Meet the Candidate Questionnaire
1. Why did you decide to run for Albany City School Board?
I am running for the School Board to address the key issues that currently face the district. I believe I bring experience, dedication, and a willingness to work with all of the key stakeholders to move the District forward. As a parent of two children who have attended Albany City School District, I have over 23 years of experience with the school district. My youngest daughter currently attends New Scotland Elementary School and previously attended Montessori Magnet School for Pre-K and Kindergarten. During that time, I have served in the following areas:
· City-wide PTA Co-President (2006 – 2008)
· City-wide PTA Charter School Committee that lobbied legislators to secure alternative funding sources due to Charter Schools
· Montessori Common Council Co-President (2005-2006)
· Montessori Magnet School Health Fair Chairperson (1st health fair)
· Montessori Magnet School Multicultural Dinner Co-Chair
· District Strategic Planning Committee
· Middle School Enrollment Committee
· District Interviewing Committee
· New Scotland Elementary School Swing Space Committee
· New Scotland Elementary School Naming Committee
· “Get Out the Vote” Committee
· Girl Scout Troop Leader
· Junior Achievement Instructor
· Regular attendee at school board meetings
· PTA Member: New Scotland Elementary School, Montessori Common Council, Pine Hills Elementary School, Phillip Livingston Magnet Academy, Albany High School
2. What qualifies you to be on the Albany City School Board? Do you have any unique qualifications that set you apart from other candidates?
As a parent, a former City-wide PTA Co-President, and a local school PTA President, I have regularly attended school board meetings and actively participated on key District committees that have been charged with making important decisions for the District. The Board sets policy for the entire school district. I understand the responsibilities of a board member and the important role this position serves. I also understand the key issues facing the District and would be able to solicit information from key constituencies to move the District forward.
I also bring solid financial and management experience to the Board. As a Comptroller, Commercial Lender, Banker, and Financial Manager, I have solid financial experience. I have also served as a Board President and a Treasurer for the Capital District Community Loan Fund in addition to serving as the Board Secretary of Community Works of New York State. In addition to this experience, I have conducted financial training seminars for not-for-profit board members. These sessions were designed to prepare non-financial board members to utilize financial and program information to make good business decisions for the organization. I have also been a guest speaker at a New York State Housing Agency that provided financial training for Executive Directors. This session helped directors use key financial information as management tools. It also enabled them to ask their financial and program managers for information that would help the director determine program effectiveness and make solid financial decisions without being a “number cruncher”. I believe this same experience would be beneficial to the Albany School Board.
3. Parents in each Albany city school watch as their neighbors and children’s friends leave the schools for Charter Schools, Private Schools, and other districts. What concrete steps can be taken to prevent the loss of students and resources from the ACSD to these competitors?
The District can take several steps (not all inclusive) that can be taken to prevent the loss of students and resources to outside competitors:
· Promote all District programs and requirements to ensure all parents are aware of the wide variety of courses, programs, and services offered by ACSD and able to take advantage of the benefits of ACSD.
· Focus on improving student performance at all schools and all levels to ensure the District is able to compete with other schools.
· Review the services that are being provided by competitors to determine if ACSD can improve its current services.
· Develop tools to identify parent concerns before the parent chooses to move a child from the district.
· Conduct exit interviews (i.e. in person, telephone, email surveys, etc.) with parents who choose to move their child to a new district or school.
4. How would you work with City government and other community stakeholders to make Albany more attractive to homeowners and parents as a permanent option for their families?
The Albany City School District (“the District”) is a separate entity from city government. However, the school district and the local city government share a common source of funding—property and local taxes generated from homeowners in the City of Albany. This mutual reliance on homeowners who willingly buy property in the City of Albany should create a natural bond between the school district and the local city government. Excellent schools and well maintained neighborhoods contribute to a solid tax base and adequate funding for schools and community services.
Historically, homeowners are attracted to cities with the best schools and are willing to pay a little more in taxes in exchange for a quality education for their children; businesses locate to cities that have “highly educated” populations; and funding agencies (i.e. private, state, and federal) favor funding requests that have local government and community support. With these factors in mind, I would encourage the District to work collaboratively with city leadership and city government agencies, such as Albany County Health Department, the Department of Youth and Children Services, the Recreation Department, and the Department of Social Services This will enable the District to increase extracurricular activities for children outside of school hours and create alternative career paths.
