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Hewlett-Woodmere School Board Candidate: Jonathan Altus

Doctor seeks seat on board of education.

On May 15, School District 14 residents will vote on a $105 million budget, as well as choose three school board candidates in an at-large election. Jonathan Altus is one of four people seeking a seat. The following is the questionnaire put to all candidates by the Hewlett-Woodmere Central Council PTA.

How long have you lived in the district and are/were you a parent of a child in the public schools?

I have lived in Hewlett for 23 years. I have two children. My son graduated Hewlett High School in 2009. My daughter is currently a junior at Hewlett High. Both children have only attended Hewlett public schools.

What particular experiences or skills qualify you to serve as a school board member?

I have been an active member of the community with intricate knowledge of the schools my children have attended. My professional background as a physician has trained me to find simple solutions to complex problems.

What do you see as the major issue(s) facing our school district?

Maintaining our school district’s high level of excellence in the face of decreasing state aid and unfunded mandates.

What do you see as the greatest strength of Hewlett-Woodmere schools?

The high level of education and commitment of the community to maintain these standards.

What do you see as the greatest weakness in our district and what would you do to change it?

 The minimal state aid that we receive, which forces the local homeowner to pay excessive taxes. We need to do a better job informing the community that the state only pays approximately 5 percent of the school budget

What changes, if any, should be made in the district’s budget?

There should be an expansion of courses in future technologies and creative writing. Foreign language should begin in elementary school.

Is there any other information you would like to share about yourself or your goals?  What would you like the community to know about you?

I am a practicing pulmonary and critical care physician that is in private practice in the South Shore. I’m hopeful that my experience in chairing many hospital committees will foster a collaborative relationship between the school district and the community. I am running with Melissa Gates and Steve Witt, who both share my interests in advocating for children of our district.

Note: One of Central Council Presidents’ responsibilities is to help publicize information on the board of education candidates either through a Candidate’s Night or a questionnaire. All information coming out of Central Council this year regarding the candidates and budget has been handled by Central Council Co-President, Mitchell A. Greebel only. There will be no Candidate’s Night due to scheduling restraints. The questionnaire used this year is the same one that was used in the last two (2) contested elections with a few minor changes developed in consultation with all the unit presidents. The responses were written by the candidates first hand with no editing or changes other than to consolidate and format the information here. The answers are provided here in the order that the candidates will be on the ballot. The order was chosen by lottery pick, which was conducted by the district clerk and witnessed by a district security guard. By law, the lottery is held the day after the petitions are submitted.

