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Nyack School Board Closing Argument: John Duval

The School Board Trustee election is being held on May 18th.

I’m finishing the writing of this “Closing Argument” on May 10th, 2021—an important day in our family’s story. First, it’s my parents’ 51st anniversary! They are immigrants who met in Vietnam during the war and came to this country in search of the American Dream. As a kid, their message to me was clear: that Dream was created by hard work and, above all else,
education. Second, May 10th is also the day my wife Anna and I closed on our home here in Nyack, after deciding this was the place we were going to raise our children.

John Duval

Raising our kids between two ideas—one of boundless opportunity and the other of systemic racism—is complicated in normal times. The past year has made it even harder still, as the pandemic has laid bare the work we still have to do to ensure everyone—including every child in
our schools—gets a fair shot. Yet, in the midst of this terrible year, we have also felt the full force and energy of the community coming together to look out for one other, to advocate for justice, and even have conversations six feet apart through a mask! We feel lucky to live here amongst smart, creative, kind, and brave people, and we want to serve our community well.
That’s why I decided to co-chair the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (IDEA) committee at Upper Nyack ES. It’s why I eventually decided to run for School Board.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the privilege to talk to A LOT of people from different parts of our district. In a recent conversation, while I was responding to a question about my experience, a community member politely interrupted me and reminded me that Nyack is very different from the district where I had worked previously. This community member also did not approve of some of the equity work that is currently underway in the district (which I support). But it was also an honest and straightforward conversation, and in the end, we just acknowledged that sometimes, this is how it will be. We won’t agree on everything, but we
need to always ensure that all voices are heard.

I know from experience how challenging this is. Parents and community members are not a monolithic group. We have different experiences with our schools, and we often have different visions about what we want for our kids and our community. It is often easier—and more efficient—to keep community members on the outside looking in. However, I’m convinced this approach is not better for any of us. Our teachers and administrators work tirelessly to ensure the best education for our kids, and their effort this year has been nothing short of heroic. It is also true that many parents have found opportunities for authentic engagement and dialogue sorely lacking in our district. This is not just a pandemic issue.

If elected, I will show up for tough conversations and listen, in order to make hard decisions with integrity and respect for those who do the same. I will work to ensure that our community engagement efforts are as robust as they can be, so that everyone has the opportunity to be heard. I promise to be a principled and collaborative member of the board as we emerge from this challenging moment and create a better one.

Additionally, I will bring to the board 15+ years of experience in the field of education and youth workforce development, during which I’ve led community-driven school design projects and system-focused equity initiatives as well as develop policy around funding and accountability.

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I’ve also been an effective steward of taxpayer funds, having managed budgets in excess of $60M annually. As a former – and hopefully future – public servant, I take governance of public money very seriously and will work hard to ensure that our investment in our children’s future is
strategic, supported by data, and aligned to our community’s values.

Nyack Public Schools deserves Trustees that are kind, empathetic, and who show up for the job day after day. I hope you will give me that honor by voting for me (#2 on the ballot) on May 18th.

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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