Elected a trustee of the Garrison Union Free School District last spring, Charlotte Rowe, recently sat down with Philipstown.info’s Michael Mell to discuss a wide variety of topics.
Philipstown.info: Where did you grow up and what prompted you to move to Garrison?
Rowe: I grew up near Birmingham, Ala., and attended Northwestern University outside of Chicago. We then moved to Rye to be near my family. When they moved we started to explore and Garrison stood out. It was a combination of all the things we had been looking for. We’ve lived here four years now.
Philipstown.info: What prompted you to run for a seat on the board of education?
Rowe: I had not been mulling [over the idea of running] but have been involved with school community projects. I attended the budget workshops to inform myself and got caught up in the process. It [serving on the board] was a way to be that much more engaged in my community and to set an example of civic engagement for my children.
Philipstown.info: What do your kids think about your serving on the board?
Rowe: I don’t think they really understand, but they identify with seeing mommy at school.
Philipstown.info: What do you think about the budget workshop process, compared with the advisory committee approach used previously?
Rowe: As a parent I liked that it was open to the whole community.
Philipstown.info: Do you think one approach is more effective than the other?
Rowe: They [workshops] have the advantage of community involvement. I’m glad that the superintendent, administration and board members are open to private meetings outside of the workshops [to answer questions and clarify issues.]. I was not aware that the budget advisory committee meetings were open to the public.
Philipstown.info: What are your thoughts about the new approach to setting and executing district goals?
Rowe: The goal-setting workshop was very stimulating. Goals need to be strategic; not just what to accomplish, but [that] every decision is contemplated in the context of cost as well as education. Perhaps goals and budget [setting] should all be [considered] at the same table because they are so related.
Philipstown.info: What do you see as the biggest issue facing the district in the coming year?
Rowe: How to achieve educational goals within a tight budget environment and to be nimble enough as an organization to achieve in that environment.
Philipstown.info: Board members sit on committees that reflect their interests. What areas interest you most?
Rowe: Communication. I have [previously] served as a parent on that committee. Also technology, which is connected to communication, and arts and education. What I’m excited about is my role as liaison to the Childrens Education Fund, which I hope to expand to the PTA. I would like to bring all parties to the same table.
Philipstown.info: What do you think about the idea of consolidating GUFS and Haldane?
Rowe: I understand that the state may see these two districts as ripe for consolidation, but I like the small class sizes and am afraid of losing [other] unique qualities.
Philipstown.info: What book are you reading?
Rowe: Over the summer I have read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and “The Colorman” by Erika Wood.
Philipstown.info: What would you like to bring to GUFS from when you went to school?
Rowe: Enrichment programs for kids to learn by doing. I discovered a new program at my former school called the Fair Oaks Adventure Club, which is sort of an Outward Bound program encouraging team-building and personal confidence.
Philipstown.info: Your oldest child attends Garrison. How would you rate the school so far?
Rowe: My daughter Anna loves school.
Philipstown.info: If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing at Garrison, what would it be?
Rowe: I would like to see more project-based learning to benefit both students and teachers.
Philipstown.info: Garrison is a small school. Is this an advantage or disadvantage?
Rowe: [It’s] a strong advantage with the opportunity to give kids the attention they need,: whether it is more challenges or more help.
Philipstown.info: What is your favorite leisure activity?
Rowe: Picnics with my family.
Philipstown.info: What is your favorite community event/activity?
Rowe: The Hudson Highlands Land Trust overnight was quite an experience. I also like [seeing] Shakespeare at Boscobel, the Garrison Art Center and Depot Docs.
Philipstown.info: GUFS does not have a high school. Does this put Garrison students at a disadvantage?
Rowe: No. It gives kids something new at just the time they are ready for it.
Philipstown.info: What music do you like to listen to?
Rowe: I love listening to “Playing for Change: Songs Around the World.”
Philipstown.info: What was your first job?
Rowe: Babysitting and [being a] camp counselor.