School Board Candidates Offer Views at PTA Forum

Candidtates (L-R) Peter Henderson, Evan Schwartz, Jon Champlin and Evelyn Carr-White

Voters will choose three trustees on May 15

By Michael Turton

The four candidates who will face off in the May 15 election to fill three trustee seats on the Haldane School Board met in an amicable forum hosted by the Haldane PTA on Wednesday, May 9.  The mood in the Haldane music room was markedly more relaxed than the sometimes tension-filled debates in local municipal elections in recent times. The four candidates, incumbents Evan Schwartz and Peter Henderson and challengers Evelyn Carr-White and Jon Champlin even received words of praise both from Superintendent of Schools Mark Villanti, prior the start of questions and from outgoing board president Joe Curto, after the forum had concluded.

There were no surprises during the evening. Moderator and PTA President Laura Danilov provided candidates with the questions in advance – centering on fiscal responsibility, governance, student achievement and character education. Danilov chose questions at random with each candidate having to answer one question from each category.

Peter Henderson
Peter Henderson stressed his thorough approach to addressing issues in his opening statement. “I like to think carefully about an issue before taking a position,” he said. “That’s why I insisted on getting background information before meetings. Many of the issues are not straightforward. I work hard to make fair and sound judgments.”

When asked what options he sees regarding Haldane’s major budget issues Henderson said “there are not too many options,” if the half-million dollar decrease in state aid continues into 2013-14. If it does, he said will seek a voluntary pay freeze from staff in order to avoid layoffs or increased class size.

Asked about choosing a replacement for Villanti who will likely be leaving in two years, Henderson said superintendent is “arguably the most important” position at Haldane because it is the superintendent who sets the tone. “Without a great superintendent a school cannot be great. I didn’t understand that until I joined the board.”

Henderson was also asked what his views are on how to improve the quality of education at Haldane. He called for adopting “performance based goals” for attaining greater student achievement. “We need to support innovation,” and singled out principal Brent Harrington’s eighth-grade math program as an example. “We’re also on the cusp of seeing (greater use) of technology in education and I fully support that expansion,” he said. Henderson said he is also very excited about the “flipped classroom” concept in which students access information online at home and use classroom time for collaboration and problem solving.

Evan Schwartz
Schwartz, a high school principal in New York City, underlined that experience as one of his major strengths.  “I bring a unique quality to the board because of my instructional background,” he said. He listed implementation of the common core curriculum and improvements to Haldane’s athletic fields as two key issues in the upcoming year.

Asked to explain his philosophy on budget spending Schwartz said that it, “…must revolve around instruction….and how we’re going to improve it.” He acknowledged that athletics have always been an important part of Haldane’s identity – explaining that students often indicate what team they play on when introducing themselves to trustees. “It’s about instruction, extra-curriculars and bringing the community together,” he said.

Schwartz was also asked about the role of the school board. He said overall, the board has to ensure that the superintendent presents a budget that is both fiscally sound and meets the needs of students and the community. “We’re not here to micromanage or to create curriculum,” which he said is the role of administration. Trustees “must ask questions and pry into what’s being done. If we don’t like what’s being done in the community, it’s our job to change it.”

Regarding the use of technology at Haldane, Schwartz said that high costs and the rapid pace at which technology changes present challenges. “But our district is really moving in the right direction. Kids are doing Prezi presentations and there is the iPad initiative.” He also praised the young teachers being hired as doing “amazing things” with technology in the classroom. Schwartz said that decisions on what technology to employ are not based on what is “cool and fashionable,” but rather what can improve learning. 

Jon Champlin
The only Haldane graduate running in the election Champlin stressed his roots and contacts in the community – including an active role in sports. “I think I’m a team player – and not just in sports,” he said.

“There are a lot of things outside the district’s control – including reduced state and federal aid – coupled with unfunded state mandates,“ he said when asked about the district’s financial challenges. “And we have contractual obligations – those contracts must be honored.” He does not want to see any cuts. “We’re bare bones already. There is no fluff,” he said.

Asked about his qualifications, Champlin said, “I’ve been community minded for a long time. I have a lot of contacts within the community, people who play different roles, and I can work with (people who have) different opinions.” He also emphasized openness. “It’s very important to build trust within the community.“

Champlin, who has sons in fourth hand sixth grade at Haldane, was asked how he thinks state testing is affecting education. “I can understand the need for testing…but I think it has gotten past the point of being productive.” He said that on one state test students were asked about a pineapple that challenges a hare to a race. ”Why would they ask such a stupid question?”  He said private companies are making “big money” developing the tests. “I think there is a need for reform.”

Recalling his own school days, Champlin said, “ People learn in different ways. For me it was sports.” He said that knowing he had to keep his grades up in order to play on teams motivated him to be a better student.