5. While publicly, there is a perception of failures for the ACSD, there are many successful programs and schools that families look forward to sending their children to. While everyone values these programs, they are often targeted for cuts, making them less effective. During a time of budget reductions, how do you intend to support existing successful programs in schools, and continue to bring in new programs in schools that need them? When you do need to cut programs, what will be done to fill the voids that follow?
The ACSD has many successful programs and schools. As a board member, I would encourage district administrators to review all programs and courses to identify “best practices” in teaching strategies, instructional materials and resources, and programs and to replicate these programs whenever possible. This review should also focus on effectiveness, accessibility, economic sustainability, and the ability to replicate “best practices”. District programs should be promoted at early stages of educational development to ensure that parents are aware of the many programs offered by ACSD and children are prepared to participate in these programs.
6. The budget process in the ACSD has been a particularly painful one in recent years. Often, to streamline the process, items are lumped together in budget lines. While this makes sense for some items, for others, this has the effect of drastically changing a program without involving the school stakeholders. How will you balance the need for a streamlined process with transparency?
Currently, the public receives a combined budget that groups financial information and provides minimal information on program impact. This information provides broad based information for the general public, but does not provide program or individual school budget detail. There are also individual budget meetings at schools that are generally conducted by senior administrators and principals. These meetings provide an opportunity for individual schools to meet to discuss the impact of the budget on individual schools. Budget details are also discussed at the local board meetings and other budget meetings that are opened to the public. As a board member, I would encourage greater publicity and transparency for these meetings to ensure the public is aware of the meetings and able to understand the information presented at the meetings.
7. What will you do to ensure children’s safety not only at school but getting to and from school?
Over the past few years, the District has implemented several initiatives that have improved safety at Albany City School District. To further this effort, I will collaborate with the Superintendent and the new Safety Director to ensure adequate emphasis and focus on student safety inside and outside of the school.
8. Parent involvement is an important part of every child’s education. How will you encourage parents to be more involved?
As a board member, I would work with the District to define parent involvement and encourage a diversity of methods to involve parents in a child’s education. As a PTA Co-President, I learned that most parents want to be involved in their child’s education, but may be unable to attend numerous meetings, event planning sessions, etc. However, parents tend to show up for events that included or involved their own child. They also were willing to contribute to planning events if non-traditional methods (i.e. emails, conference calls, task delegation, etc.) were used.
Further, the District has a new email system that will enable parents to stay in communication with teachers and become aware of events. I would encourage the District to ensure that all teachers, administrators, and parents are trained to utilize this system. This will enable parents to remain in contact with teachers and administrators and school groups. I would also encourage a welcoming environment for parents in the school district. Many schools have implemented new ways for parents to have access to teachers and for teachers to have access to parents. I would encourage ACSD to review and implement some of the “best practices” in this area.
9. What are your thoughts on the high school restructuring?
The District Strategic Planning Committee developed an extensive plan to restructure the Albany High School into smaller learning communities. In addition to the items outlined in the New York State Education (NYSED) report, I would work closely with the board, the Superintendent, and the High School Restructuring team to implement a comprehensive restructuring and academic improvement program. As noted in the NYSED report, the ACSD must focus on aligning the curriculum in the elementary and middle schools with the high school to ensure students have the core skills required to succeed in high school. As a board member, I would also work closely with the Superintendent and district administrators to ensure that elementary/middle school programs are rigorous and provide the “regents level instruction” required to enable all ACSD students to be successful in a “high quality” high school environment.
10. Being on the School Board is a large, unpaid time commitment. There is often a high turn over for School Board members because of this, are you aware of this and what have you done to ensure against it for you?
I understand the rigor required of School Board Members. In 2005/2006, I was asked to undertake this role and decided against it because my daughter was very young. However, at this time, my daughter is older and I have a support system that will enable me to make a viable contribution to the Board. I realize the position is “unpaid”, however, the rewards will be great if we can work together to solve the challenges that face the District.