Nearly $69 million budget also passes
By Jeff Simms
Four current Board of Education members will return for new terms to the Beacon school board, as city voters elected Kristan Flynn, Anthony White, Craig Wolf and Kenya Gadsden on May 16 while also approving the district’s $68.6 million budget proposal.
No other candidates opposed the four winners.
Flynn, White (the current school board president) and Wolf tallied the most votes, so they will all serve three-year terms. Gadsden, the current vice president and fourth-place finisher, will serve a one-year term.
The terms are staggered because Flynn and Wolf were both appointed to the board last year, replacing members who resigned. One of the seats filled last fall was already set to be contested this year, while the other wouldn’t have expired until 2018. However, New York State School Boards Association rules stipulate that board appointees must run for their seats in the first election after their appointment.
Therefore, Gadsden, the fourth-place winner with 761 votes (Flynn received the most, with 819), will serve a one-year term expiring in July 2018.
Now adopted, the district’s 2017-18 budget will utilize nearly $1 million in increased state funding to hire three elementary and two special education teachers and a human resource director.
In all, Beacon received $27.7 million in state money for next year, with the remainder of its revenue coming from $37.2 million in property taxes, $2.5 million of savings and miscellaneous sources of $950,000. The district’s allowable tax levy for 2017-18 is 1.54 percent, more than double last year’s.
Voters this week also approved a proposal to purchase two 72-passenger buses, a bus that can accommodate wheelchairs and a 20-passenger van.
Newly hired Superintendent Matthew Landahl begins on July 1. With that in mind, The Current asked each returning board member to detail their goals for the school board over the next 12 months.
The most important task will be supporting Dr. Landahl as he transitions into his new role as superintendent. The most important task of any board is hiring the superintendent, and I see this as the final phase of the search process. It does not end there; now we need to bring him into the district, provide information, guidance and support as well as be prepared to listen to his observations and recommendations as to how to get to achieve the goals we have identified. That will involve trust in ourselves that we picked the right person and trust in his expertise.
I also see communication as an area I would most like to focus in on this coming year. As a district we need to share what is really happening here, otherwise we will continue to find ourselves a position where forces outside the district will tell our story and we will have little control over what is said. I am not disputing the stories that have been written, I am saying these do not offer a complete picture of our district, but telling a fuller story requires a commitment to its importance and a continual effort.
You must building and use your own tools — beyond what the media is willing to write about — in order to reach the community and share information. Additionally, who we hear from and the avenues for sharing information need to be clearly communicated and people need to be invited into the conversation. There are parts of the community that may have felt shut out of that conversation over the years and we need to make an effort to remedy this. It won’t happen overnight, but whether it is building our relationships with city leadership or minority populations in the district. This work has to begin in earnest.
I ran for re-election because I want to contribute in a positive way to the education of not only my children but all children in the district that I attended and grew up in. I am an educator who believes kids need to be given an opportunity to explore and enhance their curiosity. This past year the district made great strides in enhancing kids’ education and the board is working vigorously with the district administration to improve the learning opportunities.
At the beginning of this school year, in July 2016, the board prioritized three items: setting a process for and hiring a superintendent, to issue a request for proposals for legal counsel and to develop board goals. We achieved this and much more. We also have been updating our policies, preparing for a capital project and starting to tackle the diversity situation. In the next year I am hopeful that the board will develop a vision statement, work collaboratively with the city of Beacon to provide opportunities for the children of the district and city, and continually improve the educational course offering in the district.
I am excited to have Dr. Landahl start as our new superintendent, and I am excited to be part of a board that shares the common interest of putting kids first.
Now that we’ve gotten mostly past the troubles of recent years, it’s time to move from cleaning up to building up. We need to quickly establish a strong working relationship with our new superintendent and mark out initiatives and goals, mainly in ways we can improve teaching and add offerings.
I want to open a public discussion about a Makerspace program and facilities, as well as boosting career and technical education. I want to offer a model for expanding board conversations to empower us to examine issues and opportunities more deeply, bringing into the talks any people we need to help us. I will continue working on the capital plan to upgrade our buildings. And, I will encourage advocacy both for our budget investment in the youth of Beacon and better funding from state government.
I am excited to be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve the children, families, administration and teachers of the Beacon City School District. The current nine-member board has put together goals that will support several objectives that I know we will be able to attain. Continued growth in the area of increasing the graduation rate is very important to me. Closing the gap on the number of graduates who require remedial math and English when they go to college is another objective.
I believe our fiscal and curriculum goals speak of success in the two areas above. I also seek to increase diversity within our district. Combining increased community engagement with effective communication, we will be able to identify the barriers of the district that has prevented students from having access to what the district has to offer. I foresee continued success and growth for all who work, learn and lead in the Beacon City School District.