Friday, 14 May 2010 00:00
The League of Women Voters provides an invaluable community service running “Meet the Candidates” nights during important local elections. They were to be forgiven a little campaigning themselves May 4 at the library before they introduced four candidates for two seats on the Manhasset Board of Education. They solicited new members to carry on the work of the league and, despite the name, invited men to join too. After introducing Rita Tanski, timekeeper, each candidate gave an opening statement, answered questions from the audience, then delivered a closing statement.
Candidates for a seat on the school board are Craig Anderson, Karen Haunss-Sapinski, M.D., Greg Johnston and Regina Rule. Each candidate thanked the League of Women Voters and the community before delivering their opening remarks.
My wife and I moved to Manhasset as our oldest child then 4 was approaching kindergarten age. So like many Manhasset families we moved here for the great schools and in our case raise our family as 3rd generation Manhasset residents.
So now 15 years later my son is 19 years old, is a 2009 graduate of Manhasset, and is finishing his freshman year at Bucknell University. My oldest daughter is 16 years old, is rather significantly handicapped and is schooled at a residential program to deal with her many special needs. My youngest daughter, now 11 years old, is in 6th grade in private school out of the district. It is the combination of the many things I’ve learned from my three children’s educational experiences, both in and out of the district, plus a desire to give back to a community that has been so good to our family, that brings me here today.
While living in Manhasset I have involved myself in many aspects of the community. I’ve coached in the Manhasset Baseball League for 6 years, I’m in my 4th year as a PAL girls lacrosse coach. In the school community I was a member of MAAC for 6 years, two of which I chaired the committee. And, I am finishing up my 3rd year as a member of CAC Finance. Professionally I am a senior officer at a multi-channel marketing company that requires continuous improvement and innovative thinking in a rapidly changing business environment to be successful. I’ve worked on restructuring our organization, I manage a several hundred million dollar operating budget, I’ve negotiated and renegotiated key vendor contracts to reduce costs, and developed strategic plans to ensure long term success.
As we approach the 2010/11 school year the Board and Administration will be required to work on many key issues requiring innovative thinking that include
(1) Developing a best-in-class operating budget that maintains Manhasset as a premiere college preparatory school district and is responsible to the taxpayers by looking at every opportunity to reduce operating costs.
(2) Developing a multi-year academic and capital plan to deal with the growth at the secondary school.
And, (3) Negotiating the renewal of the teacher’s contract, recognizing that we need a new economic model and increased partnering to keep costs under control.
These key issues plus others need to be addressed during a period of economic struggle not seen in generations. So it is incumbent on a board and administration to take these challenges head on and hear the community that is saying “new business efficiencies need to be implemented, more costs need to be reduced, and more academic success needs to be achieved by students of all levels.”
Certainly this is not an easy set of tasks but I believe we have an administration that has proven they can get the job done, as part of an ongoing process…..the key word being process, or continuous improvement over time. I am anxious to be an active part of the future that continues the process of evolving the Manhasset School District. And I believe my professional and personal backgrounds have provided me with the skills to be a good board member….one who listens, builds consensus, is a candid communicator with all constituents, an innovative thinker, and will have the strength to make tough decisions.
As a parent, I have experience with both the elementary and secondary schools and the special education program and understand the full spectrum of activities and how they impact student’s lives. And so I ask you for your vote on May 18.
I wear two hats in this community – some of you know me as Dr. Haunss who is the ear, nose and throat doctor. My practice is in Great Neck and I am on staff at our two local hospitals – North Shore and St. Francis. I have treated many Manhasset residents over the years since I moved to Manhasset in 1999 following my residency and medical school at the University of Virginia. Others of you may know me as Karen Sapinski – mother to Morgan who is in 2nd grade and Tyler who is in kindergarten at Munsey Park Elementary School.
Many of you are probably wondering why am I choosing to get involved now in this capacity as a potential board member. The Manhasset community has been very good to me both professionally and personally. I want to use my talents and life experiences to give something back to the community. I am not a politician and I am not here to further some hidden agenda. My number one goal is to be a vocal and powerful advocate for all of the children of Manhasset. I have always been a powerful force in fighting against insurance companies for the rights of my patients. I bring to you the same passion and drive to fight for what I believe in and do what is right and just for our children.
