Question 13 of 20 for 2020 NRBOE Candidates: BOE Terms, Stipends?

Written By: Robert Cox
  1. 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?

Adina Berrios Brooks: Having attended nearly all of the Board of Education meetings over the past year, and spoken with several current Board members, I have become fully aware of the demands on school board members in this District. I would support 3 year terms to increase accountability to the public, and would support more well-organized agendas to keep the average meeting to two hours. Further, the current practice of having public comment at the end of a three and half hour long meeting must be changed. I do not support annual stipends.

Katie Castellano Minaya: This is not a concern for me as a candidate because I’ve attended every BOE meeting for about 2 years and I know what I’ve signed up for. My loyalty and commitment to our school district is strong and unwavering. I would NOT recommend a stipend as this may encourage people to run for the wrong reasons. I would consider 3 year terms as a way to hold BOE members more accountable for their leadership, but this would have to be discussed together with the community. My hope is that the BOE meetings would be shorter by becoming more efficient. I also believe that as our district improves relationships with community stakeholders, communication will engage the greater community.

Barbara D’Alois: To be honest, I have thought about running for the board for several years. The time commitment was always in the back of my mind. I couldn’t believe that this was a position that required so much time and was unpaid. I would support a stipend, to begin after my term of office was up. It is difficult to plan for shorter meetings if we truly want to hear from anyone who wishes to be heard. That is an integral part of making sure we have a cooperative relationship between the board and the public. There are other districts that will allow residents to speak, and once the list of speakers has gone through the queue, anyone else is able to return to follow up, or present a new opinion. Painstaking? Yes. Fundamental, certainly. If we encourage this, exchange information, and improve communication and transparency, it will only benefit the conversation.

Christopher Daniello:Did not answer.

Stephen A. DiDonato: Shorter terms can be a blessing or a mistake. A sound school board needs to have an understanding of the history of the system. They need to know what we have done in the past, and what successes or failures came as a result.

I suppose that the length of term is only an issue if the board is failing.

Annual stipends could also break the same way. While this position is presently not stipended, and I am running for a seat, I would not think that it’s not fair for me to run, potentially get elected, and then vote myself a stipend. The idea by itself is not necessarily a bad one.

Sharon D. Footes: The demands of the board have changed and that is not a concern for me, nor do I believe there should be a shorter term, no to shorter meetings, yes to less required non- board meetings and activities and no to an annual stipend.

Matthew T. Hirschman: I think there’s a case to be made for shortening terms to three years instead of five. What I thoroughly reject however is the free rein that board members seem to have in our schools. I am eager and enthusiastic about attending concerts, award ceremonies, sporting events and academic competitions. I do not feel that my place is within the buildings between 8 and 3 daily. I do not support annual stipends. This is a volunteer job.

Michael Leone: I am prepared to put in the time and energy to be a Board member. The length of a Board meeting is determined by the agenda and public comment period. Over the years, the number of agenda items and their complexity have increased. I do not see them getting shorter or any less complex any time soon. I support the current 5-year term. The job is complex, one needs many skills, and they are not all learned overnight. A 3-year term is too short to be truly effective. Where I think that Board members waste time is in visiting schools during the day. An outside board member of a public company often has no idea of how the company makes its products and s/he does not need to do so to be an effective Board member. Several years ago, the public had unlimited time to speak during Board meetings and that was a drag on meeting length. When Lianne Merchant became Board president, she imposed the 3-minute rule. Many people complained, but one has only 3 minutes to speak at Citizens to be Heard before the City Council, and the limit keeps people from unnecessary rambling and forces them to make their points. No, the Board members should not get stipends. That would be taking taxpayer money away from its intended purpose, namely, education of the children.

Timothy McKnight: When making the decision to run for the school board, I understood the time commitment needed to make sure I could be an effective board member. Board meetings are extremely important as well as having time for public comments. Being that I am a strong advocate for the people of New Rochelle and would push for a stronger board presence within the communities, I do not believe in less “required” non-­board meeting activities. Although being a board member is time consuming, it is a commitment we choose to make and our will and commitment should not be driven by stipends or any other personal incentives. I would support a shorter term of 3 years, which would allow the New Rochelle Community to hold current board members accountable to the mission of their position and would also create opportunities for other community members with fresh and new perspectives to serve on the board.

Mario A. Scarano: Spending more time doesn’t necessarily mean getting more done. Having recently attended a number of presentations I found that school board members seemed to think they had to show their audience through their comments how intelligent they were. To be honest, quite often it wasn’t necessary. I assume, if you hire the right people and place them in the right position they will do an outstanding job. They do not need to be told by 9 board members on what a great job they did. Also, I would support shorter terms and shorter board meetings but would not support annual stipends.

Julia Taylor: 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.

Donald Vega: I would cut down meetings and not waste any unnecessary time, cutting the demands exponentially. We will have no time to waste once the Fall comes. I know board meetings go to 11 pm at night for some reason but that doesn’t mean they have to. We will also need help from the parents and teachers to form ad hoc committees to develop ideas and work on projects. Technology and creativity will be needed. We must learn to work smarter.