Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Thank You to the Residents of the Chappaqua Central School District

Thank you to all the residents of the Chappaqua Central School District for once again putting your trust in me.  I am humbled by being re-elected to the CCSD Board of Education for a fourth term.  I very much appreciate the faith you have shown in me.  I pledge to once again work tirelessly on behalf of the students, the parents, and those without children in the district.

Congratulations to Warren Messner for also being re-elected. I consider the re-election of two incumbents to be confirmation of and a mandate for the past and future direction of the district.

Also, thank you to Rhonda Kaufman for her willingness to volunteer.  It is not easy and not something that comes naturally to run for public office.  Hopefully, she will start attending Board meetings and contribute her time and effort to helping the district.

Thank you,


Sunday, May 15, 2016

CCSD Board of Education Election 2016 Follow-Up

The Examiner article, linked here, resulting from the questions posed to the candidates  has been published.

For my complete answers, see my previous post here.  In the Examiner article, my opponent, new comer Rhonda Kaufman, seemingly endorses the school board, the direction in which the district is heading, the budget, the bond and everything else about the CCSD.  I can only take it as a ringing endorsement of the sitting board.  Thank you Rhonda for your endorsement.  Thank you for the good things you had to say about the district.

Here is a copy of the full text of my opening and closing statements from the League of Women Voters Candidate Night:

Opening Statement:
I would like to thank the League of Women Voters for sponsoring and arranging this debate, everyone in the audience for participating and my fellow candidates.
It has been said that one definition of a volunteer is someone who didn’t understand the question. This is my fourth time running for the Board of Ed and I know what it takes.

When I first ran for the Board, I was warned about the time commitment and the incredible learning curve.  I was warned about the volumes of reading, the additional committee work and the public scrutiny.  I can safely say that no amount of warning prepared me for the reality of being a board member.

Being a Chappaqua school board member is not a ceremonial position.  It is not something that you can show up to when it is convenient.   There are only five of us and we are all expected to be prepared and to participate.

For the past nine years I have worked tirelessly on behalf of the members of this community.  The role demands a person with a passion for education.  It requires a person with an extensive and detailed knowledge of the district, a complete understanding of the budget and the structural budget issues the district faces, a person who can make practical and reasoned decisions, a person who is flexible and can build consensus, a person who can balance competing community interests, and a person with vision and conviction.  It is recognizing we have a fiduciary obligation to all the tax payers, not just the ones with students in the schools.

I am quite sure that all three candidates will agree tonight that the major challenge facing the district and the Board in the next 3 years is finding a way to maintain academic excellence while continuing to exhibiting fiscal discipline and responsibility.

With respect to that, I point to the previous 8 year’s budgets.  For the fifth year in a row we will not exceed the tax cap.  In fact, this year there is ZERO increase to the tax levy, yet we have maintained or expanded our core programs at all three levels of the district.  We continue to be highly ranked both within the state and nationally by countless publications.  Going forward, I will continue to work for ALL members of the community to reach responsible budgets.  I will continue to support openness and transparency. 

I also believe that experience plays an important role in being a successful Board Member. Intimately knowing the district, its policies and practices, having a good working relationship with both your fellow Board members and the administration, understanding NY State Ed law, NYS rules and regulations is a material positive attribute to bring to the table.  I have experience and a track record.  I proudly stand behind it.

As a candidate, I uniquely offer the community my experience, knowledge, district expertise, and time. I offer consensus building skills, concrete suggestions and practical solutions.

I offer common sense with an uncommon commitment.

Closing Statement:
Again, I would like to thank the League of Women Voters, the community and my fellow candidates. 

I’m glad that I had the opportunity to talk about my experience as a Board member, my years of service and all of our accomplishments. Even Rhonda has publicly acknowledged that the Board has produced a good budget, that the bond makes sense from both what is in it and how to pay for it, she supports turf, and she thinks the district is on the right path academically.  For that I thank her.

Our school district serves our children, but we cannot ignore our role in the community. I never have. The strength of our schools is a direct function of our property values.  

The community needs to have the proper balance between fiscal austerity and maintaining our academic excellence in order to support the premise on which our community rests.  I continue to be unwavering in my belief that the community we serve is the broader community of not just parents with children in the schools, but residents without school children too. 

I applaud Rhonda for running, but I believe that any candidate should not run on a platform of change for change’s sake. Rhonda said she brings new ideas, yet she has presented none of that.

And if Rhonda believes that the board is homogeneous in thinking, she clearly hasn’t been to very many meetings. As anyone who had attended our meetings or even watched them on TV knows, I am on more sides of a 4-1 vote than I care to remember. 

I offer not just rhetoric but actionable suggestions.   I offer nine years of direct experience and a deep knowledge of district programs and personnel.  I offer leadership and consensus building skills. 

I offer common sense with an uncommon commitment.

Thank you.

Experience matters.

Common Sense with an Uncommon Commitment.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Running for a 4th Term, FAQ

After much thought and consideration, I have decided to run for a 4th term on the CCSD Board of Education.  I think the best way to explain this decision is to post my responses to both the League of Women Voters (LWV) and to Martin Wilbur editor of the Northern Westchester edition of the Examiner.  Both posed a few questions to all the candidates.  I have co-mingled the questions below for continuity. In parenthesis after each question, I indicate who asked it.  I note that the LWV imposed a 100 word limit to our answers to each of their questions.

I have been advised by the district’s counsel that I can comment on both the budget and the bond if I make it very clear that I am speaking as an individual, as a resident and that I DO NOT speak for the district or the board when answering these sorts of questions.  So, any answer I give here is my own opinion.  While these opinions may or may not be consistent with district or board opinions, I do not speak for the board or the district.  I am speaking only as an individual.  

Why did you decide to run for another term on the Chappaqua Board of Education? (Examiner)
The first time I ran for the CCSD Board of Education, I said I chose to run for four fundamental reasons.  Those reasons remain true today. I wrote then and I repeat now, I am passionate about education and its importance to our future.  I believe in the obligation to serve or contribute to your community.  I believe my life experience, professional experience and education give me a unique but fundamentally important viewpoint needed on the Board.  I (continue to) want to give voice to the silent majority; to those who live in the community but are not part of the 1,200 who typically vote for the budget and the Board.  I want to represent the interests of the students, the parents and as important, those without children in the schools.

I also believe that experience plays an important role in being a successful Board Member. New York Education Law says that the only qualifications to being a school board member is to be able to read and write, you must be a resident of the district for one year prior to the election and you cannot be employed by the board on which they serve.  Not a very high bar.  Intimately knowing the district, its policies and practices, having a good working relationship with both your fellow Board members and the administration, understanding NY State Ed law, NYS rules and regulations is a material positive attribute to bring to the table.  I have experience and a track record.  I proudly stand behind it.

