Vincent Ruggiero moved with his family to Port Jefferson five years ago, and this year the lifelong educator is making his first run at Port Jefferson School District Board of Education.
Ruggiero teaches English at Central Islip High School, and has acted as a mentor coach to younger teachers in the district throughout his time in the district.
He has two children in the district - a son in the , and a daughter at - and in the past couple of years has served on a principal selection committee and a budget advisory committee twice in the school district.
Port Jefferson Patch: What brought you to Port Jefferson five years ago?
Vincent Ruggiero: My children were born here, I was married here. Some of my best memories with my father, who passed away recently, are here. I've found the reputation of the school district to be terrific. And I've found there is a longstanding tradition of being proud to live in Port Jefferson.
I can't tell you how wonderful the community has been to me since I've been here.
PJP: Why did you decide to run for school board?
VR: We are at a crucial time in regards to our educational and financial future of the Port Jefferson and Belle Terre communities, with what's happening with the uncertain impact of the National Grid crisis. Add the tax cap legislation - in the wake of new core testing standards - and that's a recipe for educaitonal and financial disaster. I believe with my 24 years of teaching experience, I could get work done with our fellow educators to help navigate through some of these difficult issues.
PJP: What ideas do you have in mind?
VR: I know first and foremost one of the issues pertains to dollars. The governor has announced two competitive grant expenditures offering $100 million throughout the state. Central Islip has gone after similar grants. They have a permanent grant writer on staff, who last year alone secured over $10 million state, federal and foundation grants. If it can be done in one district, it can be done elsewhere.
We shouldn't allow any financial stone to be left unturned.
PJP: And on the expenditure side, unfortunately some things will likely have to be cut. Where do you start there?
VR: I don't really know where the starting point would be. I would go based on the recommendations from the superintendent, though I think all areas need to be part of a shared sacrifice. But usually those are things the superintendent will outline.
One of the most troubling pieces of this is that when we talk about this recession, what hurts is that good teachers - teachers who work hard every day - have had to lose their positions.
Some cuts - co-curricular, athletics - may come mitigated depending on how aggressive we are when it comes to finding alternative ways to get some revenue.
PJP: Do you disagree with any decisions the school board has made?
VR: Recently there are not any decisions that speak out. They were fiscally conscious when they looked that last year - they saw residents made quite a sacrifice. And they were able to stick to the two percent tax increase.