A fourth candidate for the Northport-East Northport Board of Education joined the race for trustee yesterday, giving the three incumbents – Dr. Larry Licopoli, Allison Noonan and Thomas Loughran – some last-minute competition.
Frank Labate, an East Northport father of two and Nassau County police officer, announced his intention to run on social media on April 14, just four days before the deadline for candidates to hand in nominating petitions. Yesterday he turned his petition in; 79 signatures are required, Mr. Labate collected 102.
At 30 years old, Mr. Labate would be the youngest trustee on the board if elected. He joined the race, he told the Journal, because no one else did. He said he’s running on a platform of representation and accountability.
“I was hoping that there would be candidates I could support, but it eventually became evident that nobody outside the current board was going to run and if I wanted to see change, I would need to step up and offer the [Northport-East Northport] residents an alternative,” he said.
It was a move perhaps foreshadowed months ago.
At a board of education meeting on February 10, 2022, during which the state’s then mask mandate in schools and its possible expiration were discussed, Mr. Labate implored the board to make masking optional immediately. A father of two, his oldest child is currently a kindergartner at Fifth Avenue Elementary.
“We’re in a battle now, the battle for our kids. It’s a fight,” he said at the meeting. “If you don’t have the fight, to just do the right thing… if you don’t have what it takes, the most honorable course of action, you can resign. Somebody will take your place, I will take your place if I am called upon and I will do the right thing.”
Fast forward two months and the issues Mr. Labate spoke about then remain central to his platform now. “We need board members who will take action in the form of school policies to protect children from physical or mental harm that may be caused by any future mandates, should they occur,” he told the Journal. And while an actual run for trustee may have been hard to believe when he spoke to the current board in February, said Mr. Labate, a group of “amazing mothers” who heard him then called on him to run, propelling his candidacy into motion.
So what’s next? A meeting early this morning at the district clerk’s office was scheduled to choose the order in which the candidate names will be placed on the ballot. Both Dr. Licopoli and Mr. Loughran were first sworn into their roles as trustees in 2019 and are running for reelection. Ms. Noonan was elected trustee in 2016, and again in 2019. There are three open seats on the board; each term lasts three years.
A meet-the-candidate forum, usually hosted by the PTA, is scheduled a week or so before the election and a candidate mailer is distributed to all district residents at about the same time. The annual budget vote and election of trustees is on May 17, 2022.