This past year has been very controversial and I believe the community has lost faith in the board. This is also a time of economic uncertainty with people out of work and making less money and we need to be fiscally prudent and mindful of watching spending. As a small business owner, I am familiar with budgets, cost control as well as contract negotiations. As a surgeon, I am able to make tough decisions and have proven leadership and problem solving skills. As a physician, I have developed excellent listening and interpersonal skills and am willing to hear differing viewpoints.
We need to employ the use of “best practices” to education which is the direction medicine is going in. Best practices means availing ourselves of the information out there by researching the most efficient and cost effective initiatives undertaken in other places and applying them to our school district.
I believe I will bring a unique perspective and new outlook to this board of education position as both a physician, daughter of a NYC teacher and educator and mother of twoyoung children just starting their education in Manhasset. I have novel new ideas to give our children the best educational experience and maintain our high quality education while keeping costs down thru alternate funding sources. I hope to rebuild your trust and open the lines of communication between the public and the board and carry out your wishes if I am elected. Thank you.
I have lived in Flower Hill for 14 years with Rebeca and our two children Connor and Cristina who both attend Shelter Rock Elementary School in the 4th and 1st grades. I have been an active member of the finance committee for the last two years and a regular board meeting attendee. I never miss more than one or two meetings a year. The majority of the analysis done on the bus in-sourcing vote last December was my work.
I have worked in the financial markets for the past 23 years. Up until 1998 I was Director of Operations at ING Barings in New York. In my capacity as director, I was responsible for billions of dollars in daily cash movements and hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. I left ING to start my own consulting company servicing the technology finance needs of Fortune 500 corporations. These companies come to me for one reason: my proven track record of solving problems.
As we move forward as a district, we need people with real skills honed by experience. We need critical thinkers, independent individuals, people who are willing to take a stand, people who are knowledgeable and unafraid to stand alone because they are confident that their arguments have merit. I am one of those people! If elected I will be an independent voice on the board. Let’s be clear about something dissent is not dissention. While I may disagree with the board and the district on a number of issues it in no way impacts my ability to work with them. In my daily life as a consultant I work in an environment where I have no real political power, yet I am able to work with committees, groups and individuals to achieve a common goal. Anyone who works in finance knows it is an industry populated by aggressive, driven, no-nonsense individuals. In short, a tough crowd at times. That is an environment I have successfully navigated for the last 23 years.
I am committed to working with and listening to all of our community stake holders. We must pursue excellence in education within the context of fiscal responsibility. We need to pursue a long range plan. As parents we don’t fund for our children’s education in the 12th grade, why should our school system be any different. What I am proposing is nothing radical, it is just common sense and best practice.
Manhasset has a fantastic education system, however, there are things we could do better. I’m not trying to focus on the negatives, but we can’t continue to ignore them either. We need to celebrate our successes and identify our weaknesses in order to improve and grow as a community.
I am running because I care about our community, our children, our schools and their future. I pledge to work collaboratively as we construct and shape our vision for our schools for the next generations. I want to ensure that Manhasset continues to be recognized and respected as a top college preparatory district, which provides excellent educational opportunities for every child.
Many, including me, moved here for the schools. I am very proud of our schools. They are the major asset this community shares, and they embody our values and vision. I believe that Manhasset wants the best educational, co-curricular and athletic opportunities for all children at the least possible cost. As a taxpayer and a parent, I am extremely concerned that incessantly increasing costs threaten our District’s ability to provide opportunities for every child. However, I am running because I am confident that, as a team, we can recognize and address these challenges, work toward solutions together and focus on the future to ensure that the tradition of Manhasset excellence is carried on.
I promise to work for constructive change that reflects the input of the community. The system must be more responsive to taxpayer limitations. Coming from the private sector, the financial, legal and contractual realities of public entities are puzzling and opaque. While serving on CAC Finance, it became very clear that we need to find ways to change the system so that education is not constantly threatened by financial pressures. That’s why I was a founding member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for Legislative Affairs in 2007. Progress is being made, but I will tell you the process of change is slower than I would like.
I would like everyone to participate in the process of school keeping our schools great. The community’s input is invaluable and necessary. Back in 2004, I established the Community Education Committee of the SCA to get the word out to encourage people to get involved and vote. Communication and respect are the first steps to consensus; as a board member, I promise to listen to and communicate with all members of our community.
Whether its volunteering for the SCA, Girl Scouting, or district committees, I am focused on what is best for children. I have a strong value system, and I come to every issue with an open mind and a willingness to fully understand all the aspects of the issue. I work hard, and I am organized, level headed and inclusive. I feel we have to be the best role models we can be for our children. I am passionate about the education of our children, and I hope you leave tonight knowing that I have the skills, values and temperament you look for in a Board of Education trustee.
