on by the community. It is extremely important to uphold our fiscal responsibility to make sure that all members of our community see the value of a fiscally stable school district.  Board members are also policy makers.  We review and update our policies that are recommended to the board by the policy committee.    Lastly, school board members need to be advocates for public education and work with local, state, and federal representatives to ensure the best interests of our school district are met.   

Q. If you are reelected or elected to serve on the Commack Board of Education, what would be your three priority areas for board/administration study and potential improvement for the District?
 A. I will be continuing my involvement in meeting our Board of Education goals, which have been focused on 1) Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment 2) District Business and Operation, and 3) Advocacy.   For the business operations, I will continue reviewing and providing feedback to the administration on multi-year financial plan that focuses on fiscal stability.  In addition, we must continue to advocate to our Legislators that any new federal and state mandates must not be added without a revenue source to enact them in the school district.  We must continue to provide the opportunities for our staff to engage in professional development activities to enhance the learning experience of all students.  I also look forward to working with our new Superintendent, Dr. Jordan Cox.   

I will work with my Board for the continuation of increased growth of new programs for levels K-12.  We have ensured continued stability of our elementary class sizes throughout my years on the board and add programs like Movement in the Arts and Enrichment for All to help our students learn and move through a variety of well-designed activities.  We have added new areas of growth at the middle school enrichment program.  In the High School, we have continued to increase our number of AP and college level courses and electives.  Throughout the district, we have implemented STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) which has given our students a mulita-faceted curriculum to allow them to explore their areas of interest.    We want to ensure that all students get a valued education that will make them ready for a career or college after they leave our district.    We achieved the Blue-Ribbon Distinction Award this year in the High School.  This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our students and everyone who has supported and contributed to Commack schools over the years. Our program focuses on high-level, project-based academics, creativity, communication, movement, music, art, business, mathematics, humanities, science, engineering, and technical and trade opportunities. This initiative has resulted in unmatched 98% of all graduates taking at least one college level class and an astounding 85% taking three (3). The Commack Union Free School District has been authorized as the first school district on Long Island to offer the IBCP program for students. The International Baccalaureate® (IB) Career-Related Programme (CP) is designed for students in grades 11 and 12 interested in pursuing an education that provides them opportunities to engage in unique learning experiences relevant to their chosen field of study.

We have continued to enhance our communication with the community.  I recently helped spearhead the “Be in the Know” weekly update.  We are providing the community with valuable information from the Board about our schools and all the great exciting programs that are ongoing in our district.   I will continue with our board and superintendent to enhance our communication protocols that engages with all stakeholders of the community.   

 Q. What is your definition of a “Comprehensive Commack Education?” Does Commack currently offer this kind of an education, K-12?
 A. My definition of a Comprehensive Commack Education is one in which all of the students are offered the opportunities for growth and maturity.  These areas must include the mental, physical and emotional well-being of the student; our District does offer such a program.   This education should provide the students the access to numerous opportunities for them to learn, explore and grow into adults through the multitude of programs offered in all schools.  We also need to include extra-curricular activities as part of this education experience as these areas allow the student to learn and express themselves in other areas not related to the main academia subjects.      

Over the past nine years, I have strived to work with the community to ensure that Commack had this type of comprehensive education, and I will ensure that this level of education continues to thrive and flourish in the many years ahead.  

Chris Jurkovic

4 Otsego Place Commack NY 11725

My name is Chris Jurkovic. I am willing and able to help lead our community into a bright future. I have a six year old son and two year old daughter who will be part of Commack Schools for many years to come. In my professional life as a contractor, I act as a bridge between upper management, field workers and union policies. I believe this experience has prepared me for a seat on the Board of Education. I support parental inclusion in the education process as well as an expanded open dialogue between parents, students, faculty and the Board of Education in order to fulfill the needs of all students and families in our district.

Q. How long have you been a resident of the Commack area?
A. I have been a Commack resident for ten years.
 
Q. Do you have now, or have you ever had, any children attend the District public schools?
A. I have a son in the first grade at Wood Park primary school and a two year old daughter who will be entering the district school system in the fall of 2025.
 
Q. What is your educational background and current occupation?
A. I attended Local 12 AJEF trade school and have worked in the commercial HVAC sector for 19 years.
 