What experiences and skills do you have that will enable you to be an effective member of the School Board? (LWV)
For the last nine years as a Board Member, I have worked tirelessly on behalf of the community.  It requires an extensive knowledge of the district, a passion for education, a complete understanding of the budget and its structural issues, a person who can make practical and reasoned decisions, who can build consensus, who can balance competing community interests, and vision and conviction.  It is recognizing we have a fiduciary obligation to all the tax payers, not just ones with students in the schools.  There is no experience like direct experience and a proven track record.  I stand on mine.

What do you consider the main issue(s) facing Chappaqua and how would you address it (them)? (LWV)
We must ensure the quality of the education remains at a superior level while maintaining fiscal discipline and responsibility, we must continue to challenge unfunded mandates and non-productive state testing, as well as ensuring that we continue to invest in our operating plant through maintenance, repair, and upgrade.  We need to continue to invest in teacher professional development.  We need to facilitate student challenges, not limit them.  We need to continue to have fiscally responsible budgets such as this year’s zero tax levy increase while expanding educational and extracurricular programs. We need to be transparent and responsive to the community.

Chappaqua has a well-earned reputation for education excellence, but are there any areas in the curriculum or educational experience that you would like to see added or changed in the next few years? (Examiner)
By almost any measure, Chappaqua schools are continuously ranked among the top districts in the county, the state and the country.  Without question, overall, we provide a top notch education to our students.  That, however, does not mean we cannot improve or change.

In general, I think we have to always be evaluating our educational offerings to ensure that we are at the forefront of both curriculum and methods of teaching that curriculum.  The major asset of any district, and certainly here in Chappaqua, is the teachers.  What I appreciate about our staff is that as a whole they all are lifelong learners themselves.  The teacher’s contract addresses professional development.  It is a mutual, two way section.  They want us to guarantee opportunities for professional development and we want to require it.  I think we are on the right path with that, but we need to continue to provide opportunities such as with our Innovation Fellows and the other summer programs where all the teachers in the district have an opportunity to explore and incorporate the latest ideas and methodologies in teaching.

More specifically, I think we need to look at the barriers we impose on student course selection.  For example, we have a combined objective and subjective hurdle to a student signing up for AP American History (AHAP). We say that we only want students to be in a position to succeed, yet we do not give a definition of success nor do we consider other factors.  Structurally, because of what I believe to be artificial criteria, rather than asking students to challenge themselves, we are doing the opposite and telling them they should not strive to reach for higher goals.  It seems to me that the goal of the schools should be to challenge the students to learn, not quash that desire.  To me, we should be encouraging our students to try, to challenge themselves, even if that means they ultimately fail.  If we are about holistic learning, there are many lessons learned in trying and failing, maybe more than in unchallenged success.

Finally, as always, we need to constantly be reminded of our mission to educate all the district’s students whether that means students with special needs, students who need extraordinary additional challenges, or that majority in the middle that risks getting lost as we focus on the two distributed tails.

I'm not certain if you would care to share your thoughts on the upcoming June 14 referendum, or even if it would be appropriate to do that. However, what was the rationale for presenting the bond to the voters and do you believe this is the best way to realize the improvements the district believes is necessary to make sure the schools are equipped to handle how education is evolving? (Examiner)
First, let me state up front that I support the bond.  I do think it is the best way to realize the improvements the district thinks necessary to be able to be at the forefront of education for years to come, and I also think it is necessary to be able to make the appropriate repairs, perform needed maintenance, and to upgrade various parts of our operating plant. It will help us comply with the State mandated Building Condition Survey (BCS).

The rationale for and the timing of the bond is clear and simple.  One, unlike the town or county, we are required by law to present it to the voters for approval.  Two, the timing is right based on both need and ability to pay for it within the constraints of a tax capped budget.

Is the bond perfect? No.  The decision by the board to limit the bond to one that creates no marginal increase in taxes is a fiscally responsible decision but one that necessitates tradeoffs.  As a community, we need to appreciate that we are neighbors and that while we may not approve of every item in the bond or may wish there were something else included that is not, overall, the bond does a very good job of addressing the needs of so many of your friends and neighbors.

While taking advantage of historically low interest rates coupled with the district’s AAA credit rating, NY State 30% capital cost reimbursements, maturing debt, and the sale of district property, the district is able to address infrastructure and educational needs while also addressing the needs of the library, youth sports teams, the downtown merchants, and the tax concerns of the community.

What are your opinions on the Bond being proposed? (LWV)
I support the bond.  I think it addresses our infrastructure needs as well as helps us stay at the forefront of education, all in a fiscally responsible manner.  Is it a perfect bond? No. The decision by the board to limit the bond to one that creates no marginal increase in taxes is a fiscally responsible decision but one that necessitates tradeoffs.   As a community, I think it important we appreciate that while we may not approve of every item in the bond, the bond does a very good job of addressing the needs of so many in this community. 

What are your impressions of the 2016-17 district budget that is going before voters on May 17? Anything that you would have liked to see added or taken out from the budget? (Examiner)
I think this year’s budget is a terrific budget. It both supports education and the taxpayer.  The district continues to expand and enhance our offerings while maintaining fiscal responsibility.  This year’s budget includes ZERO increase in the tax levy.  In the aggregate, the taxes collected from our residents will not increase.  In this budget we were able to include everything the administration thought appropriate while not only remaining below the tax cap, but also having no increase to the tax levy. 

For the sixth year in a row, for every year the tax cap has been in effect, the district’s budgets and tax levies have come in under the tax cap constraints. This compliance has given our taxpayers, those who qualify for the STAR exemption, NY State rebates on any increase.

Given the tight fiscal constraints that the tax cap and other factors place on school districts, what, if anything, could the board or the district can do to lend its voice and lobby for greater mandate relief for public education? (Examiner)
 First, the district is very active in lobbying for mandate relief.  We work on many levels to effect change or mandate relief.  We lobby to address both educational mandates such as state testing and financial mandates such as unreimbursed aid.

One, the administration has a very good working relationship with our local state representatives. Second, the administration has met with and continues to discuss with members of the board of regents and the NYS Commissioner of Education various issues that affect us negatively here in Chappaqua. 

Two, the Board itself has written letters, passed resolutions and spoken directly to our representatives regarding the various mandates. We have teamed up with other local Boards, with the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association (WestPut) and are a member of the NY State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) which itself seeks to use our collective influence to lobby state legislators, the NY State Education Department and the Governor himself.  We have also worked with the Town’s mandate relief committee.

