On the Record with the School Board Candidates

The School Board Election is May 21. Three candidates, incumbent Katy Glassberg, former School Board member Bob Zahm, and newcomer Nicole Weber, are contending for two open seats. 

KATY GLASSBERG
Published May 2, 2013 4:13 PM
9 min read

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The School Board Election is May 21. Three candidates, incumbent Katy Glassberg, former School Board member Bob Zahm, and newcomer Nicole Weber, are contending for two open seats. 

 

The School Board Election is May 21. Three candidates, incumbent Katy Glassberg, former School Board member Bob Zahm, and newcomer Nicole Weber, are contending for two open seats. The Rye Record interviewed each of them individually in our offices over the past ten days. Discussion ranged from hot topics like Core Curriculum to dealing with the tax cap.

 

Rye Record: The newest budget required $2.3 million in cuts. Is there any fat left to trim? Do you see the gap continuing to grow? With contract negotiations upcoming, where do you see savings opportunities?

 

KATY GLASSBERGGlassberg: This year’s budget is the result of a fresh eye. Dr. Alvarez came to us from New Jersey, which had a tax cap in place before New York. Eighty percent of the budget is salaries and health care. We used $2.3 million in reserves rather than make too many cuts. We’re complying with the mandates and advocating what the problems are.

 

Rye is in an enviable financial position. We can sustain ourselves longer.

 

Zahm: We’ve trimmed the reductions. Overall the sports budget has increased by $100,000. All five contracts expire at the end of June. We should be doing more online instruction. Technology doesn’t cost much. One good thing Dr. Alvarez has done is change the schedules for next year so that each middle school teacher will be teaching five classes a day, as the high school teachers do. The alignment in scheduling is more cost-effective.

 

Weber: I learned about the realities of cost-cutting while employed working in Human Resource Management with Merrill and Bloomberg. The School Board has done a really great job of not cutting into programs. We need to use reserves judiciously. It’s important to preserve what is an excellent educational experience.

 

These are the new fiscal realities. It puts pressure everywhere. Using our reserves judiciously. How do we make the best decisions we can? Use our reserves judiciously. I’m hopeful that the creation of a non-profit foundation can help offset any budget cuts that affect sports, the arts, and academics.

  

Rye Record: How should the District deal with the tax cap, and the lack of any mandate relief to date?

 

BOB ZAHMZahm: The tax cap doesn’t work. It is fundamentally flawed, but it has forced the Board and the Administration to think about affordability. Rather than use the reserve fund, we should bond because right now that’s less expensive.

 

Weber: I’ll push for educational reform and mandate relief. All of the control seems to be going to Albany.

 

Glassberg: We have a task force made up of administrators, board members, faculty, and community members looking at tax relief. I think this task force is going to grow. One of the biggest problems with the tax cap is that there is no allowance for enrollment. Rye’s enrollment has grown by 115 in the last three years.

 

Rye Record: Rye’s math scores drop off by middle and high school. Last year’s average math SAT score was 592 in the District. Are we setting the bar high enough?

 

Glassberg: We strive for constant improvement. There is a drop in middle school nationally.

 

Zahm: When I was on the Board the last time, Ed Fox and I were driving changes to elementary school math. The District has continued to enhance math standards.

 

Rye Record: How do we know that our children are learning enough? Where do Rye schools do a great job?

 

Glassberg: People in Rye value excellent schools. We have excellent participation in sports, music, and the visual arts, which we can be proud of.

 

Zahm: If Rye could find the answer, we’d have the answer for Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education). We can look at the data on performance and standardized tests, and how we’re doing for the money we’re spending. The second piece is what the kids do after they graduate, and did they graduate from college on time. The third piece is employment. The problem is we don’t have most of that information, so the only objective measure is how they do on tests.

 

In the high school, I can point to two examples of where we’re doing a great job: Jamie Zung’s three-year research program and the writing mentor program.

 

NICOLE WEBERWeber: From what I’ve seen, Rye is achieving the goal of creating lifelong learners. Rye teachers are incredibly good. The schools are phenomenal.

 

As are the energy of the students and parents and the level of community involvement.

 

Rye Record: Superintendent Dr. Alvarez has said we may see a drop in student test scores as the Core Curriculum standards are applied. What is your view on the new standards?

 

Zahm: I’m in favor of curriculum management. My one concern is that Core Curriculum will help struggling districts more than ones like ours.

 

Glassberg: The Core Curriculum drafted by New York and 45 other states is a good thing. It’s research-based. This is a year of heightened attention to testing standards, which gives us a measure of how we do in the state and helps tell administrators where our teachers might need support.

 

There’s been a lot of transition going on in one year. New things make some people nervous, but setting goals is incredibly useful.

 

Rye Record: What is the role of the School Board and what should be its goals over the next few years?

 

Zahm: To set strategy, monitor performance, dig into data to validate how the organization is doing, including the details, such as teacher evaluations. It takes three years to fire someone. The best thing to come out of Race to the Top is the ability to fire them.

 

We will need to produce a tax-compliant budget, improve finances and technology, and make staff development systemic for administrators and teachers.

 

Glassberg: The primary responsibility of the school board is governance and oversight. So the search for and hiring of a new schools superintendent was a top priority. Setting policy for the District is another priority. We have to ensure that we’re achieving goals.

 

My first term on the Rye Board of Education has certainly had its share of unique challenges. Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown shootings are two examples of recent crises shaping School District policy. We’ll continue to make improvements in security.

 

Weber: We have a responsibility to preserve what is already a premier educational system. We have to make cuts, but we have to maintain what we value most. I’ve always come into organizations at the most difficult time. We have to find a way to protect jobs and the educational quality of our schools.

 

Rye Record: How would you assess the way that the District currently communicates with the community?

