When Josephine Bottitta co-founded Project Enroll Now in 2004 she wanted to dispel the negativity in the Malverne school district, particularly among those residents who thought the public schools were insufficient and gave them no choice but to send their children to private ones.
“We saw a real disconnect to what was truly happening in the schools and what was being communicated to people who weren’t using them,” she told Patch. “We were trying to help communicate to Malverne particularly, but not only Malverne, the bright side of the schools … it was allowing a choice for people who thought they didn’t have one because of what they heard.”
Now, eight years later, Bottitta, the parent of two Malverne students, once again has a vision for how the school district can improve, but to accomplish these goals, she’s vying for one of two seats available on the Board of Education.
Bottitta, or “Joey” as she is called by most, is running in the May 15 election against Malverne business teacher and NYC teacher Joann Krudis, both parents like herself, for the seat that opened up earlier this month when
For Bottitta, who moved to Malverne in 1991 and has been very involved in the district and community as a parent, Little League coach, class mom, and member of the PTA and Superintendent’s Advisory Council, the decision to run for the board now was “a timing issue.”
Her children are older and more independent now - her son is in sixth grade, her daughter in second - and after making a career shift, her job is more stable, allowing her to work a four-day schedule.
“I’m ready in the sense that I have more time ... and my children are okay with me not being around as much,” she says. Plus, over the years, she’s cultivated much experience. “I’ve heard from teachers, staff, administrators and parents,” she says. “I have a good understanding of the issues.”
If elected, Bottitta wants to “encourage unity amongst the communities,” and see more residents, including those with children in the private schools and those who do not have children, get involved, attend board meetings and express their opinions. This ties into her second goal, “helping to promote a board that operates as a team in a professional and respectful manner.”
She’s seen the board function very differently as the seats have changed hands over the past eight years, but says, “I’d like to see more unity ... and a more diverse representation. If I’m elected, I’m firmly committed to being a team player amongst the board members and the public. Showing professionalism and respect, and trying to accentuate the positive is very important to our district, our community, and our property values.”
She'd also like to promote a better environment for teachers in the schools, one that's "constructive and supportive to all employees" and fosters teamwork, but still holds them to the "standards of accountablity."
Her biggest goal though is to balance the mission of “providing a quality education with the taxpayers’ burden and property values," saying, “We need to provide the best at the lowest cost.”
She says her experience working in the health care industry, which faces similar challenges, would be an asset to the board, especially when trying to strike this balance come budget time.
Bottitta’s career has taken her from social work to law, to most recently, running the Human Resources Department of a 561-bed nursing home in Manhattan with 1,000 union employees.
Like what’s happening with the school system now, Bottitta had to contend with reductions in state aid, unfunded mandates and rising salary, benefits and pension costs, while trying to “maintain the quality of care with less resources.”
Today, she works as an outside consultant for more than 150 nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living communities and home-care providers, dealing with struggles related to budgets, finances, insurance policies, risk management and more.
As for the 2012-2013 Malverne school budget, Bottitta said she does support it. “My impression coming to board meetings and speaking to people was that there was a collective effort by the board, administration and teachers … and they started early.”
She says she hates to see any cuts, but realizes “we are in an environment where unfortunately, we ‘re not going to be able to provide it all.” That said, she does “believe that many people have moved to Long Island and will bear the cost in their taxes because they have higher expectations for what the schools can provide and want to provide.”
Her main concern when looking at the fiscal challenges the district faces is keeping teacher-to-student ratios low. “It’s not to say that only academics matter, because there are children who succeed because of sports, arts, theater or music,” she says. “I don’t know that any one is more important than the other, but to try to strike a balance so we can provide as much as possible would be ideal, because that helps to make a child a full person. It can’t be only academics.”
Bottitta says, “Everyone I’ve spoken to collectively wants to raise the bar but we have less funding and increased costs.” Her answer is to apply more out-of-the-box thinking, including fundraising, utilizing volunteer resources and applying for grants.
“It’s going to require fiscal prudence and if I’m lucky enough to get elected, I’ll be very diligent about that and work hard,” she adds. “No rock will go unturned.”
The Malverne school board and budget vote will take place on May 15 at Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more candidate profiles and related news, click here.