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 ballot, along with the option to :
- Stephen O. Jambor
Patch reached out to each of the individuals listed above and asked the same set of questions. Here's what Jambor, a state-licensed psychologist and 25-year Brewster resident, said. He currently serves as the president of the Board.
- Why are you seeking a seat on the board, and why should people vote for you?
I am seeking re-election in order to have the opportunity to continue the work that we have started here during the 12 years that I have been in office. While there is evidence that a lot has been accomplished on behalf of our students and the parents/community that we serve, there are still challenges ahead. These are in fact, precarious times for schools to navigate. Stability in leadership is now even more important.
- 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?
Working with children and parents these days is what I do professionally. From what I can see, parenting is practically a full-time job (or at least at times, it needs to be). The challenges of growing up today are far more complex than when we were kids. Furthermore, the economic realities confronting everyone have people working more just to stay afloat. As a result, many people simply don’t have the time to take on other responsibilities.
Fortunately however, the school board is only one way for parents and community members to be engaged around school issues. Perhaps the best way is to become involved with the PTA of the building where your child is right now. Our PTAs here in Brewster have played a terrific role in our success especially over these past five-six years. They really care, they are informed and they have developed a voice that is respected.
Even beyond direct involvement with schools, there are also many ways to be meaningfully involved with our kids in the community and this has been a traditional strength here in Brewster. Our community’s recreational & sports programs are very active and strong.
The bottom line is just as the old adage says: “It takes a whole community to raise a child," so people just need to find the way that works for them.
- What are the top issues facing the board for the 2012-2013 school year?
Probably the most obvious is the tax cap, but that is really only the tip of the iceberg. Fiscal responsibility has been a keen issue for us now for the past few years even preceding this law. Our record compares very favorably among all the 56 districts in these two counties. The problem now however is compounded by the fact that at the same time when schools are cutting back on personnel, we are being held up to higher standards for students’ performance. Also, our budgets are being inflated by unfunded mandates even though we were promised mandate relief as part of the tax cap package. And the biggest unfunded mandate of all (APPR) is probably the most important. We are all genuinely concerned about quality control and ensuring that we have what it takes to help our children achieve. We want to implement Annual Professional Performance Review but we also want to do it correctly. That will take a significant investment which at this time will not be easy to allocate. At this juncture, it is hard not to feel that the public school system is being targeted by people who seem to have another agenda.
- 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?
This is a very ironic question for me as I have been in the bargaining unit that has benefited from this clause. My response then is bound to upset someone, but here it goes: The time and the place for this clause is now in the rearview mirror. At some point back in the last century, they were looking for other ways to compensate educators to bring them onto a par with other professions. We are not in that place any more. Moreover, the rules of the post-depression economy have caused us all to have to take a second look at the costs of things. Sitting on a school board has hammered home that reality to me.
Changing the pension system is also an inevitable adaptation to the new era. Ironically again, when I first started we had to contribute 3 percent to our retirement system. It seemed more than fair. When it changed, some of us even wondered “Why?” Now, it is very appropriate to bring back the contributions in my opinion. If we had had them in place all of this time, we wouldn’t be in this pickle.
- Are you in support of the property tax cap? Why or why not?
(See the above and the attached graphic which literally illustrates the “The Squeeze Play.”)
- 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?
The tenure system in public education is not serving the need to assure “Continuous Quality Improvement.” Whether it is politically correct or not these days to admit it, a reasonable amount of competition does bring out the best. There are alternative models out there being discussed which could provide better balance. One of them talks about a five-year renewable contract. This allows some stability and yet some “competition” as well. Anyone who has been seated on a Board these past few years has suffered through the pain of seeing young, talented, energetic professionals categorically RIF’ed simply because they were the least senior in terms of service. That experience has to make you want to find a better alternative.
- Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like the public to know about you or your candidacy?
I have a coffee cup in my office that a parent gave me. It has a bunch of crayons on it and in a child’s printing it says: “Children are my business!” Besides my work on the Board for these past 12 years and working as a psychologist for 34 years, I have been teaching at Fordham since 1975. Since I began working with , we have accomplished a lot of good things together (the renovation of the High School and the Performing Arts Center, the then-new track, the first addition to Wells Middle School and now, the complete renovation of Wells along with the new turf field). As important as these improvements to the infrastructure have been, the improvements to the academic programs, the music and performing arts programs, the cultural exchange program with China, our special education programs and our sports programs have been even more important. We truly have a solid team here, one that shows our Brewster Pride at its best.
Click here for more information on the budget.