Q. Of what school-related and/or community organizations are you, or have you been, a member?
A. I have a young family who are new to the school system. I have yet to be involved in any school organizations here in Commack but I look forward to my family actively participating in the community as our children grow. Outside of school activities my family is involved with Commack South Little League, Commack Soccer and we attend Christ the King Catholic Church.
 
Q. Why do you want to be a member of the Board of Education and what talents (strengths) do you have that would contribute to the Board?
A. I want to be a member of the Board of Education to do my part in uniting the community, parents and teachers to do what’s best for the children. I offer a unique opportunity to diversify the boards perspective, as well as represent many parents with young kids and community members who share my blue collar background.
 
Q. How many Board of Education is meetings have you attended during the last three years?
 A. I have attended a few meetings in person and followed along virtually with the rest as my eldest child had just entered the school system during the pandemic.
 
Q. What do you see as the role of a Board of Education member as part of our district governance team?
A. The role of a member of the Board of Education is to provide leadership in striving for excellence in our schools and to practice fiscal responsibility in the interests of the community at large.
 
Q. If you are reelected or elected to serve on the Commack Board of Education, what would be your three priority areas for board/administration study and potential improvement for the district?
A. If elected to the board, I would first and foremost respect the success of the district and not look to make overarching changes. The three pillars I would focus on potentially improving would be:

1) Parental inclusion. The board should always seek new ways to get parents and the community involved as they are the tax payers who fund the great programs Commack Schools offer. For example, we could look to bring back the parent committees at the elementary school level. Many of our youngest students have fallen behind in speech, reading and other more nuanced areas through the pandemic.
 
2) Screen Time. This is not a school specific issue but I believe it is important we have more dialogue on the topic. The amount of screen time our children have each day is growing exponentially every year. The content they engage with online can be detrimental to their mental health and the content they produce will be there forever. The digital age is here to stay but we as a community should manage our children’s engagement and balance the scales by encouraging more physical activities and hands on learning inside or beyond the doors of our schools.
 
3) The Real World. School is a preparation for life as an adult. Commack Schools have had great success in preparing our students for prestigious universities. I would like to broaden this focus to include more emphasis on the wonderful skill specific training programs we have to offer such as trade schools and other alternative higher education opportunities. Parents and students should be more aware of the high paying careers available to them at a smaller financial burden and be able to work with the schools in conducting a cost benefit analysis before making a life changing decision.
 
Q. What is your definition of a “Comprehensive Commack Education?” Does Commack currently offer this kind of an education, K-12? 
A. A “Comprehensive Commack Education” is an education that meets the needs of all students and families in the district. I believe the reputation of Commack Schools speaks for itself in successfully providing this. As a member of the board, I would strive to maintain this reputation by supporting policies that help Commack Schools adapt to our ever changing environment in real time.

Justin Varughese

33 Wintercress Lane, E. Northport, NY 11731

My name is Justin Varughese and I am passionate about seeing our community and district continue to thrive.  We have a remarkable student population, full of talent and creativity, and I hope for the opportunity to help cultivate continual growth.  I want for every student to be seen, known, and valued so that each one can reach their full potential, leaving them well prepared for success in life beyond the Commack Schools.  Having served on the Board as a Trustee and Vice President, I have demonstrated the skills, patience, & experience to bring people together and help the district continue to flourish, while representing the values and goals of our community with sensitivity and passion.  As a business owner I have the budgetary and leadership background to serve our community well.  As a dad, I love Commack and consider it a privilege to raise my family here.


Q: How long have you been a resident of the Commack area?
A: I have been a resident of the Commack area for over 16 years
 
Q: Do you have now, or have you ever had, any children attend the District public schools?
A:  I currently have 2 children in our schools (intermediate and middle schools)
 
Q: What is your educational background and current occupation?
A:  I have a juris doctorate from St. John's School of Law, double BA from University of Maryland, and am a founding partner and senior trial attorney at Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC
 
Q:  Of what school-related and/or community organizations are you, or have you been a member?
A:  I have served as a board trustee for 2 years and board vice president for 1 year.  My wife and I  have been involved with PTAs at North Ridge, Burr, and CMS.  I have been actively involved and coached soccer and basketball teams in the Commack Soccer League, Commack Basketball Association, and CYO sports leagues.  I have also been involved in community service through various churches including organizing food/clothing drives and conducting public educational forums/events at the Commack library.
 