Bojames May 10, 2012 at 10:24 AM
Question for Mr. Altus: When elected what are you going to do in respect to the 40+ homeowners in the district who get inflated Clergy exemptions under NYS Real Property Law 460? ( 32 homeowners pay NO school taxes; exemptions as high as $14,983 when the law indicates it should be $1,500) Will you ask the Board to press our State and County reps to fix the problem?
Fred Usherson May 10, 2012 at 11:56 AM
I invite the residents to visit my website FRED4HW.COM and see my ideas for improving the schools in our district
E. Rollins May 10, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Fred - That is PATHETIC! The patch was gracious enough to give each individual candidate a forum to express their views and have a place for comments, but you have to come on and advertise your self-aggrandizing website on another candidate's page? You won't even answer questions in a public forum (or, from what I read, go to a board meeting) but you can come make these childish posts on another candidates profile? That's sad. I hope the voters take your behavior and lack of attendance at the district's meetings into account when they cast their votes. We need trustees with a real interest in serving our students and participating in the process, not someone who just wants to direct them to a self-aggrandizing website.
Chris Albanese May 10, 2012 at 04:54 PM
E.-Take it easy. Let the voter make up their own mind. We don't need you or anyone else coming on here and making personal attacks against any of the candidates. Many of the ponts that you made are valid and will be taken into account by the voter, but you lose some credibility in my book when you resort to name calling.
E. Rollins May 10, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Sorry Chris. I've just been frustrated by Fred's refusal to answer questions on these forums and his constant hiding behind some website that he has had up for the last 4 years and still uses old data. There are current issues facing the district, and I believe anyone who wants to be a board member should be going to meetings before they run so they really know what is really going on. Going on to each candidates answer page and trying to re-direct readers to his site was just too much. Hopefully he'll finally just answer the questions.
E. Rollins May 11, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Chris - FYI, Fred has been very active on his profile page answering questions about ipads and promoting his website, but he still hasn't answered a few simple questions: He complained about the retirement incentive offered this year saying it was a waste of funds. The district spent approximately $160,000 this year (once), and through retirements and moving staff, cut two administrative positions that will save them over $350,000+ annually. Does Fred really think that spending $160,000 once, in order to save $350,000+ year after year after year is really a bad thing? Fred said the district "loses credibility" when they try to get the $1,000,000+ in state aide they cut from the district restored to lighten the burden on our property tax payers. Does he think we should leave that money up in Albany and make our tax payers pay $1,000,000+ more than they should be paying if the funds were restored? I thought he was worried about the taxpayers. Lastly, it has been reported that he hasn't been to a board meeting in over a year, and (per the Patch) he wasn't even at the budget hearing they had a few weeks ago. How can he be a serious candidate for the board if he hasn't even been going to meetings to see what is really going on?
Jonathan Altus May 11, 2012 at 04:39 AM
I think to change that state law might be a stretch for our school board to fix.
Bojames May 11, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Mr. Altus would ASKING be beyond the Board's scope?
E. Rollins May 11, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Bo - Yes, it is beyond the boards scope. They should not be advocating for or against any of the district's property owners when it comes to the assessments made by the county. If your assessment was the lowest on your block, would you expect the board to advocate on behalf of the rest of your neighbors to have your assessment raised? Do you think that would be part of their scope?
Chris Albanese May 11, 2012 at 08:08 PM
For whatever reason, he does not want to use Patch as his forum and that is his right. I think that will hurt his campaign and will be reflected in the results.... I've already commented to Stephen both on this board and in a personal email how I appreciate this medium and thanked he and the Patch team for giving a voice to the candidates AND voters if they choose to use it. Take a deep breath, only a few more days.
Bojames May 12, 2012 at 12:27 AM
ER No I do not think it is beyond the Board's scope to ask the State and the County to tax the district's taxpayers, all of us , fairly. They would be advocating for fairness for all the taxpayers,not just me or you, who are already overly taxed. Moving on, IF you are concerned that some property owners do not pay school taxes ( that ARE passed on to you ) because of a flawed application of state law, you , and other tax payers ,should ask our state and county reps WHY they have not done anything about it.
E. Rollins May 12, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Bo - The district can advocate for the entire district to be treated fairly, as a whole, by the state and county. They actually did that couple of weeks ago when they hosted a meeting with the state legislators on the unfunded mandates and cuts in state aid. They should not be advocating for one district resident over another. As you stated, if taxpayers feel there is a problem with how the levy is, or is not distributed, they need to take that up with the state and county legislators, not district trustees.
Fred Usherson May 12, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I'd like to thank the Nassau Herald, the South Shore Record, and the South Shore Standard for their endoresements. The South Shore Standard endorsed me as the preferred candidate over Stephen Witt and his running mates. See my ideas on how I want to improve our schools at FRED4HW.COM.
E. Rollins May 12, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Fred - Why are you lying? The South Shore Standard Closed their piece on the vote by saying "Just as voters brought in newcomers Cheryl May and Scott McInnes last year, we recommend that voters continue that trend and put three more fresh faces on the board." How does that make you the preferred candidate over Steve Witt's running mates? Anyone who wants to see the truth can go look at the Standard piece here: http://standardli.com/2012/05/school-board-elections/ As to the Herald, they clearly endorsed Steve Witt and Melissa Gates and when it came to the third candidate they said "We like them both, but give the edge to Usherson because of his education background...." Hardly the glowing endorsement they gave Melissa and Steve.

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