Four candidates are running for two open seats on the Greenport Board of Education. Incumbent Babette Cornine is seeking a fourth term, but longtime board member Dan Creedon announced he would not seek reelection. The three other candidates are Kelly Harris, Ramona Miranda and Robin Walden. All candidates recently answered a brief questionnaire sent out by The Suffolk Times. Their responses have been edited for space and clarity.
Babette ‘Babs’ Cornine has served on the Board of Education since 2012. A longtime community member, she has two adult children who graduated from Greenport and is seeking a fourth-term on the board.
“I am committed to the academic success and well-being of every child in the school district,” she said in a statement. “The children of the Greenport School District deserve every opportunity and resource we can offer to help them succeed and thrive in a rapidly changing world.”
In addition to preparing students for both college and alternative career paths, she said she is committed to seeing the pending renovation project through. Voters in 2019 approved a $17 million capital improvement plan that will upgrade the school’s infrastructure and facilities and increase safety and security.
“Our students and staff deserve a school that provides safe and modern work spaces,” said Ms. Cornine, who is a member of the school board’s buildings and grounds committee.
Kelly Harris, 39, is executive director of the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton. She resides in Greenport with her husband, Cliff, and their son.
She said she’s running to advocate for the children in the community. “I know our students are talented, smart, funny and driven but they need the tools and the resources to compete and succeed,” she said.
Ms. Harris hopes to improve district transparency and communication, prioritize the children in decision-making and increase services, programs and opportunities for students.
She also said she’d like to see more focus on assisting students and families in mapping out their postgraduate plans to include college, trade school, military and internship options.
Another priority for her is ensuring that students remain in their classrooms. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there is a digital divide in this country and our community,” Ms. Harris said, adding that distance learning has not been equitable.
She said students and teachers have demonstrated resilience and creativity in the last year and noted that increased extra help could help address pandemic-related learning loss.
For Ms. Harris, whose husband is a Greenport graduate, building on existing Porter Pride is also important. “He built lasting friendships, developed a strong commitment to community service, and has many fond memories of his time there,” she said. “I want the same thing for my son and all of the kids in this community. To do so we need equity in education, a safe and robust learning environment and all of our stakeholders to be engaged.”
Ramona Miranda, 34, is an administrative assistant and translator for the Shelter Island Union Free School District. She is a 2005 Greenport graduate who also assists members of the Latino community, most recently with translating documents and securing vaccine appointments. She lives in the village with her husband, John, and two children.
“Helping others is a true passion and if elected to serve on the Board of Education, this would be a wonderful opportunity to give back not only to the community that opened the doors for my family and me as immigrants from Nicaragua, but to the school that opened the doors to my future,” Ms. Miranda said.
If elected to the board, she’d like to improve communication using social media to engage parents and the community and foster collaboration with local businesses, tradespeople and neighboring school districts to expand student opportunities.
Citing the district’s diversity as a strength, Ms. Miranda said she would also like to improve outreach to the Latino community by creating an organization for parents and students that allows them the access and confidence to become more involved.
Ms. Miranda said the school could benefit from a new track for the community, additional support for teachers, additional ENL teachers and more clubs and after-school programs for students, which could assist working-class parents.
She said the pandemic heightened the need to ensure that technology is up to date and available to all and said student data should be used to assess what students may need to succeed, in addition to offering summer and after-school extra help sessions.
Robin Walden, 52, is the owner of SD Staples Monuments in Greenport and a 1986 graduate of Greenport High School.
Ms. Walden is the superintendent of Sterling Cemetery and has been involved with the Greenport Rotary for more than a decade. She lives in Greenport with her husband, Patrick, and three children.
She said her commitment to the local community sparked her interest in running.
“I firmly believe that we need to invest in our children’s futures, starting with our youngest learners and supporting their journeys through our school system,” she said. “We have such a unique school and community here in Greenport, and I believe it is important to preserve the close-knit school family that we are all a part of.”
Ms. Walden said she’d like to implement new programs, policies and procedures to support students while also preparing them for the future.
She called for better communication and making upgrades to ensure the school is a safe and functional 21st-century learning environment while also preserving its unique heritage.
“All members of our school and community need to work together in a positive manner to be impactful on the future of our Greenport community,” she said, noting that the strongest aspect of the district lies in the school spirit and teachers’ commitment to students beyond academics.
Post-pandemic, Ms. Walden said the district should prioritize student mental health concerns and how that may impact academic growth. “Our children need to know that they are supported in every aspect of their lives at Greenport School in order for them to be successful,” she said.