MAHOPAC, N.Y.— When district voters go to the polls next Tuesday, May 16, they will have a choice of six candidates to fill three seats on the Mahopac Board of Education, including three incumbents who are seeking reelection.
Here’s a close-up look at the six hopefuls:
Carolann Lacoparra has been a resident of Mahopac for 27 years and married to her husband, Joseph Sr. for 30 years. They have three girls who all have graduated from Mahopac and have gone off to college and a son who is currently a sophomore at the high school.
She is employed with one of the top medical providers in New York as a surgical coordinator.
Two years ago, Lacoparra was elected to serve the remaining two years on a vacated board seat and now seeks election to a full three-year term.
“Two years ago, I was elected wanting to address the drug crisis as the drug epidemic was reaching an all-time high,” she said. “My goal in seeking re-election is to continue to work to minimize the drugs in our schools. Additionally, there is work to be done as we all face headwinds with higher educational costs and standards.”
Lacoparra said that in the two years she has been on the board the district has received $3.1 million dollars via the Smart School Bond, enhanced wireless connectivity in all schools and, for the second year in a row, added new programs with no increase in taxes.
“Opportunities, I believe, still exist in the district in the areas of curriculum, technology and special education,” she said.
Board incumbent Leslie Mancuso has been a Mahopac resident for 21 years. She’s been married 22 years to here husband, Nick, and mother of two children. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Hunter College.
Mancuso has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years and is currently director of development for the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic in Ossining. She’s been a member of the board for six years and hopes the community will re-elect her.
“When I first ran, there were many opportunities to improve special education leadership and reduce the tax burden on the Mahopac community,” she said. “In my first term, I was able to restructure our special education leadership, limit the tax increases in our budget by removing unnecessary spending, increasing security in our schools and adding a new high school turf.”
Mancuso said the district is fortunate that many of its employees are also members of the Mahopac community and have come together and worked with the Board of Education.
“Our teachers, teacher’s aides, teaching assistants, bus drivers, custodians, administrative, secretarial support, groundsmen, and monitors all came together during this challenging time. I will always appreciate that,” she said.
Mancuso said she’s been able to fulfill the promises she made during her last two campaigns.
“Reducing our taxes and even giving tax dollars back to our residents last year without compromising programs for our students has been a big accomplishment,” she said. “By supporting our technology initiative our schools have implemented WiFi, which makes our students competitive with their peers. With each term comes new challenges.”
If reelected, Mancuso said her primary focus will be to continue to the relieve the tax burden and implement a policy that gives graduates an opportunity for employment when they apply for jobs here in the school district, improve curriculum offerings, and upgrade the school buildings.
“We have the best and brightest students and we need to support them better,” she said. “I intend to continue to improve our curriculum offerings and keep up with technology in today’s marketplace. I plan to do right in our negotiations with the contracts that are up for renewal.”
School Board incumbent and Michael Sclafani, who has also served as board president, is a senior vice president with Citibank in New York City.
He graduated Iona College with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, majoring in management. He also received a master’s degree in education from Grand Canyon University, graduating magna cum laude.
Sclafani has held many positions, including serving as a member of the International Financial Services Association (IFSA) Board of Directors; chairman of the Compensation Rules Committee of the National Council for Uniform Interest Compensation (N.C.U.I.C.); chairman of the International Financial Services Association (IFSA) National Compensation Rules Committee; and the chairman of the New York Clearing House Compensation and Adjustments Committee. He also holds a USA Hockey Coach certification in football, baseball and hockey.
He and his wife, Vicki, have two sons, Michael 23, a Quinnipiac University summa cum laude graduate; and Matthew, 18, who attends St. Thomas Aquinas College.
Sclafani has been a Mahopac School Board trustee for six years.
“We have had zero percent tax increase in two of the past three years and a tax cut last year while addressing among other things, the condition of the district infrastructure,” he said. “! decided to run for a third term because of my love for the children and the community as a whole. Mahopac is a very special place with families that focus on the children first, one of the reasons that constantly fuels me to do more each day I spend serving the community.”
Sclafani said there is still much to be done to continue the improvements the board has made.
Peter Maccio grew up in Mahopac and lived here until he was 27. He and his wife recently moved back to Mahopac to raise their family.
“I was an active member of MSA for my entire youth and also thrived on the Mahopac middle and high school baseball teams,” he said. “I am currently an MSA t-ball coach.”
Maccio graduated from Mahopac High School in 1996 and received a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oneonta in 2000 where he I graduated as a member of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, a national honors society for earth sciences.
After graduating, he worked with Verizon Wireless, where he was the recipient of the President’s Cabinet Award for top sales earners. In 2010, he began his career at Local No. 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Since joining, he’s been active as a member of the community service club, mentorship program for apprentices, a member of the Westchester Mechanics Association and a participant of the 2017 union members contract negotiating committee. He’s also worked as a foreman at the Stamford Hospital construction project.
He said his experience in business makes him an ideal board candidate.
“I believe my ability to communicate with a diverse spectrum of people will be a huge asset to the Mahopac Central School District and the Board of Education,” he said. “I understand that the children’s interests are always our number one priority. I realize the importance of the Board of Education, children, administration, teachers, staff, transportation and facilities, parents, PTO, and community working together as one unit for a common goal. I look forward to representing my family and community in this endeavor.”
Mark O’Connor graduated from Pleasantville High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Connecticut. He is senior vice president for a real estate firm where he oversees a team of 30 individuals that manage over 140 commercial properties.
“When I was working as a bartender at the Mahopac Beach—now il Laghetto—in 1995 I met my wife Donna, a lifelong Mahopac resident, whom I married in 1997,” he said. “We bought a home in Mahopac the same year and are raising four children, three of which are currently enrolled in the district, and our oldest who graduated Mahopac High School last year and is now attending college.”
O’Connor said they made the right choice to settle in Mahopac.
“The people in Mahopac are genuine, hardworking and decent,” he said. “The town has a nice balance of white collar and blue collar professionals. There is a diverse mix of people. I feel at home here in Mahopac and this is the type of town where I felt it was best to raise a family.”
O’Connor said he wants to be a school board trustee in order to “fulfill my civic responsibility.”
“I feel we as a community can do better,” he said. “Mahopac schools are good, no doubt. But we can make the district so much better. We seem to be stuck, maybe even declining, in overall quality and school pride. MSD can be great, but it takes vision and strong leadership.”
He had praise for the educators, administrators, coaches, and other employees in the district, saying they have affected the lives of his children in positive ways.
“Passionate, honest and ethical leadership can strike the balance between treating district employees fairly, while not overburdening the taxpayers,” he said. “Building a strong culture within the district will benefit not only the students but all residents of the community.”
Michael Simone is the highway superintendent for the town of Carmel. He’s a lifelong Mahopac resident, graduating from MHS in 1971. His three sons are all MHS grads as well—his youngest the coach of the varsity basketball team.
Simone has a bachelor’s degree from New England College in business administration. He’s served as highway superintendent for the past 17 years where he oversees an $11 million budget and maintains a large fleet of equipment, trucks and other vehicles. He was vice president of the Westchester-Putnam Highway Superintendents Association for five years and its secretary for 10 years.
Simone has been the owner of Enomis Construction for 30 years, a company that specializes in commercial and residential construction.
He served as MSA football and cheerleading program director for 11 years.
Simone was on the board for the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency for more than 10 years, also serving as president.
“As a lifelong resident of Mahopac, I know the vital role our school has on our community,” Simone said. “I believe that between my education, community involvement, and work experience I will bring much knowledge and insight to the position of school board trustee.”
Simone said he wants to “explore solutions” to cut the school budget, and therefore taxes because enrollment is declining.
“I don’t want to just hold taxes, but lower them,” he said. “I want to continue to deliver a quality education and activities to our students, as well as maintaining the building, grounds, equipment and fleet.”