Three, Victoria Tipp, a sitting Board Member is the Board’s Legislative Advocate.  She sits on the Board of the WestPut which is very active in lobbying for mandate relief.  She is a member of the NY Suburban Consortium for Public Education.  She also coordinates with the PTA which is itself very active in lobbying for mandate relief.

Finally, I think the Board and the district need to continue our lobbying efforts, but know that our most effective voice would be one whereby the residents also participated directly by writing letters, calling and contacting our legislators.  We will continue to fight, but we need your help.

Again, speaking toward fiscal issues, is there anything Chappaqua could do to work with other school districts and/or the Town of New Castle to share services that is not being done now? (Examiner)
Let’s start with the premise that anywhere we can legally save money while maintaining services, we will explore.  To be clear, we currently do work with other districts and the town to save money.  For example, as a member of the Putnam/Norther Westchester BOCES, we work with BOCES and the other 17 component districts to aggregate our buying power for goods and services. The list of items we purchase through BOCES that reduces our costs are too extensive to list here, but know that the very premise of a BOCES is for districts to join together to aggregate purchasing power whether that is for goods, services or even teaching.

Also, for the past several years, the district has worked closely with the Town of New Castle Administrator with the cooperation and support of both the CCSD Board of Education and the New Castle Town Board to increase our cooperation in areas in which we can support each other. We have jointly bid on paving contracts and other similar types of contracts.  Both Boards have publicly stated and proven through action that we will continue to seek ways to join together to both cut costs and to provide services to all members of the community.

Just some brief biographical information: age, occupation and the number of years that you've served on the board? (LWV, Examiner)

From what I submitted to the League of Women Voters, Voting Guide:

Current Office: 
School Board Member, Chappaqua Central School District.
Parent, 3 children.

Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University:  MBA, Finance and Real Estate.
University of Virginia: BA, Economics

Residence: New Castle

Self-Employed equities and derivatives trader

Prior Civic and Volunteer Service: 
·         9-year School Board Member, Chappaqua Central School District.
·         Volunteer Coached over 20 teams, Chappaqua AYSO, CYSC, NCYBBA, NCBSA.
·         Participant in New Castle Roundtable Forum regarding Empty Nesters.
·         CCSD representative to the PNW BOCES.
·         Member of the CCSD Facilities Committee
·         Past Board of Ed representative to Horace Greeley Scholarship Fund
·         SHARE Midnight Run participant/chaperone.
·         Father of two Chappaqua Fire Department Firefighter/Volunteers
·         Commissioner, Billy’s Basement Boys.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Comments From May 6, 2015 Meeting Regarding COSA Contract Vote

Last night, I voted "No" on item 5.7 on our agenda.  It was approval of an MOU for a new contract with members of one of our four bargaining units, COSA.  Below is the text of my statement, but I want to be clear that the vote "No" was not in any way indicative of how I feel about the unit or the individuals that make up the unit.

After a years of negotiating, I believe we came to an agreement in line (in every way but one) with our other three units, and consistent with our belief that we as a district are partners with our staff in providing a top-notch opportunity for our students to get the best education offered to a public school student.  The "no" vote was because all five Board members were clear in their instructions to the administration negotiating team that we would not accept retroactive pay.  I am not willing to compromise on that.  It violates my principles.  While I accept that the other Board members are willing to back off that stance for reasons they have, I see no good reason to do so.  To be clear, I suggested that the amount of the retroactive pay be included in a raise for next year rather than paid retroactively for this year.  That would have made the contract value the same, but for reasons that were never made clear, that was rejected.

Also, the retroactive pay encompasses a term where the bargaining unit had step increases in force as per the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law.

Here is the text of my remarks:

I will be voting no on this agenda item.  As we got closer and closer to tonight’s meeting, I have to admit I wavered on this vote.  I seriously considered voting yes.  I was thinking I could justify a yes vote by saying that the total finances of the deal over the life of the contract was fair.  It is. I could justify it as the fastest way to get the teacher aides a much deserved raise that brings their salary more in line with their work product and other similar TAs in districts throughout Westchester. It is.  Or, more easily, I could separate the collective bargaining unit from the individuals.  Individually, I know ALL the members of the unit to be hard working people and more importantly, to be good people who care about our district and our students.

Separating the individual from the unit is not my role as a fiduciary to the district when negotiating with a bargaining unit.  In fact, it pained me that for several years we could only look at COSA as one unit.  While they stand together as a unit, not all were similarly affected by the lack of agreement. Some had step increases because of the Triborough amendment while others were off step or as is the case with the Teacher Aides, had no steps whatsoever.

I can only speak for myself here when I say that I would have loved to settle this contract sooner.  I would have readily voted yes on a contract years ago that was consistent with what the other bargaining units agreed to, mainly the recognition that we are partners that must weather the good times and the difficult times together.

One of the primary terms we stated we would not agree to was retroactive pay and a retroactive contract.  According to the legislature, the Triborough amendment to the Taylor law fairly compensated for a unit’s inability to legally strike.  That amendment has been interpreted to say that step increases in the previous expired contract would continue in force.  So, they did.

The district has very little leverage in negotiations.  One possible lever is not agreeing to retro pay increases.  We were very clear both formally and informally that we would not agree to a retroactive contract and that the average 2.9% or so step increase raise would not only be it, but it, on average, exceeded what the other bargaining units agreed to.

Yet, with this agenda item, we are being asked to approve of a contract that includes a retroactive pay increase to the beginning of the school year.  It also for some reason encompasses the past 4 years.

As somebody who negotiated in good faith, as someone whose word is his bond, I think it inappropriate to vote yes on this contract.  Simply put, despite my personal appreciation for the individuals who compose this bargaining unit, I will not compromise my principles and approve a contract that includes retroactive pay or one that encompasses a period that has already passed.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Reflection Given at the June 18th Board Meeting

First, I want to thank the administration and Theresa.  It is they who make the job of being a board member that much easier.  Without their expertise, competency and good nature, not only would the job of being a Board member be much more difficult, the district would be so negatively affected by it.

I don’t have a full presentation like Lyn, but I do want to take a minute or two to thank my fellow board members for all their support of and dedication to the district.  Being a school board member has its good moments, but it also has its drudgery.  The time commitment is enormous.  Whether it is going to board meetings, committee meetings, doing research, answering resident’s inquiries or simply stopping by the Ed Center, there is never a time when you can say I have nothing to do.  Each of us has our own reasons for why we do it, but I think it is safe to say that service to the community and dedication to the children of the district are primary reasons for all of us.  I think a lot of times the community loses sight of the fact that we are volunteers, working hard to do our best.  Of course, we are human, so we make the occasional mistake, but what I appreciate most as an insider is that all, every single one, of the decisions we make and the actions we take are done so with good intentions trying to help the district and the community.

