The four candidates for Rye City School Board of Education appear to have more in common than not: They’re all parents of school-age children. They all said they want to keep spending down and pass school budgets that don’t exceed a new annual spending cap. They all favor improving school facilities, within reason. And all think the school district has been moving in the right direction to improve math instruction, among other subjects.
By Jon Craig
The four candidates for Rye City School Board of Education appear to have more in common than not: They’re all parents of school-age children. They all said they want to keep spending down and pass school budgets that don’t exceed a new annual spending cap. They all favor improving school facilities, within reason. And all think the school district has been moving in the right direction to improve math instruction. At least that’s what they told an audience of about 30 residents May 1 during a candidates’ forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
They are competing for three school board seats in the May 15 election. Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Rye Record asked this question at Tuesday’s two-hour forum: “On standardized math tests, Rye City School District elementary students rank in the top three of the ten best school districts in Westchester County. However, its middle school and high school students typically rank closer to the bottom of the top ten. (based on New York State tests and the math section of the SAT.) Is there a problem with middle school and high school math instruction, and, if so, what would you do about it?”
School Board President Laura Slack said she served on a curriculum committee shortly after she was elected six years ago that suggested changes that improved the elementary school math test scores.
“We have now changed the curriculum at the middle school,’’ Slack said, noting that universal algebra will be offered next year.
A new assistant principal has been hired, Slack said, who has worked to improve math studies as well. “We have been looking at math in a very comprehensive way,” Slack said. “I think we should always be improving.”
“We need to look at what we’re doing and improve,’’ said Nancy Pasquale. “We always need to do more.”
Pasquale has served on facilities and curriculum committees and said she hasn’t missed more than one school board meeting in three years.
Patrick Cox said the school district is “going to see ebbs and flows in the progress.” Without bashing teachers, he continued, “we need to build up our facilities and we need to come up with new ideas.”
Cox is the only candidate who hasn’t served on any school committees.
Chris Repetto, who lost his first race for school board three years ago, said, “It sounds like we’re well on our way” to improve math instruction.
Like Cox, Repetto called himself “very competitive” and wondered why Rye had not ranked number one (instead of just in the top three among Westchester’s ten best schools) in standardized elementary-level math scores. “We have fantastic teachers,’’ he said, but they must get the resources and support to deliver. “I want the best schools in the country and my taxes to go down.”
Cox, a tax attorney, said he feels compelled to put his educational background to good use in the community.
Like all the candidates, Cox supported a bond issue to upgrade facilities: “My wife told me that I had to,” Cox joked. But he asked why the proposed budget includes nearly $800,000 for new high school lockers. Cox wondered aloud how much that cost calculates out to per locker, and why the district spends $5,000 to maintain trucks. He also asked why RCSD needs to offer foreign language instruction in Mandarin at a time when the school board must decide whether to eliminate other courses. If elected, Cox promised to ask tough questions.
Repetto said that unlike some other Westchester school districts, Rye has resisted cutting staff. New Rochelle, he said, recently announced it would layoff 60 teachers.
All the candidates said they thought the current school board did the best it could in shaping the proposed $73.6 million budget that voters will be asked to approve on May 15.
Slack said Rye’s year-to-year tax increase is the lowest “of all our peer school districts” next year, but that Rye will face “enormous budgetary challenges in the next three years.”
In the budget going before voters on May 15, the tax rate will rise 1.75%, within the new state cap of 2% annually.
“There’s no doubt the school district will be facing challenges,’’ Pasquale said. “We must be brave. I have demonstrated time and again my willingness to take a leadership role.”
The top three vote-getters will get seats on the school board.
Slack is running for a third three-year term on the school board.
Two seats are opening up because vice president Ray Schmitt and former president Josh Nathan decided not to run again.
The May 1 question-and-answer session at Rye Middle School is online: www.lwvrrbpc.org and here: