NOTE: There will be a Meet the Candidates Forum, Tuesday, May 8, at 8 p.m., after the budget hearing at the Falls School at 100 Myrtle Ave. Residents will have an opportunity to get to know the five candidates in this year's school board race and ask them questions.
MAHOPAC, N.Y. - When Mahopac School District voters go to the polls on Tuesday, May 15, they will elect three newcomers to the Board of Education.
Five candidates are vying for three seats on the board. Incumbents Roger Bell and Daniel Hunter have decided to not to seek re-election, while former board president Brian Mahoney resigned from his seat last year and the board opted to wait until the May 15 election to replace him rather than hold a special election.
The polls will be open at the high school gymnasium from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Voters also will be asked to approve the $123 million budget, as well as Proposition B, which would appropriate $1 million for the purchase of new buses.
Here are the profiles of this year’s school board candidates:
Forte grew up in Mahopac and is a graduate of Mahopac High School, Class of 1991. He resides here with his wife, Tracey (MHS Class of ’89) and their four children, all students in the Mahopac School District.
Forte graduated from Iona College in 1996 with a BBA in finance. For the past 22 years, he has worked in the banking and finance industry. He is involved in the community as both a volunteer Mahopac Sports Association (MSA) coach and is the vice president of the MSA football program.
“I am running for school board because I feel that our district is behind other area school districts,” he said. “I would like to help reposition our district to be a leader in 21st century education and continue to provide our children with the best opportunities to learn and grow.”
Forte said he believes in making the school board as transparent as possible.
“I seek to become a great communicator with the district and enhance the level of communication between the board and the community,” he said. “I have no personal agenda, nor am I a micro-manager. My primary concern is the educational welfare of the children and I will work…to move the district forward.”
Forte said he believes the district lacks consistent and stable leadership, noting the departure of several administrators over the past year.
“I would like to see Mahopac invest in its own people already in the district in an effort to help them grow into senior positions,” he said. “Once in these positions, it will be important to help support them in making Mahopac stronger. I want to see collaboration between the administrators and the focus on a common goal that is achievable. Once achieved, it is those goals that can directly impact teaching and learning in the district.”
He said another issue is the emotional needs of the students, especially in the areas of bullying and drug addiction.
“These needs have to be addressed early on in the learning process at the younger levels,” he said. “By the time the kids get to high school, it’s too late.”
Furfaro and his wife, Dawn, moved to Mahopac 30 years ago from his childhood home in Verplanck.
“We were drawn to Mahopac by the great schools and strong community,” he said.
Furfaro’s four children are all graduates of Mahopac High. They are all married with children of their own and 13 of his 14 grandchildren live in Mahopac.
“Four are presently attending Mahopac schools, with the rest excited to follow in the upcoming years,” he said.
Through his children, Furfaro became involved with the Mahopac Sports Association, for which he volunteered as a coach and later served as president for more than 10 years.
He served on the Town of Carmel Recreation Advisory Board for the past decade and was recently appointed to the Town Planning Board.
He is retired from his work, owning and managing a local construction company, which specialized in municipal bonded construction.
“I am running for school board because I want to give back to this community, which has given so much to myself and my family. I want to keep our schools and community thriving so that my grandchildren can enjoy the many benefits of living in Mahopac for years to come.”
Furfaro said he is running for school board because the community is facing “some great challenges.”
“[There are] school security issues, the rise of serious drug use and vaping among our children, the current debate around Common Core standards, as well as the departure of several key administrators,” he said. “I am a strong leader, an excellent problem solver and a hard worker. Above all, I am dedicated to this community. I will work tirelessly to create the best environment I can for our children to excel and thrive.”
Keane and his wife, Kathy, have resided in Mahopac for the last 45 years.
He served as a Mahopac Board of Education trustee for six years and has spent more than 45 years in the field of education. He has worked for 38 years as a science teacher and served as science department chair, coach and assistant principal in the Mamaroneck School District. Presently, Keane works as a science consultant.
Keane earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Fordham College. He earned his MBA from Fordham’s Graduate School of Business. He also holds a certificate in school administration.
He is the father of four Mahopac graduates, two boys and two girls, and served as Mahopac Sports Association basketball commissioner for 35 years. Keane also coached CYO basketball, MSA soccer, softball and baseball.
He current works part time as the sitter for three of his grandchildren who live in the Mahopac School District.
Keane said he is running for the school board “to help ensure that all children receive the great education my children did.”
Ray McDonough and his family moved to Mahopac in 1965 from the Bronx. He is a 1974 graduate of Mahopac High School and all three of his children attended Mahopac schools. He works as a project manager in the construction/contracting industry and is a member of Local Union 79 Mason Tenders.
“My family’s roots go back many years in Mahopac, as well as my wife’s family, the Edwards,” McDonough said. “Altogether, between both families, 10 siblings graduated from Mahopac High School and there has been a McDonough in the Mahopac School District from 1965 to last year. I truly bleed blue and gold and care very much for our town and our schools.”
McDonough said that the history of Mahopac school budgets from 2000-2012 put many people in financial hardship, especially seniors, and tax increases totaled more than 60 percent with programs being removed. He said that in 2011, the special education program was disseminated and put students in a challenging situation.
“I am running for trustee because I don’t want to see things go backward,” he said. “The current school board has been able to keep tax increases low while improving general education as well as special education programs while keeping the tax burden to a minimum. I would continue that fiscal responsibility.”
McDonough added that he believes all Mahopac students are not college candidates and the district should offer more vocational programs and offer a work-ready curriculum.
“Our country has a shortage of welders, HVAC technicians, and tin knockers, to name a few,” he said. “It is important that we offer our students a vast array of options for their career paths.”
Swift and her husband, Brian, have resided in Mahopac for more than 20 years. Originally from the Bronx, they moved to Mahopac after scouring Putnam and Westchester counties for a new home. After reviewing the Mahopac School District, their decision was made. All three of her children are MHS graduates.
Swift works as the chief operating officer for Education Through Music, a non-profit that partners with inner-city schools to provide music as a core subject for all children. She has worked in various roles in education and administration for the last 20 years. She is a graduate of the City College of New York from which she obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.
Swift is no stranger to the Mahopac Board of Education. She served as a trustee from 2001-2013. She says that the recent changes in administration, including the appointing of a new superintendent, coupled with concerns from community members about transparency by the board have led her to run again.
Swift has always been involved in the schools, from teaching to PTO president, and says she’s remained invested in the best interests of the students, staff and Mahopac community.
“When I was approached by community members and school stakeholders and asked to run again, I was happy to lend my experience as a prior board member and administrator and run,” she said. “I believe the best school board members are those who listen to the concerns of the community stakeholders.”
Swift said that based on those conversations, her chief concerns are the perceived or real lack of transparency by the board, and she wants to investigate parents’ concerns about students not being engaged for the full school day.