Meet the Board of Education Candidates

Joan S. Reed

SOMERS, N.Y. – The following candidates will be running for the two available seats on the Somers Board of Education. Board members serve three-year terms. The annual budget vote and board election will be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 18, at the Somers Middle School gymnasium.

Heidi Cambareri

Cambareri earned a bachelor of science in special education and a master of professional studies in reading and writing. Her career experience includes special education teacher, preschool teacher, educational consultant with SW BOCES, reading specialist, and most recently, providing educational support to students learning remotely. She is the current school board vice president. 

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She is a member of the Somers Community Council and has been actively involved with the PTA for years. She was a Girl Scout leader for nine years and served as an Elder at Katonah Presbyterian Church, where she remains involved in youth programs.

“The Board of Ed will face several issues in coming years,” she says. “Keeping a conservative budget that provides for a robust educational experience while addressing pending tax certiorari matters is a big one. Meeting the mental, social and academic needs of our students after this past year is another. How do we chart a course forward using the best new practices to provide an educational experience superior to what we had ‘before’? And how do we pull our entire learning community together to become a unified place of empathy, support and inclusion? Finally, declining enrollment. The younger grades have stabilized, but the high school enrollment will drop precipitously. The details will be handled by administration, but the BOE will provide the vision for the future, accountability, budget, policies and oversight. My term as trustee has me well-positioned to take on these challenges. I’ve worked through several budget cycles and have advocated for necessary state and federal funding. An educator of young kids with a child in high school, I know the diverse needs of K-12 moving ahead. I will support programmatic innovations and know what to look for as evidence that our resources are being allocated wisely at all grade levels. I’ve proven myself a responsible leader, representing the entire community, and I can hit the ground running to keep Somers moving ‘forward in excellence.’ ”

Gilbert López

López holds an associate degree in criminal justice, a bachelor of science in organizational management and is working toward a master of science in business leadership.

López has had an 18-year career in law enforcement with the city of White Plains. He currently holds the position of criminal investigator and has also served as a liaison to the Hispanic community, School Resource Officer, domestic violence investigator and victim and student advocate. 

He is a member of the Somers Transportation Safety Task Force and the SCSD Reentry Coalition. He is also the president of the Board of Trustees within his church. 

“As a community we need to be fully prepared to welcome our children back in a safe manner, creating proactive and strategic safety measures in innovative ways that won’t hinder the students’ educational experience,” he says. “If we don’t do this, we can potentially have a dilemma and face regression. It is time, more than ever, to use a substantial amount of the district’s funding in the areas of safety, security and health. The state aid funding could not have come at a better time; it does not come often. The pandemic has created a gap in these areas during the most important developmental stages in our children’s lives! We need to be prepared in having resources; providing counseling services, programs; perhaps even hiring employees. Somers school district has a great reputation in providing excellent educational services to our student body due to the great educators, administrators and district employees we have retained. They have flourished during this pandemic, providing innovative ways of learning and will continue to do so. But in order to return to ‘somewhat’ normalcy, we need to address the safety and health concerns and provide the same innovative thinking and planning behind it. Developing strategic initiatives, safety planning, providing innovative thinking, and having the ability of foresight are where my experience lies!”

Dr. Rodric Rabbah

Rabbah’s educational background includes a doctorate in computer science from Georgia Tech, and several years in academia at MIT. There, he taught computer science classes to undergraduate and graduate students. Rabbah went on to spend 11 years at IBM Research, earning multiple corporate awards, serving as intern coordinator and publishing dozens of research articles and patents. Currently, he is the co-founder of a cloud computing company.

Rabbah currently serves on the PTA Council and is the PTA delegate for Primrose Elementary School. He participates in monthly roundtables with the superintendent and uses the forum to discuss important topics facing the district. He also regularly attends and speaks at board meetings and provides summaries of meetings on his Facebook page for the community. For the last two years, he has served on the Superintendent’s Educational Equity Advisory Team (SEEAT) and actively participated in the related curriculum reviews with district educators. Rabbah has also served on the town’s Pulse Coalition, which aims to increase awareness of district challenges within the community.

“I believe new perspectives and a renewed vision are urgently needed on the board,” he says. “We need to get past personal divisions and refocus on real education and matters impacting our students. We need to strengthen STEAM instruction and extend the programs to include the elementary grades. I can advocate for all students, including elementary and special needs students; I have a child in Primrose. I also want to raise awareness about our rankings, which are a visible measure of district performance impacting property values and taxes. I have a unique background and relevant experience in academia and industry to make a difference.”

Nick Mancini 

Mancini graduated with a bachelor of science in computer science from Manhattan College and has worked in the financial and tech industry in various roles including several Chief Technical Officer (CTO) positions. Over the years, he has been active in the community helping youth and coaching his own children and many others in the community. 

“With the pandemic hopefully behind us, our schools need to focus on the future and how to improve the quality of teaching and support for all kids to learn while maintaining a reasonable budget,” he says. “Three key areas of focus need to be first. Our technology in the classroom as a necessary tool for our teachers and administration to keep up with the quality of education. Second is developing, communicating and tracking progress on a long-term vision must be made more public with trackable success factors that allow us to reevaluate our decisions. And last, our schools must be a place where students can learn about our collective history, how our country works and how to debate and understand all perspectives related to a topic. It is imperative to give our children the tools needed to digest and process information, to enable our future, to think for themselves and to draw their own conclusions. In an environment that invites diverse thinking and encourages students to challenge convention without fear, we need to allow independent opinions to be formed without persuasion from those in influential positions. Educators must, at all costs, avoid espousing social or political views.”

Paul Padovani

Padovani is a lifelong resident of Somers and a small business owner within the community. He attended SUNY Oneonta and received a degree in business economics, and has worked as a financial adviser since 1994. He is the principal of his own RIA firm and an insurance brokerage company, and currently holds licenses as a mortgage loan officer and life and health insurance agent, and holds his Series 65.

He has been an active participant in town athletic programs including men’s softball, has both directed and coached SYSO girls basketball, and has served as the director of the youth non-travel program for the past three years. Padovani has also worked on committees for nonprofits on a national scale including Heroes in Transition, Relay for Life and Support Connection, as well as raising money for other causes within the Somers community. 

“The current Board of Education is fractured in its public message,” he says. “It is clear to anyone watching that there is dissension and politics getting in the way of the business at hand. The fact that there is a difference of opinion within any board is not an issue. In fact, I believe that to be a healthy component of a board that ultimately results in more fair and just outcomes. The fact that the leaders of the current board allow members’ grievances to be aired publicly and political views and social agendas to cause issues when the true matters at hand are the education of our children is concerning at a minimum. The Board of Education is not a virtue-signaling body that shouts its feelings on Zoom calls. It is an inclusive body that amongst other duties, has a fiscal responsibility to prepare the school budget and votes on what is taught to our children after a curriculum is brought forth by the schools superintendent and administrators. I believe that I have the long, strong community ties with the board and committee experience to help unite the Board of Education and to work for our children’s best interests.”

Carol Reif and Tom Walogorsky contributed to this report. 

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