The North Bellmore School District celebrates Women’s History Month by recognizing the contributions of its talented leaders. The Board of Education is made up of five women who not only serve the school district, but are involved in many other facets of the community. They include President Rosemarie Corless, Vice President Jo-Ann Erhard and trustees Melissa Cmar-Grote, Nina Lanci and Christine Malloy. Ms. Lanci and Ms. Cmar-Grote are North Bellmore’s representatives on the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Board of Education.
Marie Testa, who started as a teacher in the district in 1994, served as principal of the Jacob Gunther and Martin Avenue elementary schools before becoming North Bellmore’s first female superintendent eight years ago. Education was a second career for Ms. Testa, who worked in business with NBC, John Blair Television and Ademco, now Honeywell. Her two children, now in college, are graduates of Park Avenue Elementary School and Mepham High School.
In North Bellmore, Ms. Testa and the leadership team have placed an emphasis on expanding academic programs, educating the whole child, instructional technology, mental health and well-being of students and staff, professional development and safety and security.
“With the support of the Board of Education, we have created greater opportunities for the students of North Bellmore, allowing them to shine as individuals,” Ms. Testa said. “Our Board members are volunteers who put in a tremendous amount of hours, setting policies and determining budget priorities, to ensure children receive a great education. Not only are they involved in the school district, but through many other endeavors they have dedicated themselves to the betterment of the community.”
is the longest-tenured member of the Board of Education in her 17th year. After serving on the Martin Avenue Elementary School Re-Opening Planning Committee, she was appointed in March 2003 to fill an unexpired term. She has served four stints as Board president, most recently in the 2019-20 school year. As a member of the high school Board of Education, she has been president three times.
Ms. Lanci has the distinction of being the first woman inducted into the Bellmore Lions Club. In her 19 years of service, she has held various positions from Lion Tamer to president, and is also a past district governor. In 2013 she began her service as District 20-K2 Zone chairperson. She recently coordinated the sixth annual Polar Express Holiday Party for children. The North Bellmore School District partners with the Lions Club for many initiatives to benefit community residents. North Bellmore students also participate in the Lions Club’s annual Peace Poster contest.
She and her husband of 34 years, Richard, are proud parents of Gabriella, a Martin Avenue School, Mepham High School and FIT graduate. Ms. Lanci served as president of the Martin Avenue PTA and the Bellmore-Merrick Parent Center. She is recently retired from a 36-year career in accounting and finance for nonprofit organizations. Honors and awards include Bellmore Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year, National PTA Honorary Life Recipient, the Town of Hempstead Pathfinder Volunteer Award, the BMUST Friend of Education Award, the Lions Presidential Medal, the Lions Membership Advancement Award and the Brandel-Murphy Miraculous Through Service Award, and she is also a Melvin Jones Fellow.
Board President, Rosemarie Corless
moved to North Bellmore in 1990 with her husband, Matthew. They have three daughters, Meghan, Kristen and Rowan, who all attended North Bellmore and Bellmore-Merrick schools. Ms. Corless was first elected to the Board of Education in 2006 and served until 2013. She returned to fill a vacancy in October 2018 and was elected to a full three-year term in 2019. This year is her second time serving as president of the North Bellmore Board.
As a Board member, Ms. Corless has been involved with the district’s strategic planning, facilities committee, mental health and wellness committee and health and safety committee. She was the district’s New York State school board delegate in 2019 and is presently the district’s advocacy liaison. From 2001-2018, she was a member of the PTA executive board either at the elementary or high school level – or both – including serving as president of the Newbridge Road Elementary School, Grand Avenue Middle School and Mepham High School PTAs and has received several PTA Honorary Life Awards. She also chaired the Newbridge Road 80th anniversary celebration committee in 2004.
Ms. Corless has worked as a pediatric nurse practitioner, caring for children with cancer, for 30 years. She has worked at Cohen Children’s Medical Center for the last eight years and prior to that was an oncology nurse practitioner at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for 22 years. She was New York State Nurse of the Year in 1988 and a New York State Woman of Distinction in 2008. In the community, she has been a Girl Scout leader, served as the medical supervisor at the New York State Games for the Physically Challenged, helped start the North Bellmore Educational Foundation to offer enrichment programs to the North Bellmore children during the summers, and has volunteered with Mepham Fine Arts Parent Foundation and Last Hope Animal Shelter.
Board Vice President, Jo-Ann Erhard
is in her second year on the Board of Education. She has served on the Audit Committee both year and is the New York State School Boards Association conference representative this year. In 2002, she and her husband, Jim, moved to North Bellmore. Their two children, Douglas and Julianne, attended Jacob Gunther and Saw Mill Road elementary schools, and later Grand Avenue Middle School and Mepham High School. Douglas now attends Farmingdale State College and Julianne is at Sacred Heart University, both majoring in business.
Ms. Erhard has extensive background as a PTA leader. At Gunther and Saw Mill, she served as recording secretary and president, and chaired the auction, end-of-year dinner, hospitality, Holiday Helping Hands, Red Ribbon Week and staff recognition committees. She also was president of the North Bellmore Coordinating Council of PTAs, including its audit and nominating committees. Some of the initiatives she spearheaded included social media publicity, organizing a districtwide author illustrator night and hosting a showing of the film “Race to Nowhere,” followed by a Q&A session, to foster discussion on how a school community should prepare students for success. Additionally, Ms. Erhard has been very active in the Grand Avenue Middle School PTA, Mepham High School PTA and Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Council of PTAs, chairing the Reflections Program. She created a Facebook group for all K-12 PTA units in North Bellmore.
Awards and recognition include the Gunther Volunteer Award, the Saw Mill Road Volunteer Recognition Award, the PTA Honorary Life Award and the PTA Distinguished Service Award. Ms. Erhard is involved with the Bellmore-Merrick Community Cupboard, volunteered with the St. Raphael’s Religious Education program and has helped organize donations and collections for local families in need after tragic events such as a fire or medical crisis. Professionally, she works in a leadership position with Star Funding, supporting start-up and growing businesses.
and her husband of 20 years, Chris, have two daughters who graduated from Saw Mill Road Elementary School. Mikayla is a senior at Mepham High School and will attend Stony Brook University in the fall to study marine biology. Julianna is a freshman at Mepham. Ms. Cmar-Grote has served on the North Bellmore Board of Education for the past six years and was president in the 2018-19 school year. This is her first year as a member of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Board of Education.
An active member of the PTA, she has twice served as co-president at Saw Mill. Ms. Cmar-Grote has also served as a representative, corresponding secretary and historian for North Bellmore’s Coordinating Council of PTAs.
She is a licensed clinical laboratory scientist in microbiology at Sunrise Medical Laboratories, where she has worked for 20 years. Outside of work, Ms. Cmar-Grote does much volunteer work, including as a member of the Literacy Nassau Board of Directors, an organization she became involved with when her daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia. She also volunteers for and donates to the Bellmore Lions Club’s annual Polar Express holiday party to benefit children in need and was a Girl Scout leader for six years.
elected last June, is the newest member of North Bellmore’s Board of Education. She has lived in the community for the past decade, and her four children attend Saw Mill Road Elementary School. Neala, Brien and Clare are in fourth grade and Egan is in kindergarten. She values the inclusive environment that the district sets up for its special education students, as well as the positive culture that the district offers its students to help them grow into future leaders.
Ms. Malloy has been a secondary teacher for 16 years, working with both general education and special education students, and also serves as a class adviser and student liaison. She has dual master’s degrees in education and literacy studies from Hofstra University.