Q1. What is your position on this year’s budget? How have you voted in the past three years? What are you advising the people who are supporting you in terms of voting for the budget?
Johnston: I am supporting the current budget. However, that is with a caveat. In the most dire financial times that we have seen since the last great depression I am still advising people to vote for the budget because I think it would be overly destructive to vote it down. In terms of the last few budgets I have voted yes.
Rule: The budget is a process that I think works. I am for the budget. I think it’s responsive, I think it’s responsible, and I think it’s restrained. We are using reserves to bring the tax levy down so our two-year tax levy is under 1 percent, 1.84 percent and I think that is really fair. As far as the process, I think it is important that people participate in the budget process and since it gets proposed initially in February, there is really a two month comment period for people to raise their objections. So, by the time the budget comes to a vote it has been adequately discussed and that is why you know me as the “yes” lady. I think everyone’s input should be incorporated into the budget.
Anderson: I support the budget, have voted for the budget the past three years. I’m recommending to my supporters that they vote for the budget. I think it represents a body of work from the administration and the board that is showing improvement. In 2009 we are now down to 17th in the county in per pupil spending after many, many years of being one, two or three. I think bringing the budget under control is a process, a process that has continued over the last several years with the current administration. The work is not done yet and the community has made that loud and clear. So I think the budget is sound, but the work is not done yet.
Haunss: I support the budget also. I think the budget is as fair as can be accomplished without cutting services and honoring our current union contracts. I would have liked to see the union give back some monetary concessions to bring down the budget in the current economic climate. I think to not support the budget would mean to cut services and that would be detrimental to our children. I have recommended people support the budget and I have always voted yes for the budget.
Q2. How will you be my advocate to contain costs? I’ve been here 16 years, my taxes have tripled, and I consider that an unsustainable trend.
Haunss: I don’t enjoy paying taxes anymore that anyone of you. To bring down taxes I want to start focusing on alternative funding because it’s basically not sustainable what’s going on with educational costs. Eventually, at some point, we’re not going to be able to afford it. My idea is to look for best practices, what is the most cost efficient way to keep our quality of education. Some of the alternatives I’m thinking about is going after the grant money that is out there, no one is going after it, and also lobbying efforts in Albany to try to get more money. We have to look outside the box. We have to be more efficient so costs don’t keep going up. We need to talk to our teachers’ union to make some monetary concessions like other districts have. These pensions are going to bankrupt us in the future.
Anderson: There are two things to work on. First continue going through the operating budget on an annual basis line by line and pulling out non value added costs, costs that have nothing to do with the education and well-being of our children. We’ve made progress over the last few years but there is still work to be done. Teachers costs are a disproportionate amount of the budget. Whoever is elected to the board will be able to work on that contract and it will be a time for new thinking on both sides of the table. This is a time for good, candid communication because obviously we cannot keep going in the direction we are going. Something has to be done differently. We need to develop a longer term academic plan and a capital plan that will be dealing with the population rise, particularly at the secondary school. That is needed to build operating budgets in the future so we’re not reacting, we’re planning.
Rule: To be the most effective advocate we need to go to the root of the problem and that is rising property taxes and the root of the high taxes is underfunded and unfunded mandates handed down from Albany and the federal government. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed in 1975 and the federal government promised at that time to fund up to 40 percent of it. The most they have ever funded, if I recall correctly, is about 17 percent. On top of IDEA New York State has layered multiple additional mandates. Because I share the same frustration you do I joined the Citizens Advisory Committee for Legislative Affairs (CACLA) so we could start a grass roots movement for change in Albany. The reality, and we all need to get together on this, is the balance of power is not in our favor. We are working against some of the best financed unions in the country. CACLA observes school buses largely run empty because children are driven to school. We, CACLA, have had legislation introduced in both chambers in Albany to change the education law that dictates we need to hold seats for students even though they do not take the bus. The legislators have come back to us and told us we need to get support for that legislation. I will continue to work on that as a board member.