Evelyn Carr-White
In her opening remarks, Carr-White said she is proud to be the product of a public school education but she fears the future of public education is in serious jeopardy due to cuts in state and federal aid.

She was asked how she would prioritize needs at a small school like Haldane that faces many challenges at a time when education dollars are so limited. She said that maintaining a level of excellence has to be earned and that there are many positive things happening at Haldane – including the Atlas curriculum mapping, the iPod pilot project, virtual high school and algebra readiness. One of her priorities would be maintaining small class sizes in the primary grades. “Class size is critical to early student success,” she said. In a time of limited funding, Carr-White stressed the need for thinking “out of the box.” She gave soliciting in kind contributions; leveraging business contacts for favorable pricing and pursuing corporate grants as examples.

Carr-White summed up her views on improving the quality of education at Haldane this way, “We have a great school now. We need to be adaptable. My main concern is preserving what we have now,” she said. “Property taxes make up too large a percentage of the budget.” She said she’d like to see advancements such as an expanded iPad project, creation of a debate team and offering more sports. “But things like a cafeteria at the high school will have to wait.” Carr-White also urged residents to get more involved as a way to improve Haldane. “Step in as an assistant coach – or use your business contacts (for savings on purchases) to help the school.”

Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15. Voting takes place in Room 105 in the Haldane middle school.
Photo by M.Turton

 


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6 thoughts on “School Board Candidates Offer Views at PTA Forum

  1. I am happy to see Peter Henderson running for the Haldane Board of Education. When the Board found itself down one member last fall, Pete stepped up and volunteered to fill the remainder of the unexpired term. It should be noted that he was one of many who stepped up and after an extensive selection and interview process with the other Board members, Pete was unanimously selected by the Board to serve.

    Pete is a neighbor and a friend. I know him to be diligent and fair when confronted with an issue or problem to solve. He has been a careful steward of our property tax dollars, however this has never been at the expense of the best interests of the district and the educational needs of our children. He has innovative ideas for moving our school system to the next level through support of broader use of technology in the classroom.

    With all the tough choices facing Haldane in the coming years – state aid, personnel issues, facilities, fields, etc. – we need someone like Pete on the Board to ensure all options are explored and the best decisions are made.

    Pete has served with distinction these last 6 months and deserves to be returned to the Board for a full term.

  2. As a former businessman, current teacher in the NY public school system, and lover of sports and arts alike, I will be voting for Evelyn Carr-White to serve on the Board of Education. Her service to our community has been strong, smart and effective. She is thoughtful and informed, an excellent communicator as well as an understanding listener. When considering difficult budgetary decisions, Evelyn Carr-White will be fiscally responsible and will make decisions with her team in the best interest of all students, parents, and taxpayers.

    As a parent of two children who attended The Learning Center at the Philipstown Recreation Center, I observed and experienced first hand her abilities to foster community participation and fill a need for working parents. The Learning Center provides a most extraordinary, supportive educational environment for the students who attend. When faced with how best to extend the students’ day, Evelyn (collectively with a group of local parents) worked tirelessly to provide a low-budget, highly effective after hours program for our local children. Evelyn, in her usual fashion, went above and beyond to design an educational experience that creatively introduced our students to the world of art. As an educator and a parent, I was more than impressed. Evelyn works with the team, supports her peers and has the ingenuity to offer solutions. She is the person who will strengthen an already existing program but also the individual who will provide concrete solutions when needed.

    I have been so impressed with the Haldane Board of Education and am proud to send my children to Haldane. On May 15, 2012, I will be voting for Evelyn Carr-White because I know she has the expertise, the fairness and the heart to work with our town to support our children.

  3. When I heard that Evelyn Carr-White was running for Haldane school board, I felt immensely encouraged. My daughter will start kindergarten at Haldane in the fall, so I am paying close attention to the financing and administering of the district. Like so many districts across the state and nation, Haldane is facing dire financial circumstances. Evelyn’s calm, critical, creative thinking makes her an ideal addition to the board at this crucial time.

    I have partnered with Evelyn in a number of volunteer capacities and know her to have boundless energy, laser focus, excellent organizational skills, and a tremendous capacity for motivating others. She is particularly adept at setting realistic goals and meeting them, and at stretching limited budgets to achieve highest and best outcomes. This combination of attributes is exactly what is required of school board members.

    Most importantly, Evelyn is deeply committed to the education of children. She has found innovative ways open the world to her own boys, exposing them to a range of experiences across the spectrum from music and the arts to competitive sports. She has brought that same enthusiasm to the broader community of children in Philipstown, as well. She designed and taught a wildly successful supplemental art education program for the pre-school at the Rec Center. And, since joining the PTA, she has helped to revitalize that organization’s governance and programming, making it more accessible and valuable for a wider range of families. Rare is the day when Evelyn isn’t engaged in some activity on the PTA’s behalf. I know that she will bring that same ingenuity and effectiveness to the Haldane school board.

