Questions for Candidates: Haldane School Board

Although there are no challenges for trustee seats at Haldane — there will be two names on the ballot for two seats on the five-member board — we asked the candidates to share why they are running and what priorities the district needs to address.

The district is also asking voters to approve $27.2 million in spending for 2022-23 and a 3.69 percent tax levy increase, which is just below a state-mandated cap of 3.7 percent. In addition, the ballot will include a proposal to allow the district to spend up to $185,000 on school buses.

The polls will be open on Tuesday (May 17) from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the library of the Haldane Elementary School, 15 Craigside Drive, in Cold Spring.

Ezra ClementsonEzra Clementson
Clementson is seeking his first term.

My wife Aria (Haldane Class of 2000) and I are raising our two children in Nelsonville and we’ve watched them thrive at Haldane. I’ve taught for nearly 20 years in New York as a high school history teacher, including at a local community college. For six years I was a faculty union president, and am a current Haldane School Foundation trustee. I’m a steadfast advocate for public education and the Haldane community, and hope to continue the progress at Haldane that I’ve seen over the past decade.

The district has done a good job balancing the growing needs of the community with the realities of public education in New York and has worked well over the past few decades to foster growth and connections with community organizations that value public education. I’ve seen firsthand in my various roles within this community how the district is willing to take on local initiatives to better situate Haldane for our community.

On the other hand, previous attempts at improving the Career Development and Occupational Studies program and career/technical pathways to graduation for our high school students forgoing college, need to be reinvigorated. Local labor/trade unions should have a direct connection to our students that are looking forward to a paycheck when they graduate high school instead of a loan payment. Also, gifted and talented opportunities should be expanded for students craving the extra academic challenge.

Sean McNallSean McNally
McNally is seeking his second term.

I am running for re-election because it is a privilege for us to give where we can from our skills and experience to make our communities better. I have strong educational and managerial experience to offer. I have a son in the Haldane Central School District, and I want to help make his educational experience — and all of our kids’ experiences — the best that it can be.

As a trustee, I will continue to prioritize effective community engagement, fiscal responsibility and student achievement. I will be a diligent, active board representative to parent organizations, community groups and with local and state representatives, advocating for the resources Haldane needs to thrive. I will be a vocal advocate for high standards and expectations for student achievement and educator effectiveness.

Building strong, efficient, balanced budgets that fund strategic priorities without burdening the taxpayer is the chief responsibility of a trustee. I know we need to have flexibility to shift resources as students’ needs shift year on year. In New York State, the tax cap limits how much a school tax levy can grow year-to-year. We can either see that as a limitation for program expansion, or we can see it as a challenge to think creatively and allocate funds responsibly and carefully.

That means balancing newly-identified needs and mandates, as well as existing programs, against available funding. Trustees have to take honest looks at existing programs, measure their effectiveness with the administration and make hard choices about change. The key to the entire budget process is clear communication with the public, early and often, so that we can reach compromises that we all feel good about, and which serve our students. I will continue to support this kind of open, responsive budget process.

I believe that Haldane is making meaningful steps toward inclusion as a core value. Inclusion is built on the premise that all students should be valued for their unique abilities and included as essential members of a school community. It is a way of thinking. Inclusive schools are places where students, regardless of difference, are integral members of classrooms, feel a connection to their peers, have access to rigorous and meaningful general education curricula and receive collaborative support to succeed.

Last year Haldane implemented a multi-tiered system of support for every student, and not just those with identified needs. This means that every student gets the same base level of support, but when students need more, they receive interventions available at the next tier or level. And for students who need it the most, like my son, who has an invisible disability, they receive intensive intervention, which includes academic and behavioral support.

The best teachers, at Haldane and elsewhere, adapt and tailor their lessons to meet the needs of their students. Educators have known for a long time that giving everyone the same lesson the same way doesn’t produce the same result for all students. And when I think of excellence in education, that is exactly what I mean. Inclusive education means having excellent teaching practices. It means designing accessible classrooms and communities that provide multiple ways to learn, supporting and funding the necessary professional development and training opportunities to meet the unique needs of all students, and avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach.

Inclusion as a value exists on a spectrum, however, and our district can and should continue to expand access and opportunity for all of our students to thrive, to learn, and belong. The appointment of our new director of pupil personnel services, Regina Kaishian, is a meaningful sign that Haldane is poised to take a leap forward. I’m hopeful that her experience, her imagination and courage will provide the support our staff and students, need and deserve.

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