Q: Why do you want to be a member of the BOE and what talents/strengths do you have that would contribute to the board?
A: Above all, I want to serve because I love this community and consider it a privilege to give my time and energy to help the district continue to grow in any way that I can.  My strengths include the ability and skills to actively listen, deeply understand various viewpoints, be shaped by differing opinions, and help to bring people together in the best interests of the students, district, and community at large.  Though times are seemingly more divisive than ever, I believe we serve our children well when we model this ability to learn from one another and grow together, even if we don't always agree perfectly.  As a business owner, I also have the skills to cultivate budgetary accountability and effective contract negotiations in the best interests of the district and community.
 
Q:  How many BOE meetings have you attended during the last 3 years?
A:  As a current board member, I have attended nearly every meeting over the last three years.  
 
Q: What do you see as the role of a Board of Education member as part of our district governance team?
A:  A board member's role is to work effectively with his/her fellow board members to collaboratively set goals for the district that cultivate student growth while reflecting the values of our community, to foster optimal use of financial resources by way of budgetary accountability, to set policy that will nurture positive development for our students & district, and to support the administration toward the fulfillment of these goals and endeavors.  
 
Q:  If you are re-elected to serve on the Commack BOE, what would be your three priority areas for board/administration study and potential improvements for the district?
A:  (1) Continue helping students at every level discover their passions and develop their strengths through academic, artistic, and vocational opportunities from K-12.  Commack Schools should continue to release exceedingly prepared graduates who enthusiastically advance toward their next stage of life, whatever form that might take. This will require examination at all levels (incl. special education, pathways, AP/IB, vocational training, etc.) with a focus on how each offering impacts the larger trajectory of a student's future.  We want to develop world changers who are thriving in their strengths and passions, so we must help students discover their path with intentionality and focus. 
(2) Social and emotional reacclimation in a post-pandemic environment.  We now have an opportunity to not just return to a pre-pandemic state, but to foster a uniquely healthy school environment that surpasses what it had been in years past.  This will require intentional assessment of the social & emotional challenges faced by our students and the exploration of potentially new ways to nurture healing, health, and growth. It will come about through increased student engagement, professional development, and an array of other purposeful approaches.  The intended result will be a student body marked by confidence, engagement, and social/emotional health.
(3)  Growth in helping students learn from and be shaped by others who are different from them. As our community becomes increasingly diverse in a variety of ways (racially, ethnically, religiously, etc.), it is crucial that we equip our students with healthy perspectives that empower them to relate to & learn from those who are different from them. Whether of a different race, religious belief, political party, interest, or viewpoint, we all have so much to learn from one another. I hope to continue to work with administrators & teachers to explore how we can increase students' exposure to diverse perspectives so as to produce generous, gracious attitudes toward others. Specifically, this might come in the form of curriculum, programs, and general messaging to our students that places high value upon the beauty of all that makes each student unique and valuable. In so doing, we will send students into the world better prepared to not only share from their own unique perspectives, but also to also be shaped by the perspectives and experiences of those around them.
 
Q: What is your definition of a "Comprehensive Commack Education"? Does Commack currently offer this kind of education, K-12?
A: A Comprehensive Commack Education means that each and every student is truly seen and provided with an environment that nurtures growth in every area of development (academic, artistic, social, emotional, etc.) in a structured way from K -12.  A purposeful approach in this regard will ensure that every student is presented with a variety of experiences to help them discover their passions and strengths as we seek to prepare them for success and health beyond K-12. Our district offers this in many ways already, but I am eager to help identify areas of need and support its growth.
Contact Information
By Mail:  P.O. Box 150, Commack, NY 11725
By Phone:  (631) 912-2000
By Email: [email protected]
Directions to Commack Schools
The Commack School District Mission Statement
Within the context of a caring community of learners, our primary mission is to provide an exemplary
learning experience that will allow each child to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes, and
values to become a successful, contributing member within our school community and greater society.
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