by Richard Dysinger, candidate for the Nyack Schools Board of Education
The role of a School Board Trustee is to guide the District and provide strategic insight and leadership while letting the able administrators and teachers, implement policy and do the really hard work of making our shared vision of a great school district a reality. . . So in the pursuit of creating an environment where excellence can occur spontaneously here are the broad strokes of where I think we ought to move forward in the next three years.
TEACHER CENTRIC ENVIRONMENT
A more teacher centric environment. Empower, Enfranchise and support our front line employees. We need to add to our mission statement and goals statement how we will create a great place for teachers to work and excel.
IMPROVE OUR TECHNOLOGY ACROSS THE BOARD
Use technology more efficiently and get data into the hands of teachers quickly and in a way that they can use to improve the classroom experience and create improved outcomes for all our students.
The communications strategy that Gail Fleur and her team developed is a great start, but we need to take its insights and include communication tools such as mobile technology and social media. This can improve security in the school, increase communication within the school system across buildings and core curriculum centers, and get the great story of the Nyack School District into the hands of the citizens and parents who fund it.
Fiscal Discipline is more than tightening belts, we need to explore different ways to accomplish old goals, and search more aggressively for funds outside of the tax base and outside of the state and federal funding channels. . .
I support the principals of the ‘€œOpen Enrollment’€ Policy, but I think we need to explore how it is being implemented particularly in the Middle School.
The Open Campus Policy needs to be reviewed particularly for 9th and 10th graders.
I support Block Scheduling. We need to take a close look at how this new scheduling policy will impact special needs students, overall security on campus and in the surrounding community. We must make absolutely sure that this new scheduling format does not impact the district’s ability to provide instruction in Art and Music.
We need to continue to find the right balance between providing services in District and integrating special needs students into the BOCES System. In the last 3 years we have reduced the number of special needs students that are being sent to the BOCES system from 74 to 59 students. That represents a savings of close to $1,000,000 for the district. We need to make sure that those decisions also reflect what is best for students. . .
SPECIFIC CONCERNS ABOUT MONEY AND HOW IT EFFECTS THE ELECTION
There was one question at the Candidates Forum concerning money and its impact on the election. I think for the most part the candidates for this election are using modest sums mostly self provided to purchase signs and collateral to distribute within the community . . . . However there is one issue concerning money and how it will effect district policy that needs to be raised
Dan Juechter and Michael Lagana have done a fabulous job of creating the Inspire Nyack Foundation which is a non-profit foundation that has collected over $250,000 mostly from private business owners in the community. As Michael put it to me ‘€œWe want the Foundation to be a Rich Uncle that writes a check when the District needs help.’€ The foundation has specifically focused on initiatives in the area of science and technology. This is all great and we should thank both Michael and Dan and the business leaders who have created and funded this foundation.
However, I do have one concern. As President of the Inspire Nyack Foundation Dan is free to passionately represent the wishes and interests of the board members and contributors to the Nyack Foundation. If he is elected to the School Board, Dan will be asked to represent the interests and desires of the taxpayers and citizens of the District. There is going to come a time when Dan’s representation of both constituencies is going to come into conflict. This has already come up within the Board concerning the allocation of grants sponsored by the Nyack Foundation. If Dan is elected, he and Michael will represent 2/7ths of the voting power on the board and they will essentially be playing on both sides of the net when it comes to issues concerning the Inspire Nyack Foundation and their Service on the School Board. This is a small district and there are going to be areas where board members will have dual roles as parents, husbands of teachers etc. The board has legal precedent and years of practice in making sure that these dual roles do not impact board decisions to the detriment of the community as a whole. I believe that Dan’s dual role as President of the Charitable Foundation and potential Board member is qualitatively different and raises unique concerns that have to be addressed. In the Corporate World if you own it. . . you run it. . . .and the expectation that a $250,000 contribution over three years by Inspire Nyack (less than .01% of the total budget during that time) might allow for a sense of or the appearance of entitlement when they represent half of a majority of the School Board is an issue. The Public School System is not a corporate endeavor. . . it belongs equally to all of us. . . . As taxpayers, citizens and parents who fund a $70,000,000 enterprise we have a right to expect that those we elect to the Board can passionately represent all of our interests, separate and unfettered from the interests of other constituencies who have every right to petition the school board in pursuit of their own goals and agendas.
There are two immediate solutions to this issue; First, Dan does not get elected to the School Board and the issue is moot and he can continue his great work with the Inspire Nyack Foundation, or if he is elected to the School Board he resigns as President of the Inspire Nyack Foundation and assumes the sole responsibility of School Board Trustee. I want to make it clear that I think both Michael and Dan have accomplished something really valuable to the district in their management and stewardship of the Inspire Nyack Foundation and I would welcome the opportunity to serve on the School Board with either or both of them. If there is an alternative solution I would love to hear it.
The School Budget / Trustee election is Tuesday May 18. Polls are open from 7a-9p. Visit NyackSchools.com for information on voting locations.