This is an interview with Valley Cottage's Claudette Clarke, who is running for Nyack School Board. Three hopefuls—four-term veteran Clarke, and newcomers and —are vying for two seats.
The vote will be held May 15.
Read about this year's school budget , and last year's school board elections .
Patch: Why are you seeking a seat on the board, and why should people vote for you?
Clarke: I had a dream that the Nyack School district would accomplish all the districts goals, one of which is that each child would reach his/her fullest potential. We have made a lot of progress over the twelve years that I have been a board member. However, The school report card last year showed that we still have a way to go because some of our minority students are not where we hoped they would be academically. In collaboration with the central office administration we have started a student support committee with the task of looking at the issues preventing the success of these students, and trying to address the issued. I would like to continue my service on the board to see this dream fulfilled. I want to continue to be able to make decisions which will be geared at the continued success for the students that are doing well, as well as working on a mentoring program for our students who are struggling. I believe that "It Takes a Village to Rise a Child", and I think I have much to offer in terms if insight that will help guide the decision making process to make this a reality. I have always and will always put the children's best interest at the forefront of all my decision making process.
P: What are the top issues facing the board during the 2011-12 school year?
C: I believe the top issues facing this board, as well as every board across the United Stated is, "How to do more with less." Our district along with all others in New York state face the new challenge of the 2% tax cap, declining school aide from Albany, and un-funded mandates juxtaposed against the fact that there are cost drivers in our budget that go up each and every year that are beyond our control. This equation is unbalanced, and as time goes on, tough decisions will have to be made by boards of education and their administrator as to what programs will either have to be decreased or phased out all together.
P: What are your thoughts on the issue of property tax caps butting heads with state mandates and employee pensions?
C: In my opinion the issue of property tax caps butting heads with state mandates and employee pensions is the proverbial "Perfect Storm." The situation will come to critical mass for use in the near future and unfortunately, I see the demise of public school education as we know it. We will have to start thinking out of the box, and all the stakeholders in our community will have to come together to make concessions and compromise if we are all going to survive this and be able to tell the story of "Remember when..."
P: 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?
C: My position on the current "last in, first out" system in place is that the same clause exists in most unions that I know of which strives to protect the rights of seniority among it's members. We may or may not agree with it but it is something we must abide by. Our responsibility as a board is to make sure that all our teachers receive the tools they need to do their jobs, the professional development the administrators deem necessary based on changes in curriculum, methodology of delivering instruction etc.to meet the changing needs of our students. If there comes a time that the rule must be implemented, then we will comply within the terms of the contract.
P: Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like the public to know about you or your candidacy?
C: I have a deep passion for children, I know how important a good education is in helping our children be prepared to compete in the job market. As a board member I have been know to listen to the opinions of all the stakeholders of the Nyack community and weight their input along with information given to me from the district administrator when a decision regarding the education/welfare of our children needs to be made. I work collaboratively with my fellow board members, but I am not afraid of being the only vote on an issue, because I will not compromise the well-being of our students for the sake of being popular. As a twelve year member of the Nyack school board I am proud of the progress our district has made. When I was first elected to the board we were not referred to as an award winning school district, but today, we have achieved that distinction, and our children continue to excel in many arenas. I want to continue the work I have started with our student support committee to take all our students to the next level, and given your support I will do so.