By Kathianne Boniello
Republican Stacey Kaplan-Vila is new to politics, but that does not mean she is thinking small.
Kaplan-Vila, 31, of Queens Village, is running for office this fall against incumbent state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside). In an interview this week, Kaplan-Vila said she would make education a top priority.
“What is motivating me is my students,” said Kaplan-Vila, an Earth Science teacher at Queens Vocational High School in Long Island City. “We’re setting these kids up for failure.”
Kaplan-Vila pointed to education issues such as the need for a stable curriculum and violence in schools as areas she would like to target if elected to the Assembly.
The 24th state Assembly District includes the communities of Bayside, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis Hills, Oakland Gardens, Holliswood, Jamaica Estates and parts of Auburndale, Bellerose, Douglaston, Little Neck, Floral Park and Flushing.
Weprin took the 24th District seat in a special election in March 1994 after his father — longtime Queens politician Saul Weprin — died that year. Saul Weprin represented the 24th Assembly District for more than 23 years. Mark Weprin’s brother, David, was elected to the City Council last year.
While Kaplan-Vila does not come from a legendary Queens political family, she said she was ready to challenge the assemblyman.
“I don’t have anything personal against him,” she said. “I don’t think he’s very effective for this area.”
The Queens Village mother has taken an indirect road to politics.
A graduate of Long Island’s Stony Brook University, part of the State University of New York system, Kaplan-Vila holds a bachelor’s degree in political science as well as advanced degrees in public policy and labor management.
In 1994 while earning her advanced degrees, Kaplan-Vila spent time working as a survey analyst and spent 1 1/2 years documenting and managing the exploding population of white-tail deer on Long Island.
Kaplan-Vila eventually turned to education, earning a degree in secondary education from Queens College.
“It was something stable and something I was good at,” she said.
It was her experiences as a school teacher, coupled with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which inspired Kaplan-Vila to run for office.
“I really just got to the point after 9/11 where I really felt that if somebody doesn’t stand up and do something nothing will get done,” she said.
In addition to education issues, Kaplan-Vila said she would like to lower the cost of prescription drugs for seniors and introduce legislation forcing nursing homes and rehabilitation centers to conduct criminal background checks of their employees. She said she would also like to eliminate the statue of limitation for rape cases.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at [email protected] or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.