 

Weber: Communication could be improved, especially with the non-school community. Hurricane Sandy put the school’s communication system to a test.

 

Glassberg: More communication is always the goal. Community engagement was one of Dr. Alvarez’s goals. We are constantly striving to improve the quantity and methodology of communication. Parents receive email list-serves and some of the communication is building by building.

 

Zahm: Communication has fallen off. The portal is confusing. The District needs to put all information online — including how much we are spending on each subject, average cost per player, all salaries and benefits. Let’s make sure that staff development ties back to evaluation. It’s the systemic approach.

 

Bios:

 

Nicole Weber

 

Born: Wisconsin

 

Raised: US (WI, CA, HI), Europe (Austria, Spain), Bermuda

 

Moved to Rye: Last year from New York with husband Rob and two sons, William (Midland Elementary) and Max (Nursery School)

 

Education: BA Trinity College, MBA Cornell University

 

Employment: Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, McKinsey, Bloomberg

 

Rye Public Service:

Midland Elementary School: parent organization active volunteer, class parent, co-chair After School Clubs Committee. 

Rye Presbyterian Nursery School: parent organization active volunteer, class parent.

Rye Arts Center: Docent, Famous Artists Program 

 

Why are you running?

I am inspired by the level of commitment the residents of Rye have to our town and have been searching for a way to actively serve. I am running for the Rye City School Board because I am passionate about preserving the premier educational programs in Rye in a fiscally responsible manner, and I feel that my skill set would allow me to add value in this capacity to the board.    

 

Who was your favorite and why?

My 11th-grade English teacher, Mr. Scanlon. From an early age I loved to read, but Mr. Scanlon encouraged me to appreciate a wide range of literature, to think critically, to question my own assumptions and to express myself through writing. These are skills that stayed with me for the rest of my life.  

 

Bob Zahm

 

Born: Pittsburgh, PA July 20, 1962

 

Raised: Bethlehem, PA

 

Moved to Rye: Rye resident since August 2001. Lived previously in Germany, where all three children were born.

 

Education: University of Michigan, BS Computer Engineering 1980-1984

Lehigh University, MS Computer Science

University of Pittsburgh, MBA – Accounting 

 

Employment: I am a consultant focusing on high performance computing and improving organizational performance – cost reduction, higher quality/ faster service delivery, more effective management processes and tools.

 

Rye Public Service:

Schools: School Board member 2004-2010 (two terms); chaired finance and technology committees, chaired/ran several special action committees, i.e. Budget Analysis Committee, Enrollment Balance Committee. Former member of Curriculum Council; current member of Audit Committee.

 

City: Member of Safe Routes to School Committee; member Shared Roadways Committee; member of Rye Golf Club Finance Committee (since February 2013)

 

Other: Parent leader of Rye Troop 2 Boy Scouts

 

Why are you running:

I am interested in returning to the School Board because I believe I can help improve the quality of education provided to our students, while also working to address the financial challenges faced by our taxpayers and schools. This means finding a way to contain labor costs while also reducing non-labor spending; i.e. better use of technology for student education and teacher training; more cost-effective health insurance provider.

 

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teacher was my 11th-grade American English teacher — Mrs. Adams. She challenged us to think about more than a literal interpretation of what we read and to provide real insight as opposed to a strict recounting of facts in our papers and in-class comments. That she also played rugby gave us a rounded-out image of a great teacher.

 

Katy Keohane Glassberg

 

Born: Framingham, MA, in 1967.  

 

Raised: Natick, MA

 

Moved to Rye: In 1995, from New York City

 

Education:           

Brooklyn Law School, J.D. 1993

Boston University College of Communication, B.S. in Mass Communication 1989, Concentration in Government, Law and Public Affairs

Natick High School, Natick, MA 1985

 

Employment:

Snow Becker Krauss, P.C., New York, NY – Litigation Associate, General Business, Real Estate and Securities Law

Law Office of Louis Ginsberg, New York, NY – Intern, Employment Law  

Bower & Gardner, New York, NY – 1992 Summer Associate, Litigation

Keohane, DeTore & Keegan, Boston, MA – 1991 Summer Associate,

Regulatory and Energy Law 

Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault, Boston, MA – Corporate Paralegal

 

Rye Public Service/ City Volunteerism: Rye City School District Board of Education Trustee 2010 – present, Vice President 2012-2013

Chair: Policy Committee, Facilities Committee, Health & Safety Committee

Member: Tax Cap Task Force, Curriculum Council; Facilities, Management Council

Liaison to City on Pedestrian & Traffic Safety

Member Rye Youth Council Civility Initiative Drafting Committee

Middle School/ High School Caring Committee Member

Milton School PTO: President, Silent Action Chair, Executive Board

Character Education Committee Member, Excellence Committee Member

Book Fair Volunteer, Garden Committee Member, 5th Grade Musical Volunteer, Milton Fair volunteer, Class Parent


Why are you running:
 I am running for re-election because I offer the experience, leadership, and continuity that will be crucial as we work together to maintain our excellent educational program and navigate the challenges ahead. As a School Board member for the last three years and as Vice President this year, I’ve worked hard to preserve the priorities of our community — rigorous academics, talented faculty, and diverse learning opportunities for our children here in Rye and beyond — all in the most cost effective way possible. I’ve exercised fiscal discipline, made exciting and sometimes difficult decisions, and helped build budgets responsive to concerns of parents and taxpayers.

 

Who was your favorite teacher and why: When I first ran for Board of Ed and was asked this question, I said Mr. Shepard, my gentle giant of a second-grade teacher and Mr. Dyer, my high school forensics coach and drama director, two wonderful teachers who helped me find my voice. But actually, I can remember the name of, and something I learned from, almost every teacher and mentor I’ve had from nursery school through high school and beyond.

 

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