- Would you support a more involved public process to review and discuss the annual audited financials, perhaps incorporating a review of actual spending into projected spending? Explain.
Yes, I would encourage transparency and community involvement. I am a firm believer that we should be presented with accruals instead of projections from previous years’ budgets. Taxpayers deserve to know how funding is allocated. The conversations around the budget need to happen frequently throughout the year.
- Would you support hiring an in-house legal staff to handle routine matters to reduce District legal expenses? Explain.
We want the best representation for our district but we would have to see if it is cost-efficient, especially during these times. I would need to see what the cost is before I would agree to add more salaries.
- What are the skills and experiences you will bring to the school board, if elected?
I am a former teacher, assistant principal, and currently a Teacher Development Evaluation Coach. As a school board member, I believe my professional experience, as well as my perspective, would enable me to understand and work effectively on many levels. For example, as a parent myself, I empathize and understand the challenges faced by parents/guardians today. I also have a firm grip and understanding of the many issues we confront as school administrators and teachers.
Also, I firmly believe in the importance of a community that can work together to achieve positive outcomes. As a school board member, my unique qualifications and experience enhance my ability to work on behalf of all involved. My dedication and drive are grounded in my firm belief that each and every one of us is entitled to the best possible education possible and I am enthusiastic and willing to devote my energies to working with other board members.
- Under Dr. Feijóo, since January, the District has refused to fill Freedom of Information requests and, since March, disallowed public comments at regular school board meetings. What is your position on the Board’s role in enforcing transparency?
I believe in full transparency and following the law as it pertains to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests.
- What do you see is the first immediate priority of the school board? Looking out to the end of what would be your term in office, list three outcomes not currently under consideration by the board, that you would like to see accomplished by 2025.
- Safety and security of all students (revamp of current structure)
- Actual accruals when we are presented with a budget
- Vetting and hiring practices
- Do you support retaining or removing Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo?
I support working with the current superintendent and holding her accountable. As a taxpayer, I want to see this contract to fruition, unlike the three contracts we’ve paid off in the past two years.
- There has been significant “Black Flight” from the New Rochelle public schools since 2010, with about 650 Black students now “missing”, how would you propose the Board address, Black Flight?
As a board member, I would want to look at the data to see why students are not attending our public schools and encourage a plan of action. I know there are a lot of students who leave the district for programs like Prep for Prep, athletic scholarship opportunities to preparatory or private schools, and some parents simply opt for a smaller environment. If indeed there is “black flight” then I would want to see a plan of action from the Superintendent that addresses this issue.
- Would you support commissioning a study to evaluate the feasibility of Universal Pre-K to 5 busing?
Transportation is a key issue in any school budget. We must examine past busing studies to inform future decisions. The study should be done in real-time and not be predictions of traffic patterns.
- There was a great deal of controversy earlier this school year regarding former head football Coach Lou DeRienzo. What are your thoughts on the matter?
As a former athletic director, I fully understand the process and procedures when dealing with a private legal matter which the district was not allowed to comment on.
- The District recently announced the hiring of Adofo Muhammad as the new NRHS Principal who then subsequently withdrew. What are your thoughts on that situation?
As a person in the community, I do not want to speculate without having information. According to the letter I received he withdrew because of family issues due to COVID. I am happy to see that NRHS has an interim principal effective July 1, 2020. I hope the superintendent and assistant superintendent of human resources are both following policy as it pertains to hiring.
- The District plans on moving the Alternative High School from St Gabriel’s Church to Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle. What are your thoughts on that?
I have heard the facilities at St. Gabriel’s are not great so we should research viable options to ensure we are following the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
- The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many issues but two of the prominent for the District are Food Distribution and Distance Learning. Address those two points specifically and your thoughts on the District’s pandemic response generally.
It was nice to see the community come together to support families in need. We should make sure everyone is taking advantage of all of the programs available in the state and our country. In terms of distance learning, it was a learning curve for everyone. Distance Learning 2.0 was a good start and I would like for us to build on it. Moreover, I believe interactive, synchronous learning for all students coupled with improvement in Response to Intervention (RTI); Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 supports will improve student achievement.
- The demands on school board members have increased exponentially over the past decade. Is this a concern for you and, if so, how would you address it? Would you support shorter terms, shorter board meetings, less “required” non-boarding meeting activities, annual stipends?
The demands are not a concern for me since I’ve been attending board meetings since I relocated to New Rochelle in 2011. I do not believe board members should receive annual stipends and do not support reducing board terms as stability encourages growth.
- Since the law changed from appointed to elected school board members, over 90% of school board members have resided within North End elementary school districts. What are your thoughts on this?
One of the reasons I am running for the board is to hopefully be one of those members from the South End of New Rochelle. As a resident of Sycamore Park, I would like to see additional representation from all parts of New Rochelle.
- COVID-19 is scary, and with good reason, but many people have learned quite a bit about their own minor weaknesses or idiosyncrasies during the crisis. What is something the pandemic caused you to realize about yourself that in hindsight you took for granted and have now changed? (try to have a little “fun” with this question).