    I can’t think of a better candidate for school board than Evelyn Carr-White, and I can’t wait to vote for her on May 15th. Please join me in giving her your support.

  4. After growing up in Cold Spring and attending Haldane Elementary school my husband Jeff and I have had the pleasure of seeing our small school grow and improve over the years. Unfortunately all of the New York state public school are now facing tough times and budget cuts which could limit important programming and increase class size. That’s why this year’s school board elections are particularly crucial to our children’s educations. I’m writing in support of Evelyn Carr White for school board. Evelyn has been an asset to our community since she moved here. I have had the honor of co- chairing several successful benefit projects with her, including a food pantry benefit party and a Haldane Foundation fundraising project which she took on before her children were of school age. As a member of a team Evelyn does not make assumptions or expect everyone to agree with her. Evelyn is a true problem solver who knows how to focus on the task at hand.

    While we all want the best school for our children we are also concerned about our taxes. Evelyn understands the need for creative solutions to our budgetary problems and knows that since we have no real sales or industry to draw revenue from, it puts undue pressure on our property taxes. I trust her to come up with the solutions we need. She is also committed to lobbying for restoration of state educational funding to our district. Evelyn has promised to spearhead and assemble a new parent group for that purpose. If anyone can do it, Evelyn can. She has the integrity, the work ethic and the communication skills. Evelyn listens more than she talks, she thinks, she collaborates and then she works tirelessly to accomplish the goals that are set.

    While I would recommend Evelyn Carr White for any board or committee that she wanted to join, she is particularly well suited to the Haldane school board. She has a continuing and constant love for learning and our school that has motivated her to be an excellent vice president of the PTA, where she has been a strong financial steward and tireless, dedicated worker who ensures all points of view are heard and the big picture is kept in focus.

    The Haldane community and the school board would be lucky to have Evelyn on their team. She is intelligent, creative and tenacious. If anyone can help to see our school through these hard financial times it’s Evelyn Carr White.

    Rebekah Hannah Tighe
    Cold Spring, NY

  5. I write to express my enthusiastic support for Evelyn Carr-White’s candidacy for Haldane School Board Trustee. Ms. Carr-White is a woman of wide-ranging intelligence, deep compassion, and sharp insight. She has proved, as vice president of the PTA, as a class parent, and with her vigorous volunteer work, that she is devoted to our community and to the children of Haldane. I can think of no better person for this difficult job.
    Trying times lay ahead for the Haldane School district. Cutbacks in state funding for education have gouged us, and the Board of Education has had to reach deeply into the coffers to make up the shortfall. As I understand it, the well is running dry.
    This shortfall will put the district in a precarious position. Without good, creative leadership we will see our class sizes grow, our athletic facilities deteriorate even further, and the programs that enrich our children disappear. We need fresh eyes on the budget, and fresh ideas. Ms. Carr-White proposes that we leverage state aid where we can. She suggests that we appeal to citizens to bring their expertise to the school and make themselves available for special projects. Strategies like this will see us through, and what’s more, they demonstrate her commitment to finding solutions without raising taxes.
    Ms. Carr-White understands that we must protect what we have. She intends to spearhead a new parent group to lobby the state for the restoration of funding in our district. She intends to propose the sale of unused lands into easement, thereby ensuring the availability of those lands for the students while raising much needed revenue with zero impact to the taxpayers.
    In closing, I would suggest that Ms. Carr-White is a remarkably level headed person of great character and grace. I believe that these traits will be key as we move forward through rough waters. I will cast my vote on May 15 for Ms. Carr-White happily and wholeheartedly, and I urge others to do the same.

  6. As an educator, parent and Cold Spring homeowner, I am writing in strong support of Evelyn Carr-White for the Haldane Board of Education position. Evelyn would be a valuable asset and continue the work of the current school board in making fair, transparent and fiscally conservative decisions.

    Evelyn is a creative, level headed and reflective person. She does her homework, asks questions and is an attentive and respectful listener. She weighs the pros and cons of an issue and can see it from a variety of viewpoints whether or not they are her own.

    She has a passion for public education and high standards. As the Vice President of the Haldane Central School PTA, she shows both her leadership skills and her ability to work collegially with parents and school staff. She comes to meetings prepared and informed. She has also served as a class parent showing her commitment to her children’s education and in support of Haldane’s teachers.

    As a homeowner, I know she understands the need for a balanced school budget that is not a burden to the community. She like many of us, want accountability and restraint.

    Please join me in voting for Evelyn on May 15. She is a candidate
    that we can count on to make important decisions on behalf of our
    community and all of Haldane’s children.

    Jacqueline Wlodarczak
    Cold Spring