Pelham Friends and Neighbors:
I am reaching out one last time to seek your vote in tomorrow’s Board of Education election.
Pelham is defined by many things, including our small, tight-knit community and our focus on voluntarism. First and foremost, though, we are defined by our excellent school system; a system that attracts newcomers and draws people back when they start their families. Much of the energy and social life in our community revolves around our schools.
The small community and strong schools brought my family to Pelham in 2013. Much has changed in the six years I have been here, and our school district and community have reached an inflection point with aging infrastructure, new property acquisition, proposed housing developments, increasing enrollment, and construction projects underway.
In light of all this change, we need to continue to invest in our school system and continue to spend our dollars wisely while seeking efficiencies in the existing budget. With the proposed Colonial property acquisition, we, as a community, need to revisit the district’s long-term facilities plan and the scope and timing of spending.
The average homeowner in Pelham will see a school tax increase of over 3.7% next year with an even larger increase expected in 2020-21 as we begin borrowing for our capital projects. I believe we must control what we can control in terms of spending and have the flexibility to weather potential economic uncertainty. We do not control the amount of funding we receive from NY State (which declined this year), the required contributions to employee pension funds (currently at its lowest level since 2010-11), or the amount of building aid we receive, which can go up or down in any given year. Our taxpayers bear a heavy burden to pay for our strong school system, and we must be vigilant with respect to our budget to ensure we can continue to provide our children the education we all expect.
Well before running for the Board of Education, I have been pushing for improvements in our special education system. Both of my children are special education students. I addressed the Board during the special education budget hearing on March 26th and have made special education a central theme in my campaign. Many people in our community have reached out to me to share their experiences and to thank me for highlighting the importance of special education. I am pleased that two other Board candidates agreed that more needs to be invested in special education during the Candidates Forum on May 6th, even citing my own words and data regarding the achievement gap on state standardized tests. However, words are not enough and more action is needed, especially as we vote on a budget that calls for a cut of two FTEs in our special education program.
I thought long and hard before making the decision to run for the Board of Education, and, if elected, I will work as hard as I can to serve the best interests of our children and families. I pledge to be as fully informed as possible on every issue brought to the Board, to do the research, ask the tough questions and be ready to have uncomfortable conversations if necessary. My experience, both professionally and in the community, proves I can do so. I will bring a level of diversity to the Board along with creative, outside the box thinking, to ensure our schools not only maintain, but increase, their level of excellence.
Thank you and I hope you’ll vote for me on May 21st.
(Editor's note: Received at 5:09pm today, May 20, 2019)