I attended the Meet the Candidates Night at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School on Wednesday, May 12. The five candidates competing for the four open seats answered written questions submitted by the shockingly few residents who cared enough to come to see them. Perhaps the crowd was so small (perhaps forty people including relatives and friends of the candidates) because the citizens of the community have learned that there is little to no information about the candidates to be gleaned from sitting in a brutally hot auditorium listening to candidates more often than not respond to questions with politically correct generalities that leave one clueless as to how they would deal with the issues as a member of the Board of Education. There is no debate. There is no follow-up questioning. There is not a competition of ideas for the betterment of our schools.

    It wasn’t always that way. Up until perhaps ten years ago, candidates ran for a particular seat on the Board of Education. The contests were usually between insurgents and incumbents. Incumbents were challenged to defend their record on the Board by challengers who offered their ideas for change. In short there was a much more serious political process than there is today when for all intents and purposes candidates simply offer up their resumes which offer no insights as to how they will go about the job of making policy for our school district. This emasculation of the political process has to change, and the PCT intends to reach out to members of the community to put up a referendum to bring back serious contests for the very important job of Member of the Board of Education.

    Even though we will have the same electoral system next year, there is much we can do to have a more serious candidates night, one that challenges the candidates and leaves the audience with a clearer understanding of their knowledge and views and one that occurs earlier in the campaign so that things a candidate says at the forum can be talked about by the citizens for some time before they vote. Twenty years ago, the Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers used to conduct such an evening. It is time for us to do so again. We will be doing so next year in the hope of making these elections about ideas for dealing with the challenges that will face our school district.

In the meantime, I hope all citizens will exercise their right and vote on May 18.

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