BONUS QUESTION for 2020 NRBOE Candidates: What Else Should Voters Know About You?

Written By: Robert Cox

Adina Berrios Brooks: My family chose to live in New Rochelle because of its warm and civic-minded neighborhoods, its artistic heritage, its diverse population, its suburban cosmopolitanism, and the high quality of its public schools. I am excited and optimistic about working with other board members and the greater New Rochelle community to build on the excellence in our schools, but in a more equitable and effective way.

Katie Castellano Minaya: For whoever ends up on the BOE, please make sure that you hold us accountable to listening to the students, families, and communities of New Rochelle. The BOE has the opportunity in the coming years to improve academics for ALL kids. I will bring positivity, a teacher perspective, strong community partnerships, and advocacy for families. Let’s help New Rochelle schools reach their potential!

Barbara D’Alois: My daughter posed a very interesting question to me as I considered running for the board. How are you qualified to address issues regarding inequities among our different populations of students?

It has been my job for over 20 years to deal with discrepancies between different populations of students; whether that is students of different races, different ability levels, different socio-economic backgrounds, we still have to address the problem the same way: giving children what they require to be successful. It’s a matter of equity. This cannot begin in the upper grades. It needs to begin in elementary school. It has to involve community outreach, parent involvement and opportunities to not only work toward closing gaps created by lower skill levels, but to identify a student’s areas of strength and foster continued growth in those areas as well. I ask for no endorsements because I will be beholden to no one. I speak my mind and will not be talked over. If you like me, vote for me. If you like me, tell your friends the same. To quote Ed Koch, “If you agree with me on 9 out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist.” That’s how the world works. We will never all agree on everything. But if we can find common ground that brings us closer together, then we will all be serving our purpose as part of the New Rochelle community to do what’s best for our students and our community.

Christopher Daniello:Did not answer.

Stephen A. DiDonato: I have been a resident of the City of New Rochelle for over 35 years. I take pride in my City, my Neighborhood, my fellow citizens and will not be intimidated by anyone who does not have the same values for our children that they are justifiably deserving.

Sharon D. Footes:Did not answer.

Matthew T. Hirschman: I’m your average Mom and Pop candidate that is not being backed by any politicians or special interest groups. I feel that politics has no place in our schools. I’ve lived in New Rochelle most of my life and have attended Trinity, Isaac Young, BOCES, and New Rochelle High School. I’ve worked in this city as a lifeguard at Hudson Park and the city pools. I’ve also been a bus driver for the school district here in New Rochelle. I love my town and want the best for our students and residents.

Michael Leone: All of us candidates care about the kids. That is a non-issue. I think that all of us are drawn to the Board because of recent tragedies that have negatively impacted our kids. Each of us believes that we can make a difference. I am running for the Board of Education, especially, because I see a big gap in the financial knowledge and managerial ability of the current Board.

In the last 5-10 years, the school budget has grown without rhyme nor reason and we do not know if the additional expenditures have even been worth it. We are under a 2-year old mandate from New York State to break out expenditures per pupil per school and it has not been done. The Title I and Title III monies are listed by use, not by school or program, and we do not know if these monies are getting to where they are supposed to go. This year, the Superintendent carved out $2 million for what she calls an Equity Budget, where all schools receive a weighted increase in building budget, but I am still unclear what these weights mean or how they were calculated. Yes, I am happy to hear that the tax levy is not increasing, but the budget and the budget process need more transparency and fiscal oversight. The Board must be more accountable to the taxpayers.

Also, in the last 5-10 years, the Board has made some very questionable hiring and firing decisions. It has approved candidates for administrative positions without thorough vetting. With such high turnover in key administrative positions in recent years, New Rochelle needs a strong Board that will call into question decisions of the Administration and examine the District policies to see where the shortfalls are. The Board needs members who will exercise more oversight of the Superintendent and his/her hiring and firing decisions. The school district needs more accountability for managerial decisions and more transparency, accountability and fiscal oversight for financial decisions. Vote Leone!

Timothy McKnight: I want voters to know that I am a candidate who is for the community because I am from the community, and the City of New Rochelle is where my passion lies. I have been an active member of this community who is consistently striving towards unity, equality and success for all. For the past couple of years, I have worked countless hours with principals, social workers, house principals, and other school faculty to bridge the gap between school administrators and the parents in the households, to create a more efficient academic journey for the children. Being on the frontline during COVD-­19 has reassured me that the efforts and strides I have been making are well needed. Being elected for the school board will only allow me to further my reach in making a difference in the lives and success of our New Rochelle youth.

Mario A. Scarano: Did not answer.

Julia Taylor: 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.

Donald Vega: Again, I have no aspirations beyond this position. I have no political agenda or political parties backing me, buying me dozens of yard signs. I have zero connection to the current school system establishment or political establishment in NR. I will work with all the candidates who ran, so their voices are also included. I am only interested in one term on the board and will not run again since I won’t have a child in the system after that. I will commit to lobbying Albany to stop cuts to ed as well as get more dollars for our schools (let’s get our City Hall involved, too). Share this interview, follow me on Twitter @NewRocVega, tell your friends to vote. The mail is slow send in your ballots ASAP before 6/9.

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