The Brewster Board of Education election—along with the vote for the proposed 2012-2013 budget—is just days away.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday (May 15) at . The budget comes in with a 1.8 percent tax levy increase, and a 2.2 budget increase, at $84,074,419. Three spots on the Board are open. Members serve three-year terms.
The following candidates will appear on the ballotalong with the option to :
- Sonia Mesika
Patch reached out to each of the individuals listed above and asked all three the same set of questions:
- Why are you seeking a seat on the board, and why should people vote for you?
- With three openings and three candidates, this election appears to be uncontested. Why do you suppose more people don't get involved, and what would you say to voters, parents and community members to encourage engagement around school issues?
- What are the top issues facing the board for the 2012-2013 school year?
- Do you support repealing the Triborough Amendment that keeps terms of expired union contracts in place until new agreements are reached? Would you support changing the state's pension systems for teachers and other public employees? If so, what type of changes would you want to see?
- Are you in support of the property tax cap? Why or why not?
- What is your position on the current "last in, first out" system in place that gives priority to retaining teachers with more seniority, in situations of job cuts?
- Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like the public to know about you or your candidacy?
Here's what Mesika, a sales professional and five-year Brewster resident, said. She was appointed to the Board over the winter, after member Roger Gross resigned.
I am Sonia Mesika, married and a resident of Brewster for the past 5 years. I have two children; a daughter who is in first grade at and a son who attends a Brewster pre-school program. I am employed in sales in Manhattan, and volunteer my time with children whenever time allows and wherever I can, most recently as a girls first-through-third grade basketball coach for our Town of Southeast.
When my husband and I moved here five years ago we were looking for a town that had a solid sense of community where we could settle down and raise our children. Brewster stood out with welcoming people and great schools. I am happy to now be able to do my part and serve on the Board. I want to work hard toward ensuring that our schools, and the quality of our education, do not suffer at the hands of the worst economic downfall in our country’s recent history, based on the significantly reduced fiscal resources towns are forced to work within. I believe communities are built around great school systems, which leads to a solid local economy, which benefits all who live in that community. I want to make sure Brewster’s schools stay strong for generations to come.
My interest in running for the Board stems from my belief that the best public education is our right as citizens, and should be equally available to all children. Having young children in the district and having become close to many parents with young children, it has become apparent to me that the current board is in need of more members with children presently attending our schools; someone who will listen to the concerns of the parents in our community, to seek out the weaknesses that may exist in our current structure, and then argue on their behalf to cooperatively seek out the most balanced and equitable solutions.
Based on current fiscal projections, next year may prove to be equally as difficult as this present budget season has been. In this process, I have seen much frustration and misinterpretation. One of the predominant reasons for wanting to serve on the Board is that I see a need for better communication. I can only feel frustrated for so long before I have to act and find resolution. I would like to achieve this not only for myself, but on behalf of the many parents like myself who have expressed their deep concerns of where our children’s educational opportunities are headed. We need new energy to better connect the community to the district where everyone believes we are fighting for the same cause — to provide a quality education that prepares our children for the future. Today’s children will be running the world tomorrow, and I believe it’s our responsibility to make sure they have the educational foundation upon which to accomplish this.
It is my belief that the biggest challenge, and at the same time obligation, of the Board is to find that balance between our children’s needs for their successful future and the deep financial restraints put on towns by the state and many of its federally unsubsidized mandates. Our state’s current “2 Percent Cap” has made it nearly impossible to focus on the real concerns of our children — their education. We need to voice our opinions on this issue so that we can more independently manage our district. A one-rule philosophy cannot be applied to the 700+ districts, but that is what the state is imposing. Armed with this sense of urgency needed to ban together to realize any sort of positive change here in Brewster, we need to combine all our energy to fight those in Albany and be a voice to be reckoned with on behalf of the kids of Brewster. I am energized and encouraged to be a part of that fight.
With that being said, there are many similar issues that all districts are facing: the quality of teachers and how to rectify for insufficient instruction; unbalanced pension mandates; the testing of students; and our rankings to name a few. I am in favor of doing what needs to get done to achieve a new direction for our students to be successful. As a newly-elected member of the Brewster Board of Education, I will make the hard call to say the things that may not want to be heard, to always put our student’s educational future first, to fight for a healthy financial balance within our district, to speak for the parents of their concerns, and to do whatever it takes to make Brewster’s School District exemplary.
Click here for more information on the budget.