Aitken Re-Elected As Board President As New Trustees Sworn In

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Newly elected Manhasset Board of Education trustees Jill Pullano and, sub-sequentially, Erin Royce were sworn in at the annual Board of Education Organizational meeting.
(Photos by Jennifer Corr)

Newly elected Manhasset Board of Education trustees Jill Pullano and Erin Royce rose their hands in the air on the evening of July 7 during a swearing in ceremony that also included the re-election of Pat Aitken as president and Christine Monterosso as vice president.

Pullano and Royce were both elected on May 18. Pullano is an 18-year resident who will serve on the board’s Audit Committee. Her professional experience includes accounting and product development, as well as being a parent of a current Manhasset School District student and two graduates. Royce has been a Manhasset resident for 16 years and is a former director of high school guidance. She also has two children in the school district as well as a pre-school student.

“I look forward to working closely with the other board members and administration to continue the tradition of excellence in Manhasset,” Royce said via email. “I look forward to working hard for our students and listening to our community.”

Pullano said via email that she, too, was looking forward to upholding the legacy of Manhasset “excellence” for the families and children that the district supports.
“A huge thank you to the entire Manhasset community for voting to support our students and our schools, and for electing me to the Board of Education,” Pullano said.

After Royce and Pullano were sworn in during the annual organization meeting that took place in the district office, Aitken was re-elected as president and Monterosso was re-elected as vice president. Aitken, a 23-year Manhasset resident, has served on the board for 16 years and is a member of the Board Policy and Audit Committee. Her professional experience includes finance and her three children graduated from the Manhasset School District.

Monterosso, meanwhile, has served on the board for five years and has lived in Manhasset for 16 years. The retired attorney has three children attending the district.
The first order of business for the newly sworn in and re-elected trustees, joined by 11-year trustee Regina Rule, was deciding whether or not the Board of Education meetings would continue to be streamed online as public meetings go back to meeting in-person rather than remotely. The board, during the first in-person meeting since March 12, 2020, ultimately decided to stream the meetings so that the public can either attend the meeting in-person or tune in virtually.

“Our attendance numbers went up dramatically,” Rule said in regards to the streamed Board of Education meetings. “Not because we are rock stars, but the public wanted to be able to see what was going on and was able to participate and understand what was happening. As we all know, our world was changing exponentially, second by second.”

The streamed meetings provided faculty, parents with young children and even students the opportunity to participate in meetings that formerly had low attendance, both Monterosso and Rule shared. There is no downside to continuing streaming meetings, Monterosso said, when district families and faculties feel like they have a voice in their schools.

“The way I look at it is, let’s go for it and keep going with something that seems to be working,” Rule said. “Give it three or six months and if it’s cumbersome, then it’s nothing that has to be written in stone for any extensive period of time.”

The Board of Education then unanimously voted in favor of streaming all Board of Education meetings via Zoom through December, and to reassess from there.

“The key word to me was access,” Christine Parasco Krieger of the Manhasset Parent Association of Special Education said. “There were many, many meetings I would have liked to attend when my son was young and I just could not get here. My husband was working late or what not. I do think the key word is access, so I think it would be great to continue [live-streaming] and I think it does keep a good line of communication open.”

And as the Board of Education meeting that followed the organizational meeting officially began, the camera was switched on and the meeting was broadcast to district families and faculty. During the meeting, Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations Rosemary Johnson presented an update on the numerous projects happening at Manhasset Schools; including the building of four new classrooms at Munsey Park Elementary School and the traffic flow re design project and asphalt replacement at Manhasset Secondary School, as well as the building of a Social and Emotional Wellness Wing at the secondary school.

The Social and Emotional Wellness Wing will serve middle school students by providing social workers, psychologists and a counselor all in one place. All the projects are “well under way,” Johnson said.

“We have a lot to accomplish over the next few weeks,” Johnson said. “This is a very short summer and so we are trying to accomplish a tremendous amount with these projects. We will stay on top of them and make sure they will continue to move forward as quickly as we can. There are some supply issues, just as everyone else across the country is experiencing in construction. But the good news is, basic materials like HVAC systems are secured, so I’m very happy about that.”

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