Johnston:I have a big tax bill and I’m not happy with it either. I met with the leadership of the teachers’ union today, the MEA, and they have no desire to strike, no one wants that type of strife in the district. They seem to be willing to work with us and we’ll see what happens when contract negotiations come around. What needs to be done, and I’ve seen some of it happen on the transportation bidding, which is looking to outsource transportation with multiple districts and we need to start looking to do the same on the administrative level. There’s no reason to have eight school districts within 25 miles and everyone has an HR department, clerical and administrative staff. This could be consolidated and we could achieve substantial savings. One of the reasons I threw my hat into the ring is that I was unhappy with the transparency that I saw in the budget. As much as the district and administration will disagree with me I think the budget to budget, even though everyone does it, is not an accurate representation of what is going on in this district and that is something we need to change.
Q3. The budget increase is favorable in part because reserves were used to keep the budget down this year. Next year will be a challenge. How do you keep the budget from going up 5 to 7 percent next year when you don’t have the reserves? And we are in the middle of a union contract with two more years to go so you can’t stop that, and pension fund increases will still be there next year. So you can’t really fix that much. What was the amount of the reserves and what are your ideas?
Rule: I did not do my homework enough to tell you the exact amount of the reserves. I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $16 million, we are using about $7 million of that to bring it down closer to $9 million but I need to double check those numbers, but the concept is correct. Next year is going to be brutal. Our contributions to ERS, the Employee Retirement System, and the Teachers Retirement System, are going up. We are in the middle of a contract and Mr. Cardillo has made announcements at board meetings that they are talking to the unions about potentially reopening the contract so those talks are going on. The big numbers unfortunately are beyond our control and goes back to what I said before. The things driving our budget are not something we can fix sitting at the negotiating table, it is something that must be done in Albany. We have to get together and form a grass roots forum, whether it be writing letters or something else, to effect change for the taxpayers. I wish I could tell you I’m going to do it for you, but I’m only one cog in the wheel.
Johnston: I actually don’t know what we’re going to do because we have essentially no reserves, they are at the lowest level in 5 years. As a member of the finance committee we had actually asked the administration what would be a prudent level for reserves. In addition to that we have a $10 million capital improvement project due to be funded by future budget surpluses. We’ve cut the budget to the bone and have leaking roofs and other things going on. As Regina said, with pension contributions going up next year, I don’t know where the money is going to come from. We are heading into troubled waters next year.
Anderson: There are things we will encounter outside the scope of our control. So we need to focus on the things we can control whether it be state mandated, cost increases or rising student population at the secondary school. As we build a budget for 2012 have we pulled out non-value added costs? We must continue the process of going through the budget line by line, department by department, and pulling out what is not going to educate our children. We need to maintain Manhasset as a premier college preparatory school district. It will be hard work to figure out how to offset the increases we don’t control.
Q4. Which candidate (s) sends their child to a private school, excluding special needs. In what area is Manhasset lacking that influenced your decision to send your child to a private school?
Anderson: Every family has personal decisions to make with their children, some easy, some difficult. We had difficult decisions with two of our children. One is a special needs child, and the second difficult decision was with our youngest daughter, in elementary school, and who had an academic need that, in our opinion, private school was the best place for her. It wasn’t a reflection on the school district, I don’t believe it was lacking in any respect. She was at Munsey Park and we had a wonderful experience there but she had particular needs that were going to be addressed in a different type curriculum.
Q5. Are you satisfied with the quality of enrichment education at the primary school level? If not, what suggestions do you have?
Haunss: Beside children acquiring academic skills it’s important they acquire life and social skills. Recently begun at both elementary schools is a friendship club to help children learn interpersonal skills. About 85 percent of success in life is people skills and we should work more on encouraging these in our children through enrichment after school activities. My daughter loved it, she was in one of the first classes, and it was through a grant that this happened.
Anderson: One of the things I bring to the party, having a son go through K-12 in the Manhasset schools and a daughter outside the district, is that I have learned, through the child outside the district, what a more flexible curriculum development can provide a child who might need it. Need it to reach their potential. So I’d like to see a little more flexibility in dealing with different children’s situations.
Rule: The answer to your question is “no.” I was not satisfied with the experience either of my two daughters had. The world has changed since then, and I think for the better. A number of us have shared similar frustrations. There are two aspects to your question: the enrichment aspect and the important differentation of instruction aspect to the question. As far as enrichment, the model both my children had was the “pull out program” and now the current model in place is three separate subjects, provided in three different seasons, and teachers in the secondary school provide the instruction. It has been well received. It also builds a bridge between the buildings. We do have teachers in the district that are fabulous at differentiated instruction. One of my goals as a board member is that we equip our teachers adequately so they can deliver appropriately challenging curriculum to every child in the classroom.
