Three hopefuls for two seats
Three candidates are running for two open seats on the five-member Haldane school board. The election, along with a vote on the budget, takes place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday (May 18) in the cafeteria of the middle school.
The proposed 2021-22 budget, adopted by the board on April 20, includes $25.95 million in spending, or about $685,000 more than this year, an increase of 2.71 percent. The district proposes raising $21 million through property taxes, $3.1 million in state aid, $721,000 in non-resident tuition, and using $645,000 from fund balance and $410,000 from reserves. Voters will also be asked to approve spending $175,000 on buses.
For information on the budget, registering to vote and/or absentee ballots, see haldaneschool.org.
Why are you running?
Mark Daisley: Having been drawn to this community 11 years ago by the town’s incredible natural resources and excellent school district, I am now the father of two Haldane students in the second and fifth grade and vice president of finance and operations at Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming. I came to the U.S. from England, became a citizen and am proud to call Cold Spring home. I feel that volunteering for the Board of Education is the best way to use my skills and experience to serve this community.
John Hedlund: First, I believe in participating in our community. I’ve been on the boards of the Haldane Foundation, the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market, and the Philipstown Soccer Club, and I have perspective and experience that will help Haldane continue to improve. Second, while we’ve accomplished a lot recently with the Strategic Coherence Plan and an infrastructure bond, there is more to be done. We could be better at assessing how the district is doing year-on-year in educating our children, and how our investments in technology, training and programs are making an impact. This year the administration has reported on the measureable impacts of COVID-19 and how they’re being addressed, but we need to do more of this. Finally, we should expand our view beyond graduation. If our students struggle after they’ve been at Haldane for up to 13 years, we hold some responsibility. Haldane’s success should be evident long after graduation, but we don’t know holistically how our students do after they leave, or what we can do to prepare current students to be more successful.
Mary (Maggie) Valentine: I’d like to bring a wider range of Haldane family voices and perspectives to the table. After making my way from San Francisco to New York City for work after college, I married a Springer in 2009 and found myself a newcomer in a group whose families have attended Haldane for two and three generations. Today I’m amazed by many of the ideas newer families are bringing to the district. I see myself as somewhat of a bridge between many different groups.
What qualifications and experience would you bring to the board?
Daisley: In my role at Glynwood, I am responsible for the fiscal health of the organization, the running of the facility and the human resources that serve the mission. I feel that experience in these areas, which include budgeting, building and infrastructure management, and staff development, are key crossover skills. Working for a nonprofit in the same town as I live requires diplomacy and discretion, which are also vital skills for the Board of Education. Before Glynwood, I worked at Bloomberg, where I ran international projects that required collaboration across diverse teams with different skills and viewpoints. In addition to this process-oriented leadership experience, I’ve loved volunteering as a Haldane garden parent and at the Tots Park. Through my kids’ unique gifts and challenges, I’ve developed a deep investment in Haldane.
Hedlund: My first job was as a teacher. I taught second grade in Houston, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It showed me what we ask of our teachers — the creativity, discipline and flexibility that the job requires — and what districts can do to help them be more successful. Since then, I’ve held a series of roles in financial services that were basically problem-solving: you got asked to solve something that you didn’t know much about, you had to get smart on the issue, ask a bunch of questions, build relationships with a lot of people, be creative in identifying challenges and solutions, and make a recommendation. It’s much of what school board work is, and those skills have been essential over the past three years. And now, after a term on the board, I’ve built solid knowledge of the complexities of our district. Having worked through budgeting challenges, tax levy discussions, contract negotiations, the adoption of our Strategic Coherence Plan, and COVID, I feel this working knowledge makes me a valuable contributor for what I think is an exciting new chapter for Haldane.
Valentine: I have 21 years of experience working as a financial journalist, from managing different sections of a national business magazine to supervising editorial coverage of the tech sector for a global news wire. Besides overseeing various team budgets, I’ve made a career out of finding questions and stories within the budget lines of organizations of all sizes. I have a first- and fourth-grader at Haldane. Volunteering in my kids’ classrooms as a class and garden parent and yearbook adviser has lent itself well to seeing how the district’s budget translates directly to Haldane’s most important touchpoints — interaction between teachers/staff and students. I love asking questions and hearing everyone else’s stories.
What challenge facing the district needs immediate attention?
Daisley: The current board has done a great job over an incredibly difficult year. They have prioritized in-person learning and brought our children back into the classroom in a safe manner while accommodating those that needed to remain online. Now that a return to normality is in sight, the district can continue to implement the Strategic Coherence Plan, but to do this in a period of funding constraint will require making a long-term budget plan to “future-proof” the district and grow the resources that have come to define a Haldane education.
Hedlund: Immediately, we must plan to strategically use the projected increase in state aid. Since 2007, districts have not received their full aid allocation, but over the next three years we will be made whole. For Haldane, that’s an incremental $700,000, adding about 1 percent to our budget in those years — a meaningful increase on a budget that grows roughly 2 percent. But without careful planning, this opportunity could be overwhelmed by annual budgeting challenges. With a smart strategy, however, we can take into account what we see before us — our Strategic Coherence Plan, a shifting student population, opportunities for new programs and increased social-emotional support — laying the groundwork for what we want Haldane to be not just next year, but when our kindergarteners are getting ready to ring the bell at graduation.
Valentine: The superintendent and board did an amazing job navigating the district through the pandemic. Boosting academics and gauging students’ emotional wellness should be the top priorities now, along with making sure classrooms have enough support to foster different learning styles. We also need to get back on track with rolling out the Strategic Coherence Plan and make sure what’s going on inside the K-12 classrooms aligns well with the plan’s ultimate objective: ensuring Haldane grads are prepared for success out in the world. I’d like to see wider, more proactive communication between Haldane and families as it relates to the big things: updates in curriculum, how our kids are doing and district hiring practices.