What challenges do you think the district is facing right now, and how will you address them as a board member?
We face many challenges, but most of them fall within two broad areas.
First, like most upstate districts, we face an ongoing funding crisis. School district expenses are disproportionately affected by rising fuel costs (for buses and heating of buildings), and rising health care and retirement costs. In addition, unfunded state and federal mandates continue to stress local school budgets. Because state funding does not keep up with these costs, property taxes keep rising. While we must never allow this funding issue to derail us from the primary mission of educating students, there are several measures we can take at the local level, such as 1) constantly evaluating programs and cutting those that do not perform well, 2 eliminating unneeded staff positions through attrition, 3) taking maximum advantage of BOCES services, 4) reducing health costs through regional consortiums and careful contract negotiations with employees, 5) examining all options for maximizing the use of our buildings (which then increases state aid on building projects), and 6) continuing efforts with other school districts to push for reform of the state school funding formula, which, though somewhat improved, still badly shortchanges many upstate districts, including Liverpool.
Second, Liverpool faces the challenge of adjusting its philosophy and curriculum to address adequately the demographic changes that are taking place in our community. Success today requires a much different approach to education than in the days when Liverpool was an up-and-coming, homogenous suburb made up almost entirely of middle-class families with school-age children. Today, more than one in four of our students receive free or reduced-price lunches, and the number increases every year. More and more of our students are learning English as a second language. In addition to economic and cultural diversity, the institution of family is in disarray in our society, which means that an increasing number of our students come from emotionally difficult home environments. These kinds of changes are best addressed through staff development, as well as recruitment of teachers and administrators who understand how to address such challenges effectively.