As important, as this is my last scheduled meeting as President, I would like to thank my fellow board members for your support of me throughout the year.  If one appreciates being a board member can be a thankless job, being President magnifies that.  Without the support of all of my fellow Board members the job of President would be next to impossible.  As a group we work well together.  That is a testament to their civility, collegiality,  and temperament.  To a person, they are all good souls.  I consider them all my friends.  Thank you.


It's Been a while...

since I last posted.  Part of the job of being President of the Board is to speak for the Board.   Regardless of how many or how strong of a disclaimer I might make indicating that what I am about to say or do is me speaking or acting for me and not the Board, it falls on deaf ears.  So, I have tried to take the precaution of not doing a lot of public speaking unless it was on behalf of the Board or the District.

My term as President is over shortly.  That does not mean I will necessarily be posting more or at all, but it does give me the ability to do so should I chose.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snow Days

It appears as if tomorrow, February 13th will be our final "free" snowday.  If we are unable to open on Friday, the day must be made up.  That day will be May 23rd.  After that, we start heading to the April vacation (February 21 and 20 are off the table because they would have required us to have used 3 days over the 5 "free" ones and they will have been passed if we need them.

Here is a link to the district calendar on which it gives the algorithm for make-up days.  See the bottom of the calendar for the explanation.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thank You!

I want to thank the community for supporting both the budget and my candidacy.  I very much appreciate the confidence shown in me.  The budget passed with 80% of the voters voting yes, the 2nd highest total in Chappaqua in at least 25 years.

Thank you.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Complacency is the enemy of victory!

Please go out and vote today!  In a low turnout election, every vote does count.

Voting is from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm today at the Horace Greeley Gymnasium.  Parking available for voters in the second lane close to the gym.  Once at the high school, voting only takes 5:00 minutes or less.  No excuses.  Go vote.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

CCSD Letter to the Town of New Castle Regarding the Chappaqua Crossing Proposed Change in Retail Zoning

On Thursday May 16th the CCSD BoE submitted a letter to the Town of New Castle for inclusion in the Chappaqua Crossing property DSEIS detailing our concerns with the proposed retail zoning change.  Here is a copy of that letter.

Patch Candidate Q&A

The Patch asked the candidates for the school board to respond to several questions.  The Patch has not yet published them, but I expect they will sometime before the election.  Below are the questions and my responses. (This was cut and pasted from an email so apologies for any formatting errors.)

What are the school district's biggest challenges? 

The biggest challenge facing the district is creating a sustainable educational model that is both fiscally prudent and sound as well as adaptive to the changes in how education is designed and delivered in the 21st century.  Our students need to learn to be creative risk takers and critical thinkers not just memorizers of content knowledge.  I think we need to adapt to the rapidly changing technology and learn to use technology for actually improving the educational experience. We need to continue to move towards a sustainable budget model including addressing structural (mandates) and contractual issues.  We also need to find alternative ways to engage our students in their learning process. 

Academically, as always, our biggest challenge is reaching the middle of the bell curve.  We need to find a way to challenge and motivate the students that fall in that huge range that is the middle student.  One way to do that is to allow the students to decide how much to challenge themselves rather than have strict numerical cutoffs.  For example, I believe that a student that wishes to take an AP class at the high school should be given that opportunity to challenge themselves rather than there being a bright line cutoff.  In the event the student is not keeping up at the end of the first quarter, then have that student drop into a non AP section.  Reaching the middle students is essential not only at the high school, but more importantly is reaching out to those students at both the elementary and middle school levels.

I also think a major challenge facing the district is expanding community involvement.  We need to find ways to get more of the residents involved in education whether that is through attending Board Meetings, sending emails to the Board, voting in the election, voting on the budget, helping to fight unfunded mandates or simply being more involved in the different buildings. 

Finally, I think that with natural turnover in our administration team especially at the building principal level, we need to ensure that they have and develop the necessary leadership skills to drive their buildings to both academic and social success.  Leadership is critical to having thriving students all striving to reach their potential.  Our central office administration is actively involved in taking a lead role in support of the new school administrators.

State-mandated employee pension contributions have been a significant driver of higher costs for the district in recent years. What changes, if any, would you like to see to the pension system?  

The State mandated pension plans, Teacher's Retirement System (TRS) and Employee Retirement System (ERS) are Defined Benefit Plans.  The State of New York taxpayers are guaranteeing a market rate of return to the plan.  I would support a change from a Defined Benefit Plan to a Defined Contribution Plan whereby districts know their obligation is simply a straight line function of the number of employees.  The plan itself and the members of the plan would be taking the investment risk, not the taxpayers.

Pragmatically, I would accept a transition period as well as protections for staff employed more than a certain number of years.  Without compensation, I think it is wrong to retroactively change the system to someone who is well on their way to retirement and has relied on the expectations of the current plan. This transition could also include the unionized staff having to make contributions to their own defined benefit plan.  I think it is imperative from a fiscal standpoint that benefits and their associated costs are brought in line with the private sector. Or, let the State of New York take over payments to the pension systems that they mandated.

Do you support repealing the Triborough Amendment to the state's Taylor Law, which preserves terms of expired union contracts until new deals are in place? 

First, it is important to understand what is the Taylor Law and the Triborough Amendment to that Law.  In short, in New York State, the Taylor law prohibits policemen, firemen and teachers from striking. Without the ability to strike, the legislature felt that these groups lost all leverage in negotiations, so they amended the law to protect against cities, municipalities, school districts, etc from unilateral cuts to compensation in the event a contract expired without an agreement on a new contract.  What the amendment says is that in the event of a contract expiring without a new contract being agreed to, that the terms of the old contract would continue.  In theory, that is a reasonable right to exchange.  The groups are prohibited from striking, but the employers would have to live under the terms of the existing contract.  

Where I diverge from this thought process is in the interpretation of what should be continued in the event of no agreement.  To actually repeal the entire Triborough Amendment would be a mistake.  But, I believe it should be modified so that so called "step" increases do not continue in the absence of an agreement.  What I think is fair and appropriate is for the actual compensation to stay exactly as it was at the end of the expired contract.  No unilateral cuts by employers and no automatic step raises to employees.  This change will create a more level playing field in contract negotiations.  The real issue for me behind the Triborough Amendment is automatic step increases. 

