Two seats, held by Geralyn Huba and Julie Abbott-Kenan are also up for reelection to the Skaneateles board of education.
Below are brief interviews with each candidate.
What inspired you to want to serve on the board initially and what keeps you inspired to want to continue to serve? – Four years ago my eldest son asked that his only graduation present be me running for a seat on the BOE, to make positive changes for his younger siblings and the other rising students. I did run, won a one year seat, and felt I made a significant difference. Having to run again the following year was challenging, but the overwhelming support I received showed me the amount of time and energy I was devoting was worth it. I have several ideas and concerns I would like to continue working on, and thanks to the support of my wonderful family who encouraged me to continue, I am running once agaian.
What have you learned from your time on the board so far that you feel will be beneficial in the years ahead? – BOE members are unique public servants. We are the only publicly elected officials in NYS who are unpaid volunteers. We devote upwards of 15-20 hours a week attending meetings, doing readings of materials, attending training and development sessions. To best serve our constituents, the taxpayers, and those we are responsible for – the students and staff of our district. It is a humbling, sometimes exhausting, always enriching experience. But the most important lesson I learned and constantly remind myself of is that you represent and are responsible for everyone. Always thinking of the bigger picture, and the thoughts and concerns of others, helps me to be the best BOE member I can be. Even during the latest meeting hours.
Are there a few examples you feel demonstrate some of the positive impacts this board has made? – when I first ran four years ago there were no community advisory committees in our district. I worked hard to change that, and now over 100 members of our staff and community advise the BOE standing committees. Tapping into their experiences, expertise and diversity has allowed us to move forward on programs and projects of utmost importance, ones that created significant change in many areas. While change is difficult for many, with the best possible communication we can provide, we are tackling them. In the areas of student wellness, building infrastructure repairs, facilities maintenance, staff development, budgets, and community engagement.
Are there a few examples of things that are on the horizon that you are looking forward to working on with the board? The start time for high schoolers is an issue I have been researching and I look forward to the Wellness Committee tackling this issue in the near future. Project 2021. Additional enrichment opportunities for all of our students. And the declining enrollment to name just a few towards the top of my VERY long list…
Is there anything else you would like to add or you feel the public should be aware of? – I am honored and humbled to be a member of the BOE in Skaneateles. To follow in the footsteps of all of those who served before me. To work with the wonderful group I am serving with right now. We call ourselves a “Board of Peers. Seven plus One (the superintendent” We spend a lot of time together. We respectfully agree to disagree, have moments together of extreme frustration, but then also have tear inducing excitement when a student exceeds beyond everyone’s wildest expectations. The time I am devoting is well spent. I have carried in my wallet for many years a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, about success. In it there is a line about “making a difference in the life of a child.” I am so proud that I am able to do so, not just for my own children, but for every child in our district. That what drives me to continue to serve.
What inspired you to want to serve on the board initially and what keeps you inspired to want to continue to serveI know I’ve said this in the past, but I honestly can’t think of any more important cause than advocating in support of children. I believe every child deserves an appropriate educational support system….whether a student has a disability, a rough home life, emotional or financial stressors, or if a child is gifted in such a way that they are academically far ahead of their peers. I’m also a firm believer that if you are not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. With economic and political stressors that continue to plague public education, I believe it’s critically important that our community, our children and taxpayers have a voice which I try my hardest to capture on behalf of all of usWhat have you learned from your time on the board so far that you feel will be beneficial in the years ahead?
We are an enthusiastic bunch so we have many ambitious goals for this school community! I think the biggest lesson learned is that creation and implementation take time. It’s more important to be thoughtful, do the research about a particular endeavor and get things done right, rather than rush change without studying things through a 360 degree lens. Systematizing our collective goals with a clear vision….sticking to the outline…and bringing shareholders with us along the way is, in my experience, the path to truly successful collaboration for the betterment of our kids and community.
Are there a few examples you feel demonstrate some of the positive impacts this board has made?
I appreciate how we’ve been able to really focus on long-range planning and community collaboration. Our on-going strategic planning process is honing in on what we value educationally and how -specifically- we plan on getting there. Community members are vital to our sub-committees now, and by tapping into the richness and unbelievable capabilities of this community we are simply working “smarter, not harder”. Long range budget planning is key, as it allows us to head-off unexpected expenses and gives us greater cost predictability so we can channel our money towards student & staff learning opportunities and innovative programming. It’s financially important that we continue offering the “bang for your buck” to our shareholders, as we want to attract young families. The district’s average “per pupil” spending, both for general education students and for students with special needs, is well below the average for similar schools and for all schools in New York State. We consistently have one of the lowest property tax rates in central New York, and I understand we need to keep it that way.
Are there a few examples of things that are on the horizon that you are looking forward to working on with the board?
I’m looking forward to continuing to creatively move our instructional programs forward in such a way that allows our kids to find true life-long success — emotionally and academically– while keeping the tax rate down. We can’t afford to be complacent in the fact our Skaneateles kids typically score well on state tests, etc. It’s not enough. Going to college doesn’t ensure an automatic job anymore, and student debt is in many cases, stifling. Technology has created learning environments that are extremely different than how many of us remember school…and it’s creating a social environment that is exciting, can be devastating as well. We need our children to be able to adapt, and I believe we have a responsibility to invest in programming, support systems, and classroom configurations that create meaningful success for Skaneateles kids.
Is there anything else you would like to add or you feel the public should be aware of?
I feel very strongly that we need to continue communicating the importance of supporting “Project 2021” to our share-holders. Our up-coming construction project which will be put to vote in November creates no additional burden on our taxpayers. It’s not glamorous, but the “guts” of some of our buildings are in dire need of updating. We have boilers dating back to original construction(1952!) which, in terms of efficiency, means money out the window. Drive by the high school and you will see windows “fogged over” due to penetration. Snow actually comes right in through gaps in certain Middle & High School classrooms. Windows, roofs, and doors need replacing and staying ahead of potential building maintenance issues with “Project 2021” ensures our limited school funding is going where it should: towards excellent education.