Iona student is youngest elected official in N.Y. state

Joseph Barbella Staff Writer

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A term “elected official” is usually associated with a higher-up government officials, such as the President of the United States, the Governor of New York, or the mayor of a town. However, there are many more elected official positions out there. Serving as a board of education trustee is also an elected position.

In fact, the youngest person to hold office in New York State was recently elected to his local school’s board of education. Sophomore John C. Curzio II was elected on May 17, 2016, as a Board of Education Trustee in the Carmel Central School District. He is a 2015 graduate of Carmel High School and, within a year, went from being a high school senior to making decisions about the district and working with his former principals and teachers. Curzio was sworn into office on July 1, 2016, and will serve for a three-year term.

Curzio is one of seven trustees on the Carmel Board of Education. Along with his colleagues, he is responsible for “overseeing the school district, which in part includes setting education policy, voting upon monetary requests, and presenting the annual budget to the voters in order for it to be voted upon,” according to Curzio.

To run for the position of a Board of Education Trustee, Curzio had to submit a nominating petition with signatures of registered voters in the Carmel Central School District. Including Curzio, four candidates ran for this position, competing for three seats. Each of the three other candidates were incumbents running for reelection.

“I purchased both yard signs and palm cards in order to run an aggressive grassroots and door-to-door campaign,” Curzio said about campaigning for the position when the ballot was finalized. “By the end of the campaign, I had visited approximately 1,000 houses. In addition, I stood in front of a polling location on Election Day for the duration of time that polls were open, which was from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm (minus one break for lunch) in order to greet voters, ask for their vote, and answer any questions that they may have had.”

Due to his campaigning and drive, Curzio was elected. Not only was he declared one of the three winners, he received the highest number of votes of any of the four candidates and unseated one of the incumbents.

Curzio made his election platform clear for voters on his election palm cards. The three promises on these cards that he made to voters were: “Fiscal Responsibility. Fight Common Core. Stand with Students.”

Curzio decided that he wanted to run for a seat on the Carmel Central School District Board of Education for two main reasons.

“I believe in Carmel Schools and want all of our students to succeed in all of their academic endeavors,” Curzio said. “I recognize that the current tax situation is a burden for the taxpayer. This is a deterrent to young people who would like to raise a family in the Carmel Central School District, and a challenge for seniors who want to enjoy their golden years in a place they love. A crushing tax burden only serves to drive people out of the community, while simultaneously further increasing taxes on those that remain.”

In addition, Curzio is opposed to the Common Core Standards that have been a topic of debate and controversy in education since they were developed in 2009. Common Core has been seen as an attempt to impose a set of national standards and curriculum. Curzio believes “that curriculum and education policy are best left to the states and local school boards, which know their students best.”

Like many, he is opposed to standards that are broad-based and imposed upon schools from above and instead favors standards that are more local and decided by a school district.

Once he took office, Curzio was appointed by the Board President to the Education and Assessment Committee, where he works alongside another Board Trustee. In this role, Curzio and his colleague review district policies.

“We have reviewed several major policies that haven’t been updated since 1999 to make them relevant,” Curzio said. “Furthermore, changes in a course’s curriculum or a newly proposed course passes through this committee for our review before being recommended to the full board for adoption.”

While making curriculum and policy decisions, all Board Trustees vote based on “what’s best for kids,” according to the motto of the Carmel Central School District Board of Education.

“Our students are our highest priority and it is our solemn responsibility that they receive the best possible education that we can provide to them.” Curzio has an advantageous perspective given that he was recently in the position of the students that he now serves.

In being the youngest elected official in New York State, Curzio has set an example for other young people to participate in our political system.

“In addition to running for office, there are countless ways to get involved, including attending your local county, town, city, village or school board meetings, contacting your elected officials to express your opinions, volunteering your time for candidates and causes you believe in and feel passionate about, joining your local political club, [and] voting in every election from the federal level down to the local level,” Curzio said.

Whether serving in office, attending meetings, or voting, Curzio strongly encourages young people to be involved in the political system.

“Young people are the future of our great country and should absolutely be involved in the decisions and policy making decisions that will shape our future,” Curzio said.