Johnston: I can make my answer very short. Three things: differentiated learning; talented and gifted needs to be offered at earlier ages in the school; we need to restore the foreign languages taken away during the last budget cuts when on austerity. We had an opportunity to have Chinese offered in the earlier grades but that was actually voted down because we did not offer it at the high school level.
Q6. Name one thing either the board, administration or teachers have done in the last 5 years that you think is a positive thing.
Haunss: I am so proud that what they have done is introduce a collaborative teaching model. It is the best thing that could have been implemented. I was asking for this and suggesting it a long time ago. Instead of just having special ed and regular ed, to have this collaborative model with special ed and regular ed combined. This basically helps the middle child who might have been struggling a little bit and put in a special ed class. It helps them reach their full potential. I think it is working phenomenally and I’m glad they are moving it into all six grade levels.
Anderson: The most positive thing the board has done is to hire Charlie Cardillo as superintendent. Prior to that we had interims in almost every leadership position, which created a difficulty in getting business done in virtually every department. Charlie put together a leadership team that took control of their areas and were accountable. The finance office is part of that leadership team and we now have our arms around a budget that was out of control. In 1993 to 2004 Manhasset was number 1, 2, or 3 in the county in per pupil spending. In 2009 we were number 17, we haven’t cut services, AP scores have been increasing, and more students are taking AP exams so I see a lot of positives coming from the leadership team put together by Charlie Cardillo.
Rule: I also compliment the administrative team and want to say the district offers far more academic opportunities for every child than ever before. We have more students sitting for AP exams this year and that is twice as many as 10 years ago. The administration has introduced exceleration in science for elementary students so sixth graders with ability are able to have their needs met. In the upper grades they are working to homogeniously group students in math. While our rank in the cost per student has declined, and enrollment has increased, we offer more children more opportunities than ever before.
Johnson: I’m last and everyone has mentioned my points. A general comment, over the last 10 years there has been a general improvement in grades and rankings, and in the participation rate, but we still have some areas that could improve.
Q7. Mr. Johnston brought up school district based consolidation. I have yet to hear of any success in that area, in any school district, anywhere. How does Mr. Johnston envision achieving school based consolidation?
Johnston: It is a problem and the devil is in the details. There are successful companies out there now that have successfully outsourced their entire HR departments. This is something that is achievable. The district did this when looking to outsource transportation and bid that with five or six districts, and while I applaud that and think it is fantastic, I have bigger concerns around the governance, how that would work, how the disputes would work. While we have cost savings we might find we have problems trying to manage it with so many districts. I’m not saying that’s the answer but there is clearly excess capacity not being used. Eventually we’ll have to figure out ways to make it work. Take the Town of North Hempstead, for example, every town within it doesn’t have its own garbage collection, its own police. We share services. We need to figure out ways as a community, as a group of communities, to do the same thing.
Q8. Are you willing to go on strike to get the union to give back concessions?
Rule: I can’t answer that now without more input but we do have an advantage because we are in a position to watch what happens as more districts make decisions that are influencing our thought processes day by day.
Anderson: Any one of us who would be involved would need to be privy to the details of the contract. I don’t know the details but I guess I believe it starts with open and candid communication now. Even if the contract isn’t reopened the expiration will arrive before you know it. A critical piece of that strategy is that the kids can’t see that we are negotiating. There can’t be any effect on the children.
Haunss: I would avoid a strike at all costs. It doesn’t benefit anyone except lawyers. It hurts the children, it hurts the educators. Everything is negotiable and contracts can be reopened, Half Hollow Hills opened theirs. Our teachers’ union is reasonable, I would hope they’d make concessions seeing how the economic times are hurting all of us.
Johnston: I met with Ed Vasta today and his leadership team and one of the things they said was the teachers are in line with the union. So as much as we’d like to hope that they would renegotiate and open up the contract we have to be prepared, if we’re serious about cutting budgets, that, distasteful as it could be, we might have to endure a strike if not able to reach a type of balance. No one wants a strike but ultimately if that is what we have to come down to we can’t allow these costs to continue to spiral at essentially twice CPI. Step and salary increases run about 5.5 percent a year. CPI is at 2.35 percent. It doesn’t take long for that to exponentially run out of control.
Q9. The last teacher’s contract was negotiated so that the community learned of it after the fact. Would you entertain some form of public input prior to the opening of contract negotiations?