Finally, I think it is only fair to point out that locally, in the CCSD, so far, 3 of our 4 bargaining units have agreed to new contracts that give them lower raises than they would have gotten under the Triborough Amendment.  That is, they accepted raises that were less than their natural step increases.  I believe that is a strong show of good faith and an indication that our staff recognizes and appreciates that we are partners whose primary focus is on the students.

What are your thoughts on tenure for teachers and administrators? 

First, tenure is a state mandate.  The concept of tenure is not something we can control locally.  What we do control is the granting of tenure.  In general, with a few exceptions, if a teacher or administrator is to be employed in the district beyond their three year probationary period, then they need to have been granted tenure.  That is a State law, not a locally negotiated provision to our contracts.  The history of tenure was to provide for academic freedom and teaching without the fear of reprisals.  It also protects against arbitrary firings.  However, the system as it is designed limits performance based hirings and firings.  The 3020-a process is so expensive, time consuming and fraught with peril as to make it almost irrelevant.  (See NYC and "rubber rooms"). The system severely limits the district's ability to make personnel decisions based strictly on current work product or merit. 
So, if I were king, I would change the system.  I do believe there needs to be material protections for the staff.  What I would do would be to give staff 5 year contracts.  In the event the district fired a teacher for anything other than enrollment reasons, the balance of the contract would be paid or one month severance pay for every year worked, whichever is greater.  This would give protections to teachers and allow the district to make decisions on hiring based on merit.

The district is facing academic mandates from the state, such as continued administration of a new teacher and principal evaluation system and a shift to what are called common core standards. How do you think the district is doing in responding to these requirements? What else, if anything, would you like to see done?

I believe in local control of public education.  I think the core standards are a knee jerk reaction to outdated data and a misguided attempt by the federal government to create minimal standards that will, in effect, bring the top performing schools down to the core standards when our local expectations are much much higher than theirs.  Essentially, we are forced to waste time and money being in compliance with standards that are below our own.  Similar things could be said about the APPR.  

I believe we as a district do a much better job of evaluating our staff than does the APPR which is 25% mandated to rely on standardized test scores.  So, I think the federal and state government should stay out of local education or at the least provide for exemptions for high performing districts such as ours. 
As to how the district is responding to the requirements, we are making the best of what I think is a bad situation.  The district, in partnership with the CCT and the administrators, has created APPR criteria and measurements that are far and above what the State is suggesting.  We will continue to evaluate personnel with more than checked off boxes and standardized test scores.  Evaluating a teacher's effectiveness is part art and part science.  We need to use both quantifiable measures as well as observation.  In fact, we as a district have had our APPR held up as a model for other districts around the state to emulate.

Most of the district's budget revenue comes from property taxes. Would you support creating new revenue streams for the district? If so, what would you propose? 

Of course I support creating new revenue streams for the district.  Who wouldn't?  I have made some specific proposals at Board meetings.  For example, if our biggest asset is our teachers and our rigorous academic program, with technology advances and districts throughout the New York facing financial pressures, why not sell our classes to other districts?  Through technology, we could easily package our classes, use Skype, etc to deliver first class learning to other districts that cannot afford to offer certain classes.  Another possible revenue source is selling physical district assets.  The Facilities Committee on which I sit is currently exploring the sale of several parcels of district property we deem to be not needed for future use.  In general, I think it is incumbent upon the district to find its own sources of revenue.  However, know that the district is restricted by NY State law from many types of revenue sources including taking any kind of financial risk, using taxpayer assets such as facilities to profit or to rent them to for profit groups.  Any ideas along those lines are restricted. 

I also support continuing and expanding the public-private partnership between the district and such groups as the Chappaqua School Foundation, the Sports Boosters and the Turf Committee.

Currently, Chappaqua Crossing developer Summit/Greenfield has a proposal for the site, which is across the street from Horace Greeley High School, before the New Castle Town Board to rezone the property to allow for 120,000 square feet of retail, including a supermarket of 36,000 to 66,000. Summit/Greenfield has also stated that it could create more tax revenue for the school district. Do you support the plan, oppose it, or are you undecided? What are your concerns, if any, with the proposal as it currently stands?

If you are asking me as a current School Board member and hopefully future School Board member, I neither support nor oppose the retail plan directly.  It is not the role of a School Board member to support or oppose the plan any more than it is the role of a Town Council member to tell us whether or not we should have an SRO in our schools. 

I do have some serious concerns about the plan that, for the most part, mimic the District's submission to the DSEIS.  Mainly, first and foremost, the safety of our students and staff.  Second, I am very concerned about traffic.  Third, I am concerned about the intersection of the first two.  That is, I am concerned that emergency first responders have the ability to respond to any emergency in the district, particularly at the high school in a timely and appropriate manner.  Will the addition of a retail zone and the ensuing increased traffic negatively affect first responders ability to respond to the high school? Fourth,, I am concerned about other general matters such as underclass students parking across the street, non-authorized students leaving the campus, and especially the accuracy of the tax projections.
I think that both the developer and the Town, before proceeding need to clearly outline for the district how the traffic and safety concerns will be addressed.  I also remain concerned about the residential student enrollment versus the residential taxes paid.  To the extent that a market rate dwelling is not taxed as at a fee simple rate, there is concern that the other taxpayers in the district will need to absorb the costs.  I would also like to better understand the tax projections from the retail zone.  What are the assumptions that underlie those projections and could the Town and the developer, as part of a tax certerori settlement on the current outstanding grievances agree to a set tax number going forward for a period of years that will allow the district to make long term revenue plans and assumptions. 

As a resident and School Board member I would hope and expect that our Town representatives clearly detail for New Castle residents the logic and reasoning behind their proposed changes to the zoning code and how they think the benefits of such a change out weigh the negatives before they approve of the plan if they do. 

In fairness, I would add that Summit Greenfield has reached out to the district and expressed a willingness to both address these issues and be a good neighbor.  I hope actions speak louder than words.

The issue of personnel status disclosure came up last year when longtime Greeley football coach and physical education teacher William Tribou was suspended and then resigned with a settlement with the district. The school board did not disclose details because it was a personnel matter, with a reason given that disclosure was not allowed. Is it appropriate for districts to not disclose personnel status when an individual is facing discipline or leaving, and would you support repealing limitation of school officials disclosing details of employee suspensions, terminations or resignations?

