Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 15 May 2009 09:23
A resident of Williston Park, Kathy Darmstadt is running for the Mineola School Board, challenging incumbent John McGrath for a three-year term. Darmstadt has a daughter who has graduated from Mineola High School, a son who is attending Mineola Middle School and a son in sixth grade in Mineola Middle School.
She has been involved in school organizations including the school-community based finance committee. Last year, her school-community service was recognized when she was awarded the Jenkins Award from the middle school.
Darmstadt wants to run for the board because she feels she wants to be more involved in the decisions affecting the school district and the community. “I think I can bring some balance to the board that they seem to have been lacking the last couple of years,” she said.
As a member of the finance committee, Darmstadt is aware of the financial issues facing the district. One of the goals of the finance committee was to investigate what drives the Mineola School District cost per pupil, which is one of the highest in Nassau County. In 2006, the finance committee issued a report that said there were multiple factors driving Mineola’s cost per student. “The first thing is to become efficient, to cut the fat, to see if there is a more cost-effective way to achieve the same results with the children, but cost containment is important too. The year-to-year growth is what has gotten us partially to where we are. It’s a multi-faceted approach,” she said.
Darmstadt said a goal of hers on the board would be to work towards a more cost-effective way to deliver the educational program, but “with absolutely no risk to the education of the children,” she said. “My background in non-profit accounting has showed me that you really can still provide a quality service with very strict financial resources. Why not apply that knowledge to the school district? I would just like to bring some fresh ideas and new perspective to the administration, the board and the community. There may be other ways to do things.”
On the subject of the budgets, Darmstadt feels efforts have been made to keep increases low, but points out that at the end of the fiscal year, the district has come in with surpluses that have gone toward paying down debt. However, she feels next year will be a tough year because of pension requirements, increases in employee benefits and a potential shortfall in state aid.
A major decision the board will have to make is whether to close a school as a cost-savings measure. While Darmstadt’s opponent, John McGrath, has been adamant about not closing a school, Darmstadt feels the board should keep an open mind because of the expenses that are going to hit. “This is something that cries for thoughtful planning, that we’re just not waiting for failed budgets [to make a decision to close a school]. The possibility that I might actually have to make this decision has really hit me. To me, we’re about five steps back from making that decision. There’s so much information out there that has to be vetted and tested and checked. I am in favor in looking at it in depth because I think we owe that to the community. That is a decision that has to stand the test of time,” she said.
Darmstadt said she can’t possibly anticipate every issue that is going to creep up in the next years, but said she’ll approach each issue reasonably and with an open mind while working together with the other board members as a team.