May 08, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Longtime resident, first time candidate
My name is Phil Ragovin. I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, but my wife Sandy and I have been residents of Marcellus for 25 years, following a period of time when we lived and worked in New York City. My career has been in the business world, usually in sales and marketing administration. Frankly, our lives changed when Sandy and I adopted our son when he was a baby and our personal priorities changed as we became parents later in life. When our son Allie, now 16, started kindergarten at KCH, I decided that I would become an actively involved parent.
Briefly describe your involvement with the school district in the last five years.
I have been involved in volunteer activities with the Marcellus School District since my son started school here. Currently, I sit on the High School Site-Based Committee, which I have done for two years, serve as a member of the Booster Club committee for the annual golf tournament and assist the staff of the JV and varsity football programs. I have also coached youth sports, tutored students and volunteered as chaperon for many of the DMS outings.
What is your motivation for running for a position on the school board?
While my corporate management experience equips me to help in the oversight of financial matters, including budgeting and planning as it relates to Board of Education responsibilities, my primary focus will be to represent the interests of fellow parents and the concerns they express. My intention is to be available to listen, plus follow-up on seeking answers to questions raised. I think a new perspective on things should always be considered as helpful.
With two meetings a month, the board is relatively limited in what it can accomplish. How should the board decide what is most important?
I believe that if we responsively listen to what the community, parents, teachers, and students are saying, we will recognize the most pressing issues and prioritize accordingly. Of course, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to guess that, among the most important challenges of the coming years, dealing with budget constraints will demand most of the Board’s attention. Maintaining and even increasing the Marcellus District’s level of commitment to educating the children of this community will demand a concentrated effort, and, fresh ideas.
What are the current challenges facing the board?
In this economy, small town school budgets are inevitably targeted for potential reduction because they tend to be one the community’s conspicuously large expense items. A household struggling to meet tax burdens, as one or more wage earners are worried about losing a job, is certainly cause for concern. Yet, many of those same families are also likely to have one or more kids in school. So, it’s a matter of balancing priorities and this will surely be one of the biggest challenges any school board faces. Marcellus’ Unreserved Fund Balance is slipping and we must find ways to increase it. Also, our TRS contribution will be lower next year. At the same time, we value our teachers, administrators, and non-instructional personnel and we want to make sure that these dedicated professionals stay with us. We also have some construction going on to make our schools safer and better for our students.
What do you think will be the board’s biggest challenges in the next three years?
Again, money will be the center of attention. Even though we received stimulus funds to help us with our shortfall this year and next, we will, if not careful, face a serious deficit in two years. We also need to improve our communications with the community in general. Why? The schools that educate our children are not merely one among several important community services; they play a key role in the formation of our children’s characters and the realization of their dreams. In turn, how well our schools function will influence the present and future vitality of Marcellus. The schools in Marcellus do a fine job with limited resources and, frankly, have earned some “bragging rights.”
If it becomes necessary to make significant budget cuts, to what extent should the community be involved in deciding where such cuts should be made?
The community should be aware and have a voice in all things that directly affect their children, especially when it comes to our schools. We do, however, have to trust and put faith in the education professionals we have chosen to make sure our children are being well served. If we are confident that they are doing their very best and aren’t being extravagant, they deserve the Board’s support.
That is one reason why members of the school board have the opportunity to play a key function. The board should reconcile the community’s desire to reduce wasteful expenditures with the educators’ role of teaching our children. Teachers and school administrators shouldn’t feel a constant need to fiscally defend themselves. Nor should they be forced to make decisions against their better judgment. Their job is to prepare our children for future achievement, whether it is community college or university degrees for many. Or, subsequent completion of vocational training in a student’s field of interest. Of course, underlying those practical objectives, Marcellus High School graduates also learn how to be responsible adults in an increasingly confusing and stressful world.
That is why I am running for the Marcellus District School Board. I promise to do my best to make sure all of our children remain in safe, secure and productive learning environments.