If you are asking if the exception to the open meeting law statutes of NY State should be revoked legislatively to allow for public discussion of personnel matters, my short answer would be, no.  I think that in personnel cases there are competing and often conflicting interests.  Mainly, the interest of the employee and their privacy versus both the public's right to know and the potential safety and welfare of students in the district.  That includes educational, physical and social welfare. 
The presumption made by both the exception to the open meeting law and by the rules and regulations governing a 3020-a hearing is that a staff member has the right to privacy at least until any allegations are proven, AND that the Board members through their sworn oaths and fiduciary obligations as Board Members are protecting the public's interest in personnel cases.  In the cases where the personnel issue is performance and not conduct, I think that the APPR process and the fact that those records are publicly reviewable, at least by the parents of children in the teacher's class, makes that part both public and accountable. 

Ethically, I am uncomfortable making what are allegations public until they are proven or stipulated to or agreed upon.  I ask a simple question, how does the employee get their good name back if the allegations are not true?  

The state-mandated cap on annual tax levy increases will expire in June 2016 unless if it is renewed. If elected, this would happen near the end of your term. Do you support allowing the cap to expire or should it be extended?

Again, this is a simplified question to a complex issue.  The June 2016 renewal is tied to rent control laws.  As per your link to a power point presentation, page 2 slide 6 last bullet point, "Expires June 15, 2016 unless rent control extended"  If rent control is extended, the tax cap will be as well.  While I would never rely on a political outcome, I would be very surprised if a deal to extend rent control did not happen. 

However, in short, without the benefit of seeing how it continues to work in the next 3 years, I support extending the tax cap.  I think the best case for the district would be for the tax cap to be extended while at the same time the state starts funding many of its own mandates such as pension plans.  But, even if the State were to continue to ignore the burden they shift from themselves to the local taxpayer and not address mandates, I would still support extending the tax cap.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Candidate Statement and Brief Biography for NCN

I was asked to submit a biography and candidate statement for publication in NewCastleNOW.  Here is what I submitted.

Jeffrey S. Mester:  Candidate Statement and Biography

Candidate Statement

This is my third time running for the School Board and I can safely say that the oddity of running for a volunteer position never seems to go away.  We are asking you, the community, to select us as the best, most appropriate volunteer.  So, first, I would like to recognize my fellow candidates, Warren and Rick, for their willingness to volunteer.  I admire their decision to offer to commit their time to the community.
One of the reasons I originally ran for the Board six years ago was because of my strong belief in my responsibility as a community member to serve our community in a way that best suits my qualifications with the community's needs.  That remains true today.

New York State says the qualifications for school board membership are an ability to read and write, be  a qualified voter, and be a resident of the district for at least one year prior to the election.   Not a very high bar indeed. 

Any candidate that receives enough votes can be a member of the Board of Education, but to be an effective member of the Board requires much much more.   It is not simply about being smart and having the time.   It is not about representing one segment of the community.

As  one of my fellow candidates will learn, there is a lot more to the job than the hot button issues.  It is easy to identify problems; it is much harder to offer solutions and make decisions.  I am the only candidate who can stand on a proven, successful track record of doing just that.

Being a school board member is about, first and foremost,  having a passion for education.  It is also about understanding education law and regulations, about understanding the budget, and about listening.  Listening to the community, listening to the students, listening to the administrators, listening to the staff,  and listening to your own gut.

Going forward, I will continue to work for ALL members of the community to reach responsible budgets.  I will further seek to reduce the burden on taxpayers by strengthening the public-private partnerships such as with the Chappaqua School Foundation and the Sports Boosters.  I will continue to support openness and transparency.  I will continue to support and seek public involvement and input. 

The Board cannot and should not face the challenges ahead alone.  We need community involvement and support. I will seek to bring the various interest groups including residents with children in the schools as well as residents without, and district personnel together to collectively and creatively find sustainable solutions for our district.

For the past six years, I have worked tirelessly on behalf of the members of this community to be an effective member of the school board.  It requires a person with an extensive and detailed knowledge of the district, a complete understanding of the budget and the structural budget issues the district faces, a person who can make practical and reasoned decisions, a person who is flexible and can build consensus, a person who can balance competing community interests, and a person who has vision and conviction.  There is no experience like direct experience and a proven track record.  I stand on mine.

Simply put, common sense with an uncommon commitment.

Brief Biography

I am 51 years old.  I have three terrific children one of whom graduated from HGHS last year and two currently in high school.  All three started in the district in Kindergarten at Roaring Brook Elementary School, attended Seven Bridges Middle School, and then went on to Horace Greeley High School.  My professional background is in the trading of equities and equity derivatives.  Most recently, I have been in the compliance side of the business.  I have an undergraduate BA in Economics from the University of Virginia and an MBA with a concentration in Finance from the Kelllogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reply to Comments and Questions on NCN

In response to this NewCastleNOW article and the comments below that article.  This is the unedited version from before I tried to get it into one 2000 character comment box.  

Usual disclaimers apply.  I do not speak for the Board of Ed.  I speak only for myself. This is not a district statement either.  Shake well before using.  Refrigerate after opening.  Your mileage may vary.

To C-O-N-T-R-O-L:  I can think of many reasons both positive and negative why we would want questions asked privately.  But, I think it is safe to say that whenever the Board or Administration replies to an email, it assumes that that email can and will be made public.  I do.

I do not agree with your assumption that it makes our job a lot easier if people don't hear each other's criticisms. That is only the case if you also assume our job is to ignore the public.  While I recognize that some people think that, I view our job as actually the opposite of that.  While I don't think we should just be a weather vane twisting in the wind with the latest opinion, I do think that we are elected as fiduciaries to the community and as such have an obligation to listen to what the community has to say which by the way can include complements.   If you read the post on my blog about deciding to run or not, I address this there.

I think it is also important for the community to know that the Board is not always in a 5-0 agreement on how to do things, but we do act as a consensus Board.  In general, after a consensus of the Board is taken, the President of the Board will fashion a response that reflects that consensus.  Whether I support that consensus response, I will always support that this is a majority rules Board and that the President has certain power/authority/obligation to respond in a way that (s)he sees fit within the consensus.

As for the last meeting and the timing of the two statements, I can tell you there was nothing Machiavellian about them. After almost 6 years on the Board, I can tell you that the announcement about the administrator's contract was put first, for two reasons.  One, it was not on the agenda anywhere because of the timing of the agreement with the Board (not agreed upon until after the agenda was made.  Agendas are generally set on the Thursday or Friday prior to the next meeting.) so it was put first, and, two, it was good news for the community in terms of the budget impact.  The meeting was primarily focused on the budget. Hence, put the budget item first.

The so called Tim Bloom response was not purposely moved to 11:00 pm or later in the meeting so no one would hear it.  First, Tim never wrote directly to the Board.  He wrote to the administration and published it here on NCN.  So, it was a little confusing as to who the Board would actually be responding to.  In the end, we were responding to the community in general, but we never got one direct piece of correspondence from anyone in the community about it. Writing anonymous comments on an internet blog is a very inefficient way to communicate with the Board.  (Any Board.)