Johnston: I would like to tackle the broader topic of transparency. I would like to see more transparency in the budget process. I try to attend every board meeting, I think I miss one or two a year. Public attendance and participation is low. If people aren’t coming to the board meetings we need to bring board meetings to the people. The agenda should be distributed 24 hours prior to the board meeting. Residents should be able to submit questions to the board via email. Questions that would be read aloud at the meetings, recorded in the meeting minutes and answered in the minutes. The entire board meeting should be video recorded and posted on the district’s website. We live in a modern era, we use this technology in our daily lives. We time shift our TV viewing through the use of DVRs why not increase board participation and awareness by the same means. The mere act of recording and publishing this information will force the board and the administration to act in a more transparent manner.
Rule: The board wants the community to know its input is welcome. I would always want to hear what the community thinks. A number of people came up to me in the last few days and said, “I can’t afford this anymore, what are you going to do if you get on the board?” I say the best way to help is to get involved and to write letters. Not teacher bashing, but letters in the Manhasset Press that tell how the incessantly rising costs hurt us. That needs to be a theme that the teachers hear. Manhasset, yes, is supportive of education, but we just can’t keep digging deeper into our pockets every year. That message hasn’t gotten through. Five board members can’t deliver that message alone.
Anderson: The input from the individuals I’ve spoken to say loud and clear we can’t continue to afford these tax increases. Something needs to be done. As we enter contract negotiations there will be some things that the board can and cannot discuss. Those that can be discussed can be communicated better. And that proactive communication is critical so there is no misinformation. If there is not good information then misinformation breeds.
Haunss: With the use of technology today everyone can be informed. I keep abreast of everything through emails, the Manhasset Press, conversations and technology should be better utilized to keep the community informed of the board meetings. Emails are an excellent way to keep informed and maintain open communication.
Q10. What do you propose to do with the site that houses the bus garage?
Anderson: Earlier we discussed a multi-year capital plan on how to deal with increasing enrollment, especially in the secondary school where the primary urgency seems to be. Soil testing has been done there and after years of being a garage there are no environmental issues to deal with. Administration takes up space that could otherwise be used for classrooms so the garage could house the administration. Need multiple options, that is just one. Whatever is done should be done at the least cost, so maximum dollars go toward education.
Rule: The way to look at the site is what the needs are and then the wish list. The first pressing priority the district faces is classroom space because 250 more students will enter the secondary school over the next 6 years and we are already bursting at the seams. So it seems the easiest thing is to move central office over to the bus garage to gain more classroom space. Depending on what the community wants and the economic times, some people want a swimming pool. Some want to redo the traffic patterns at the secondary school. As a community we need to set priorities and address our needs first.
Johnston: We may have an environmental issue with the bus garage. Based on soil samples there is no outside evidence of contamination from the fuel tanks. Based on the age of the building it is likely to contain asbestos. But let’s talk about a broader issue. In 2003 the district commissioned a study and devised a plan to remodel the physical plant to deal with increased enrollment. We should be revisiting that plan to see what aspects of the plan are still relevant. Our focus should be long term, looking at entire school not just the bus garage.
Haunss: It’s a difficult question to answer now. Studies need to be done on the site and we need to examine the student, economic and community needs. I love the idea of a pool because I’m an active swimmer. I go to the JCC to do my swimming and a pool would be great for the students, and the community as a whole to have an athletic center. There needs to be a cost/benefit analysis in the future.
My campaign platform has followed a simple theme, to restore trust and accountability to the Manhasset School District. Additionally, I have long been an advocate of transparency of information. These three concepts are inter-related. Trust is restored over time through transparency and accountability. We demand accountability in business, politics, religion and in our personal lives. The board of education should be held to the same standard. In speaking with many members of the community a common theme has emerged. People are unhappy with what is going on in the district and it’s not just the economy. The board has lost the public trust and demonstrated a track record of mismanagement, deception and waste. Not my words, theirs. They feel the information presented to them is biased, misleading and at times false. The community would like to see someone on the board who will safeguard their interests, and be an independent voice. When the public was asked if they felt the district was better off in 2010 the resounding answer was no! We need to change that. If elected I will be your advocate, an instrument of change, your fiscal watchdog, a voice of reason. There are a lot of good things going on in the Manhasset School District, we need to celebrate our successes and identify the issues that need to be resolved. We can no longer maintain the status quo and ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Thank you for coming out tonight to hear my views on the issues. Thank you League of Women Voters.
I want to thank all of you for giving up your time and coming out tonight to listen to us. It is an honor and privilege for me to even be on the ballot running for board member. As you have heard tonight from all of the other candidates, they are all very capable and have great ideas. I think Manhasset is very lucky to have four great choices to choose from and it will be a tough decision on May 18.
I want to stress my main points in closing: 1) My primary goal is to be a powerful advocate for all children no matter their needs. I want to make sure they have the best education possible to make them well rounded individuals and give them the life skills necessary to be successful later in life 2) I bring a unique set of skills and perspective that is necessary for the continued current and future success of our district. 3) We need to stop the unsustainable growth in educational costs before it bankrupts us by looking into alternate funding for our district. We no longer can rely on the local, state or federal governments to subsidize us and bail us out. We also cannot keep raising taxes year after year and adding to our economic burden. 4) We need to implement new and innovative strategies (best practices) that have evidence of success. 5) We need to rebuild trust in the community and be respectful of one another. 6) We need to meet future challenges together as a team of students, parents and educators to build a better future for our biggest asset – our children.
My background as a physician, daughter of an educator, mother of two young children and taxpayer makes me uniquely qualified for this position. I will bring to the table novel new ideas and a fresh approach. Just like I took the Hippocratic Oath when I became a doctor, I make a promise to you tonight to be highly ethical and honest and look out for the greater good of the Manhasset community if you elect me. Thank you for your time.
I have a proven record as a leader, a team player and a consensus builder committed to working with, listening to and educating the community. I have experiences in all the district schools either as a parent or a volunteer. I will bring a fresh perspective and positive energy to the board. You have seen me participate in the process of school governance for 7 years, and you know I am committed to constructive change to keep our schools the best they can be. I hope you will give me the opportunity to contribute on a level that I have not been able to before.
The choice between the candidates boils down to a choice about values, vision and commitment. Take a close look at our records, and please consider what differentiates us from each other. Look closely at our approaches to solving problems and our ability to build consensus. Who do you feel has the right raw material to be part of the team to lead and guide the Manhasset schools for the next 3 years?
As you evaluate each of us, I think it is helpful to ask: what does one look for in a board member? I think a good board member is respectful of others, judicious in their decision making and approaches decisions and issues with an open mind. A good board member holds themselves to the highest standards and ethics. You want someone who can think independently and who believes in the framework of the educational mission and philosophy of the Manhasset Public Schools. A good board member knows limited resources must be used to their maximum potential. Most importantly, I believe a good board member cares about what is best for every child. My record demonstrates that I have the right skills and qualities you want in a board member.
If I am elected, I ask you to keep me up to date on your thoughts about the schools, both educationally and financially. Please keep me informed about issues you see; I need to know what you are thinking so that I can effectively represent you.
Thank you for taking the time to look closely at me and my record. I ask for your vote on Tuesday, May 18. Please vote yes for the budget and for the capital reserve as well. And, I ask you to please make sure that you, and everyone you know, gets to the polls to vote!
Thank you again to the League of Women Voters on behalf of all of the candidates for the opportunity to speak directly to the Manhasset voters tonight.
I believe the Manhasset schools are a jewel in our community. Just take in an evening elementary orchestra performance and see the pride in the young musicians upon completion of their piece, spend a weekday afternoon up at the secondary school with a game going on at every field and feel the school spirit, look at the academic performance in all subjects areas at the high school and the honors that abound, and then look at the quality colleges and universities that our graduates are accepted to each and every year.
But like every organization in today’s world the Manhasset district has challenges that need to be addressed and it’s likely that solutions to those challenges will require change. And in my opinion, any successful organization that doesn’t change is one that falls behind.
With that in mind I’d like for you to take away three things tonight about me as a candidate:
First, I am committed to working with the administration to develop future operating budgets that maintain Manhasset as a premier college preparatory school district and is responsible to the taxpayers by looking at every opportunity to create productive change and reduce operating costs.
Second, I am committed to continued academic excellence and believe we must develop a multi-year academic and capital plan to deal with the population growth at the secondary school.
Third, I am committed to working objectively with the administration to continue the process of reducing all non-value add costs and recognize that we need a new economic model and increased partnering with all constituents to keep costs under control.
I believe I have the background to successfully work with the board and the administration to deliver good solutions to our challenges for both the students and the community. I ask you for your vote on Election Day and I also ask you to support the budget. Thank you.