I found out that I tend to be excessive when it comes to organization and scheduling. You can walk into my dining room and see humungous post-it notes! I had to make sure both of my daughters had daily routines before Distance Learning 2.0. My husband is also a teacher so it was very important for our family to keep a routine that didn’t drive us crazy.
- To what degree have you been involved with the New Rochelle School District over the past 10 years? Prior to 2019-20, how often have you attended New Rochelle Board of Education meetings?
My husband and I have been attending PTA meetings for both of my daughters since we moved here in 2011 and I have attended board meetings since then. We were part of Halloween events, school parties, international night, grandparent visit, and various play productions, I have taken professional pictures, and produced a performance video for parents. Both of our daughters are avid swimmers and participate on the swim teams in New Rochelle. My youngest daughter has participated in New Rochelle Soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. I also consult Gratis for parents who are struggling with getting related services for their children. Lastly, I am a great translator for my Spanish speaking neighbors who need support.
- What are your thoughts on Apex Grade Inflation Investigations?
I think that it was unfortunate that it happened and I do not believe in online credit recovery. If it didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be a scandal. We can find other ways for students who are overage and under-credited to earn credits legally.
- Do you think Board Members should be allowed to take jobs with the District or its vendors upon leaving the school board?
I do not support board members taking jobs in the district after tenure on the board.
- If you win a seat, you will be responsible for spending about $1.5 billion of other people’s money over the next 5 years. What is your level of financial literacy and how does it apply to this responsibility?
I have experience with writing grants which I have had to schedule millions of dollars for student services. As a former athletic director, I had twenty-one teams with a limited budget. I successfully ensured that all student-athletes had the necessary equipment, fees, and uniforms. I was also an assistant principal at a school where I was responsible for the budget and I had to schedule teacher salaries, supplies, vendors, and funds for student services. I also have experience with spending Title1, Title 3, adhering to the Commissioner’s Regulations Part 154 as well as Students with Disabilities (SWD), Part 201.
- The board operates under a “strategic road map”. Identify three elements of the strategic road map that you feel the board got right (and why). Identify up to three (if any) elements that you would change or drop altogether (and why)?
In my profession, I have adhered to a similar document that guides our work but we call it the comprehensive educational plan. I believe that we are emerging in the following areas which have been made clear to the community through communication:
- have a reserve fund that is at or near the maximum allowed by NYSED
- have completed the five-year capital plan outlined in 2016, with learning spaces that incorporate technology appropriate for learning in the 21st century
- have made progress in developing the system-wide culture of innovation that will be needed to ensure we continually prepare all students for success in college, career and beyond
The strategic plan was created in 2016 and we have until December 2020 to see if we accomplished the objectives. Some things to consider and keeping in mind that the current pandemic has widened the achievement gap are:
- have demonstrated evidence of overall improvements in student learning and achievement across a broad spectrum of measurements including, but not limited to, state assessments
- have reduced the achievement gap by decreasing disparities in outcomes that are correlated with race, class, disability, native language, or geography
- have a pedagogical staff that is ethnically more reflective of the students we serve and knowledgeable of cultural differences and learning styles in our diverse school population
I am not sure that we will meet these measurable objectives during this time and if it will be realistic. In reading and following this map, keeping in mind my experience in this mind, I am not sure the district can provide evidence of meeting these goals by the end of this. year.
BONUS QUESTION: Anything else you feel voters should know about you when they go to the polls on June 9th?
I am a strong advocate for all children. Should I earn a seat on the school board I will always consider their needs first. I will work with the board and community to make certain our children’s needs are identified and addressed and that community concerns are heard. I think we can do better than has been done in the past. It is my vision to bring a greater sense of stability and confidence that will bridge the gap between school administrators and community members.
My platform includes the following key points:
Financial Efficiency – whereas the financial challenges of funding public education are significant and the tax implications are a pressing and ongoing burden I plan to utilize my educational budgetary experience to bring a fresh perspective to these challenges and ensure school monies are spent in a way that maximizes student potential and is consistent with a vision of our districts‘ strategic road map.
Resources – Presently, our students and families are dealing with a whole new reality in remote learning. Students and parents have to be able to become more proficient in the use of technology that will replace actual teaching in a classroom. Ideally, our District should offer online classes for parents as well to help them learn how to navigate platforms like “google classrooms”. Gone are the days of worksheets and writing. Students should focus on platforms that show whether or not they have mastered the content. Teachers also need ongoing professional development in the use of technology in education.
Given the major budget cuts new Rochelle will face because of this pandemic we must have a plan of action that will ensure our students have the resources and support they need. My experience and expertise in creating an accountability action plan further support my candidacy and ability to be a productive resource.
Advocacy – Recent headlines have highlighted the upcoming budgetary crisis and lack of state funding. With millions of dollars spent to deal with the current pandemic, we need our board of education members to fight for fair funding. I am committed to partnering with our local elected officials to provide strong and urgent advocacy on behalf of New Rochelle.
I hope to earn your vote for the New Rochelle Board of Education and reiterate I bring with me valuable experience as a parent, teacher, and school administrator that no other candidate possesses.
SUPER BONUS QUESTION: BUDGET AND BALLOTS
Will you vote for the budget?
Do you have anything to say about the mail-in ballot distribution snafu?