Second, there are few people attending the meetings.  Most watch it on replay or on NCMCTV online.  Anyone could fast forward to find the portion they are looking for.  Third, it was on the agenda in the Superintendent's and President's report. Ironically enough, it comes later in the meeting because we moved the presentations to the beginning of the meetings so that the public could come to watch that and not have to wait until the end.  When I first got on the Board and prior to that, the business section came first and then the presentations.  We got criticized for that and changed it.

Legally, we are required to have an agenda.  It makes sense to stick to it as much as possible as we are also required to publish it in advance.  Some have suggested that we start earlier.  We have considered that.  I for one, would love to get home before midnight on a meeting night.  But, there were other considerations and other points of view.  In the past, we had a lot of feedback that starting earlier would make it particularly difficult for those with students in elementary and middle school to attend.  Between dinner and bedtime, starting at 7:00 or 7:30 would be a hardship for many.

One of the interesting things that happened at the last meeting is relevant here.  I am not sure how many people noticed it, but we received an email with several questions from a resident who was unable to attend the meeting.  President Tipp actually read the questions during the appropriate part of the presentation.  It is certainly a way to ask a question while not having the pressure or whatever of coming to the microphone.  I will sometimes email questions to the presenters in advance so that they are prepared to answer them publicly. I don't think it is fair to the public when someone says they will get back to you on that.  Then the response is not on the record.  Feel free to email the Board with questions you might have in advance.  If you send it to the President and/or all the Board members, I think the President would be more than happy to represent your questions at the appropriate time.

On a slightly similar note, Christine has been prodding the Board for several years to make its meetings live.  One of her concepts with having it live would be to have the ability for someone watching at home to ask a question maybe through email or a text or something. It is certainly something to be considered, although I have never seen it in practice.  I have suggested to Christine that I would be willing to do a live online forum answering questions.  I envisioned it something along the lines of a Reddit Ask Me Anything.  If I decide to run for a third term, I would definitely be willing to answer any question I legally could on any subject.

I think this Board has gotten an undeserved reputation by some of the anonymous commenters here on NCN as a closed Board.  Nothing is farther from the truth.  We have gone out of our way to be as transparent and forthright as we can.  Some items, particularly personnel and legal items, we are precluded from speaking about publicly.  It is frustrating to us too when we cannot speak about something we would want to otherwise.

Yes, we have a three minute stated limit on questions.  However, I can only remember two times where we actually imposed that limit and with those two times, we simply told the person they could ask additional questions after those who have not had a chance to ask any question yet already did so. Quite frankly, if you cannot ask one or two questions in three minutes time, then you are making a speech. I cannot think of anyone who has not had a chance to ask their question or make a comment at one of our meetings.

Do we get defensive at times? Sure, we are human.  We are also volunteers.  We are trying to do our best.  Really.  I recognize that we will not always be universally applauded for some of our decisions.  There are many issues where the community itself is divided.  I personally get frustrated when people think because we do not agree with them or do not take a certain course of action they support that we don't listen.  We listen, we deliberate, we consider ramifications and we decide.

I just want to make one more point about anonymous comments.  I get why some who make comments wish to remain anonymous.  It can be scary criticizing teachers or administrators when your child is in school. There is one school of thought that your child could be subject to retaliation.  Believe me when I tell you that I considered it myself when I speak out or when we negotiate, etc.  While it is a concern, I know the leadership of all the unions well.  I know many of the teachers in the district personally.  I give them more credit than thinking they would even dream of retaliation.  They are professionals dedicated to teaching.  It is just not something that would enter the mind of the staff.

I personally don't mind criticism.  I do mind personal attacks.  Question my thought process, question my vote, question my decisions, but don't question my integrity, don't call me names, don't make statements you know to be false or ones you don't know to be true.

I oppose anonymous comments.  I think using your name leads to a more civilized dialogue.  I think using your name gives your comment more credibility.  I get that some people want to hide behind the cloak of anonymity, but I don't condone it.

Finally, I wish the community would recognize that we are volunteers trying to do our best.  We don't get paid, we don't have any perks that I am aware of, and we don't get benefits.  We do spend a lot of time, we do work hard. and we do want to engage the public.  If it was such a great job, more people would be trying to do it.  It is a rewarding job if you care about education, care about the students and care to serve your community.  A wise former board member told me on the way out the door, that it is only a thankless job if you are expecting thanks.  I am not.

Edit: Feel free to post a comment here on my blog. I will reply to all that ask a question or ask for a reply.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

To Run or Not to Run, That is the Question

I wrote this email in response to a voice mail I received from Tom Auchtermonie, the editor of the Chappaqua/Mt. Kisco Patch.  Both he and Christine (New Castle NOW) asked about my plans to run again.


Thank you for calling.

That announcement put out by the LWV and the PTA regarding their April 2nd meeting is accurate.  They contacted me over the weekend to see what my status was, and I was ok with them sending out what they sent out.

I still have not run or not. They may have used the word "announced" which I prefer, but either way, I am still weighing the decision.

Serving on the Board for the past six years has been very rewarding for me and hopefully a positive for the district and community. There are many many factors both personal and school related that go into making this decision. 

I happen to think for a myriad of reasons that the district is at a critical crossroads as to the direction it takes.  While the budget issues that dominated my first terms are still there and will likely remain for years to come, I am very comfortable with how we have faced and will continue to face the pressures on the district in that regard. Negotiations with 3 of our 4 bargaining units have shown that the district and its units are trying to be true partners. 

I think, rightfully, that the focus going forward after this year's budget, will be a fight for the soul of the district.  By that I mean with a relatively new Superintendent, with new principals at Grafflin, Roaring Brook and Horace Greeley, with many many state and national mandates, the district has to decide who we want to be, what our mission will be going forward and how do we get there. It is going to take strong leadership to steer the district toward our goal. [Edit: Upon reread, I want to make it clear that I think we have that strong leadership in the district currently.]

Hopefully, one of the bi-products of Tim Bloom's open letter to the administration is a two way conversation between the district and the community about what we want, who we want to be, and how we accomplish those goals.  While I gave a general response on my blog,10514 Musings, I think it is important that the district, the board and the administrators have an open and frank discussion with the community about the future of this district. We need to find a shared vision, not an imposed one.

I think that being a Board Member for the next 3 years is going to take a significant commitment of time and energy.  It is why I hesitate. Whether I run or not, I strongly encourage members of the community to step up and make that commitment.  

