Question 19 of 20 for 2020 NRBOE Candidates: Financial Literacy?

Written By: Robert Cox
  1. If you win a seat, you will be responsible for spending about $1.5 billion dollars 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?

Adina Berrios Brooks: My team at Columbia University manages the University’s $100M commitment toward faculty diversity. In my specific role I have developed multi-year budgets to be reviewed by senior administrators to inform policy-making.

Katie Castellano Minaya: One of the single most important charges of a BOE member is to oversee the school district budget. All members should have a strong background in financial literacy. Fortunately, I have had the experience of being on two School Leadership Teams in New York City public schools, as well as being the Director of Operations at a school. I was chosen by staff members to be the Chair of my school’s SLT. SLTs must use consensus-based decision making. In this type of process, all participants contribute to and help shape the final decision. By listening closely to one another, members come up with solutions and proposals that work for the group. This approach is empowering because each member has the opportunity to influence team decisions. When all members are able to voice their opinions and concerns, they are more likely to stay invested in and connected to the work of the team. This sets the stage for greater cooperation and mutual respect. In my role as chair of the SLT, I work together with the school administrators, our Union chapter leader, and parent leaders to ensure that our budget is aligned to our school’s vision, mission and needs. We meet twice a month to discuss the budget, how Title I and III funds are spent with community input, and to craft the Comprehensive Education Plan, or CEP.

I also was hired to be the Harlem Village Academy Elementary School’s Director of Operations. The most helpful responsibility was that I managed the school’s budget, all purchasing, inventory, all non-personnel expenses, after-school programming, food services, and all additional school-related activities. I was also responsible for all operations and logistical issues and systems, including but not limited to technology, building facilities, staffing, and resource management to ensure that the Principal could focus on instructional support.

Barbara D’Alois: I am a teacher, parent and community member. I develop and implement programs for students. I’m not a financial whiz. I think that it is incumbent on the BOE members to bring in the right people for the job. The board should have a go-to person/entity to evaluate and explain the inner workings of the budget. In a perfect world, the board would consist of an educational expert, a construction expert, a financial expert, a legal expert, and other professionals that could not only realize their sections of expertise, but know how to seek out and utilize those professionals to inform the board as needed.

Christopher Daniello:Did not answer.

Stephen A. DiDonato: I am not a financial advisor nor do I pretend to be. I am a Taxpayer and a person who knows how hard it is for a dollar to be made in this country. We need to spend other people’s money wisely, with clear reason, and provide final results that are made public to all. I will want to know every detail of the expenditures that we are responsible for and hold a check and balance system.

Sharon D. Footes: My level of financial literacy is that I have a background in Food Service and Retail Management. To add I can read, write and have a somewhat fair grasp on how to manage other people’s money.

Matthew T. Hirschman: I’m not an accountant but I was President of my Co-Op Board in Norwalk Connecticut. In this capacity I did oversee the financials for over 160 units. I’m not afraid to ask questions and ask for help from people that are more knowledgeable than me.

Michael Leone: My educational and professional experience fill this void on the current Board. In my 26-year career, I served on the Boards of Directors for two key industry organizations: The Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (“SAAGNY”), the industry trade association (8 years), and the SAAGNY Foundation, a charitable organization that raises money to support charitable events for children (one year). As a SAAGNY Board member, I sat on numerous committees, chairing most, was elected to the executive committee, and served as Treasurer, Vice President, and President of the Board. When I took office as President, the association was in the red. It had a disorganized and disjointed business model with little or no fiscal oversight. While serving as Board President, one of my main goals was to restore the financial health of the organization. Collaboratively, working with SAAGNY Board members and staff, the business model was reconstructed with defined fiscal oversight and sound fiscal initiatives. Today, the association has a healthy seven-figure fund balance.

Timothy McKnight: I have had different jobs where I’ve been responsible for budgeting and keeping track of public money being spent. From being an Account Executive at Steiner Sports to now being the Resident Services Director of the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority (NRMHA). Currently as the Resident Services Director for NRMHA, one of my key roles is scouting and applying for grants that will provide funding for resident programing. I develop and monitor the budgets for these grants. My experience will be beneficial to my position on the board as we reevaluate the budget and seek to increase funding for programs that will strengthen the academic success for all students.

Mario A. Scarano: I believe the most important job of a BOE member is to oversee the fiduciary responsibilities of the district. As director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics for both the New Rochelle and White Plains City School Districts I was responsible for my programs budgets so I have a fairly good financial understanding.

Julia Taylor: 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.

Donald Vega: I have managed budgets over the past 20 years that cumulatively total $1 Billion+. And that is in the private sector where when you fail, you are held accountable.

I would also add that financial literacy is not the main issue here. If that was the case, we could just elect a couple of great accountants. The issues are leadership, accountability and transparency.