Feinstein runs for office and fun

James Galloway

In the midst of an uncontested run for re-election to the Herricks Board of Education, Nancy Feinstein has her eyes set on a different run: a 5K for elementary girls at Center Street School.

Feinstein, the coach of the school’s Girls on the Run team, spends two evenings each week building up her 18-student team’s stamina for the big day on May 31 — and building up their confidence while she’s at it.

Along with games to get the teams moving, Girls on the Run, a national non-profit, features a life or social lesson each week, Feinstein said. This week, it’s how to pick your friends.

“We’re trying to get them to build confidence in the choices they make,” she said. “Sometimes they’re not the most social girls in their grade…It’s interesting how they open up to you, what they share with you. I feel really fortunate that I’m able to do this.”

Rather than pushing competition, the program emphasizes teamwork, she said. Girls who finish first clap their teammates in to the finish line, and if a teammate is still running after the rest are done, sometimes the girls will join her for an extra lap.

“The point of the program — it’s physical-activity based, and it’s not a competitive running program — it’s really to enhance girls’ social and physical competencies so they can feel confident in who they are and develop their personalities,” Feinstein said.

An avid runner herself, Feinstein completed a half marathon in the fall to raise money for Girls on the Run, which she finds particularly special.

“It’s really one of the best programs that I’ve seen,” she said. “I was a Girl Scout leader; I was a Boy Scout leader, but this is different.”

Feinstein is in her third year coaching the team, which includes girls in grades three, four and five.

“This is the first year I’m seeing a grade graduate,” she said. “I’ve had some girls all three years. You really get to see them grow, mature.”

Calling herself something of a “professional volunteer,” Feinstein said she the program is as important to her as it is to the girls.

“A child sharing their day with you — it seems so small, but in today’s society everyone is moving so quickly,” she said. “They’re not texting; they’re not doing any of that stuff. They’re just really with me for 90 minutes, and that goes for me, too. For those 90 minutes, I’m not on my phone.”

Feinstein, who has two children at the high school and a son at Binghamton University, joined the Board of Education three years ago after winning an uncontested race.

“I feel like we’re on a roll as a board. We’re really a cohesive unit and I like that feeling  — I feel like we are able to make positive change together,” she said. “I think it would have been selfish of me to not continue and to disrupt that at this point. I really like working with those four people.”

As a board, Feinstein said, the trustees persevered through budget cuts and ballooning benefits expenses during the economic downturn and are now able to rebuild during better financial times.

“We went through some pretty tough times with the budget cuts. We managed to preserve the programs we have here during the roughest times…We didn’t have those reserves other schools had,” she said. “This year was a great year. I feel that this year we were able to lower class sizes and restore the positions that were lost and the sports teams.”

Going into her next term, Feinstein said, she would like to see a smooth transition with the incoming superintendent and find a “great” principal for the high school.

Superintendent John Biewirth and principal Jane Modoono retire at the end of the year.

“I’m going to miss [Bierwirth] on so many levels,” Feinstein said. “He’s just so full of information and insight.”

Garden City Assistant Superintendent Fino Celano is slated to succeed Bierwirth, and with a number of superintendents retiring at the end of the year, Feinstein said, she appreciated the advance notice Bierwirth provided, allowing Herricks to get a head start in its search for his replacement.

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