I hope to make my decision shortly.  When I do, of course, I will let you and The Patch readers know.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Reply to Tim Bloom Letter to the Administration

(Note: I initially left off my usual disclaimer.  The absence of it does not change the fact that I am speaking only for myself, I do not speak for the district or the Board here.  All other disclaimers are valid here too. YMMV.)

I have told you this privately, but I think it important to reiterate it publicly. I very much admire your forthrightness and willingness to take personal risk by writing this letter.  Quite frankly, I wish I were not saying that there is personal risk in writing, but anytime you go against the establishment, in my days, "the man", you risk backlash.

As a School Board Member, I know that the district sometimes makes mistakes. I know that the reasoning for some decisions are not always readily obvious. I know that like any large institution that caters to all the students in the district we sometimes have to make compromises.  I know that there are times we are not even legally allowed to say why we do what we do.  It is all frustrating.  I add one more caution: Do not take the Board's silence in any circumstance as not caring or not aware or as tacit approval either.

One area in which I think we should never compromise is in our 'lofty ideals'. I have no knowledge of any of the facts of this particular letter. I am not writing now to comment on the particulars of this letter; this is something that Tim and his peers have to work out with the building administration. I am writing to thank Tim for starting the dialogue.

I would like to say that, in general, a successful district educates the entire student and the entire student body. If, in one of the Board's strategic questions, we as a district strive to educate critical thinkers, we must accept that that means allowing students to take risk, to make mistakes, and to learn lessons not only in the classroom, but also outside the classroom. Rather than stifle that urge, we should support it.

We need to support our students in extra-curricular activities including student council and self governance, in clubs, in sports, and in the performing arts. Education is not just learning the ABCs in the classroom.  It is not just your gpa or what classes you take. It is inclusive of after school activities.  We need to encourage our students to reach for their next level. We must let them challenge themselves. Sometimes that means taking risks ourselves.

Finally, at the risk of embarrassing you Tim, knowing what a terrific student you are, knowing of your dedication and fortitude on the football field, knowing you are a committed volunteer firefighter in Town, knowing you are student council President, and knowing that you are a good friend to so many, I sleep well at night comforted that future generations and future leaders like you will soon takeover.


Tim Bloom, Student Council President, Letter to HGHS Administration:

To the Horace Greeley High School Administration,
I was very disappointed to hear yesterday that the Greeley Games event that I proposed is not going to happen. Quite frankly, I'm not at all surprised, as this seems to be par for the course these days. It has gotten to the point where every single member of the Student Council is disenchanted with the way the administration is trying to dismantle the very things that had made Greeley great for so long. We have lost our motivation to try to engage the students, generate enthusiasm and a sense of community and make being a Greeley student more than capitulating to the arbitrary decisions of the administration. Why bother working on proposals and trying to innovate when we know the administration is going to say no? 
It’s funny that we are all so frustrated with our elected officials in Washington, yet the same thing is happening right here. Each time a new idea comes to the floor, we're getting filibustered, then left to take the blame for not taking action. It's really sad to see how significantly Greeley has declined over the past four years, from the exercise in political correctness gone mad re: the funball team name debacle to the arbitrary and ridiculous hoops that need to be jumped through to bring in a speaker, to the fact that a group was told they can’t sell hot chocolate in the morning for charity because it’s “too dangerous.” I don't feel as if I'm doing even half the job I ran for as President and the reason for that is the administration. Know that for us high school is more than just getting into college. It’s supposed to be an experience that matures us not just intellectually, but also in other ways. How can we do that when the only thing we are assured of is the academic aspects and those aren't so great anymore either? This school has become so resistant to positive new ideas that students actually care about and so concerned with the possibility of political incorrectness that nothing even has a chance. For example, how do we know that the event I proposed would have an attendance problem if it’s never happened before?
When I sat down with Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Corsilia in the beginning of the school year, I saw the potential to reignite at least some of the fire that I know Greeley used to have. I now know how wrong I was in thinking that. I know that interest in participating in Student Council is in rapid decline and I wouldn't be surprised if next year's group has trouble filling all of the positions, another sign that the administration is failing to provide a meaningful high school experience. People simply don’t want to deal with working hard and formulating new ideas only to be shot down. You are denying leadership opportunities to the next generation of leaders by rendering those who do want to lead utterly ineffective. It has become simply not worth my time either to think of fun creative ways to bring the school community together when I know that there is no chance of any of our ideas actually coming to fruition. I'm tired of being asked, "When are we going to have a school wide event?" or "When is something fun going to happen?" and not having an answer. From this day forward, I am going to tell anyone who asks that the administration won't let it happen. I don't want the students who elected me to think I don't care and haven't been trying mightily to bring this school back to its former greatness.
  I am deeply disappointed in the administration for not recognizing that the Greeley we all love is slipping away because they are afraid of innovation and trying something new. The other members of the Student Council feel the same way and share my disappointment in your decisions. I've spoken to many former Greeley students recently, some who graduated last year, some who graduated ten years ago, and some who were Student Council members themselves, and they are amazed that the Greeley they knew and loved bears no resemblance to the one I am graduating from in just a few months. This school has gone from a place of which I was proud to be President to a place that I can't wait to leave.  If it is your long-term plan to oversee a community of grade-obsessed, one dimensional, disinterested students then continue to do what you are doing. If you want a vibrant, engaged community of students who participate in their education more fully, then you need to reexamine how you interact with us. Less police state and PC paranoia and more positivity would help. Just today, I heard of two new issues that are all of the sudden problems in the eyes of the administration. I’ve been told that the beloved Greeley A Capella groups have to meet with you because the fact that they rehearse off the school campus is a problem. Why? Why do they have to change how they operate if they are successful as they are now? Isn’t this discouraging the independence that you encourage us to develop throughout high school? And now you want to change the traditional trip to Jones Beach for seniors? You have already dismantled quite a few senior traditions. Can you leave just one alone?
I feel compelled to write this as the elected representative of the student body, a position that I will continue to take very seriously until my term is up. I will continue to plan the events that are already on the calendar and I will continue to fulfill my responsibility of addressing the school at the coming assemblies and ultimately graduation, but I promise nothing more. The next time you need someone to represent Greeley, whether it be to a group of students from another country or one new student who will be joining this so-called community next year, find someone else. I don’t feel as if I can lend my time to your causes, if mine are not taken seriously. To summarize, we’ve all had enough of the arbitrary decisions. The Theatre Company just put on a play about sex (and a very good one might I add) without being questioned, and yet a song for the a capella concert was questioned because it included the word bullet and referenced guns. Can you explain that inconsistency? I can't. I wish you an uneventful rest of the school year.

Tim Bloom