We have all heard the saying, "If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem," but not all of us take it to heart. Luckily, for the Sachem community, that is more or less the mantra of Board of Education member James LaCarruba.
"I am not someone who likes to complain about something and not do something about it," he said when explaining why he decided to run for his seat on the Board. "Back in the not-so-distant past, some decisions were made that greatly concerned me as a community member and a member of the district. The morale of this community was at an all-time low."
He may have just finished the second year of his first term, but politics are not new to LaCarrubba. Previously he was Commissioner of Parks and Deputy Supervisor for the Town of Brookhaven, and since January 2009 he has been New York State Senator Brian Foley's Chief of Staff. He also brings his knowledge and experience with negotiations to the Board, since he was a union representative for the Communication Workers of America.
LaCarrubba graduated from Sachem High School in 1989 and lives in Ronkonkoma with his wife and two children, ages 12 and 9. He is proud that he and his fellow Board members have been successful in keeping the level of education high while keeping tax increases low.
"Test scores have improved and communicating what the Board is doing with the community helped change the mentality of the community," he said, "and that leads to a better community for everyone."
A main focus for LaCarruba is to make sure all students are being properly prepared for the future, even those who do not plan to attend college.
"Preparing them for college is one thing. Making sure they are prepared for life is another," he said. "While we are looking to challenge our kids, we have to make sure we are not leaving anyone behind. For instance, I don't think we are utilizing BOCES the way we should be. We can't lose site of the students who choose to learn a trade. We would not have schools or roads if no one built them, so if that is what a student wants to grow up to do, we must make that chance available to them."
He also wants to try to bring some honors programs back which were replaced with AP classes.
"Some students are intimidated by AP classes but need more of a challenge than the regents. I tried once already and it was voted down, but I will definitely try again," he said.
All in all, LaCarruba loves being a member of the Board.
"It is a tremendous privilege. I always enjoyed working for people, and the Board of Education is no different. It is an honor and a privilege to be on the Board, and I'll do it as long as the public lets me."