2015 Clarkstown School Board Candidates Respond To Questionnaire

The following questions were asked of the seven candidates running for Clarkstown School Board.  Two candidates did not respond – Michael Aglialoro and Wendy Adolff.  School board election is on Tuesday May 19th.

1) Brief biography
2) Why are you running for School Board?
3) In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing the school district?
4) If elected, what would you do to overcome these issues?
5) What is your opinion of the new Common Core Curriculum
6) Recently, many parents have decided to opt-out of the standards testing for grades 3-8.  What is your opinion on parents having their kids “refuse the tests”? 

Bio and introduction

George Ballane

Professionally, I am the Director of Educational Technology at a school in New Jersey.  I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, a Master’s in Business Administration, and I am currently working on my Doctoral Degree in Education.

Tamara Bierker

I have lived in the Clarkstown School District for 45 years and worked in the district for 41 years.  I am married to Gerry Bierker and all five Bierker children graduated from the Clarkstown schools.   I earned a Bachelors Degree from The Kings College in Music Education, a Masters Degree from The Montclair State University in Guidance and Human Relations plus certification in School Administration from the College of New Rochelle.  During my career I served as a Music Teacher and School Counselor/Guidance at North, South High Schools and Clarkstown Junior High/Felix Festa Middle School.

I held many leadership roles during my career including Department Chairperson of School Counseling/Guidance at Felix Festa for over 15 years during which time I implemented many program.  After 9/11 I formed and developed the Crisis team at Felix Festa Middle School and Chaired for 10 years.  While helping students and parents as a School Counselor I developed a deep understanding of the courses and curriculums offered in the District.   During my career at South High School and Felix Festa I musically directed, designed, built, designed lighting and produced twenty musicals placing an average of 150 students on stage each year.

Matthew Spool

I live in New City with my wife of ten years, Aileen, and two children, who both attend Laurel Plains.  I grew up on Long Island in a district similar to Clarkstown and received my Bachelor of Science from the University of Delaware and my MBA from Long Island University at the Hudson Valley Campus in Orangetown.

I have been working in technology for over 17 years in a variety of sales engineering and sales engineering leadership positions for at organizations as few as 75 employees to as many as 200,000 employees.  I currently work for Presidio, a large, privately held Systems Integrator where I manage a team of engineers designing and deploying large-scale voice and video communications technology infrastructures for customers ranging from large to small businesses.

My business experience in sales and engineering has given me the ability to solve complex problems and make hard, balanced decisions while building an environment that promotes collaboration and team-building.

Zizette Deutsch

As a longtime resident of New City, graduate of Clarkstown North, parent and Education Administrator, I feel now is the time to serve on the CCSD Board of Education.

I live in New City with my husband and two children. My son is in 8th grade and my daughter is in 6th grade at Felix Festa Middle School.  We decided to move back to New City so our children would receive a quality education from CCSD.   When my children started New City Elementary, a parent (whose name I still remember) encouraged me get involved because “if your children see you as a presence in their school it makes them feel good and lets them know you care about their school.”  I got involved by volunteering for a Tricky Tray event and then became the chair for the next three years.  It was a lot of hard work but I enjoyed it because I knew it was something good for the school in providing extra opportunities for our students.   

I have a Bachelors Degree from CUNY – Queens College, a Masters from CUNY City College and an Advanced Certificate in Education Administration from the College of Saint Rose.  My certifications are Professional Certificates in Childhood Education and Students with Disabilities (Grades 1-6) and School Building Leader Initial Certificate in New York State.  I also hold licenses for Elementary School Teacher K-6 and Teacher of Students with Disabilities in New Jersey.   

Currently I serve as an Education Administrator for the New York City Department of Education. I oversee and support Specialized Programs in all five boroughs for students with ASD and Intellectual Disabilities. Prior to my role as an Administrator, I was a teacher for students with Autism in the Bronx and a Speech Therapist at Bergen County Special Services and YCS.  Before I became an educator, I was an insurance broker (I still hold my license) and a NYC Taxi Broker for 14 years.  After having my children, I made the decision to become an educator because I have always had a passion for helping children.

My personal and professional experiences shape a diverse view when it comes to being a part of the Clarkstown School board.  As a team player I always strive towards collaboration between parents, teachers, school administration and Central Office Administration.

Christian Jauntig

I have been a Clarkstown student since I was in Pre-K, when I attended Alphabet Express at the Chestnut Grove Administrative Center. In 2007, I graduated from Congers Elementary School. As for most students Felix Festa Middle School was the next step in my educational career. This past June,… I graduated from Clarkstown South High School. I now attend Rockland Community College in pursuit of a degree in Business Administration, as well as taking classes in Financing, Accounting, and Psychology. 

CCSD has always been a central part of my life, but not only for my own education. Many family members have distinguished themselves in Clarkstown in many different capacities from teaching to coaching. You can’t drive past North High School without noticing the sign on the bleachers naming the soccer field, Pozsar Field. My Grandfather Dennis Pozsar worked at FFMS and North High School teaching Social Studies for many years, he was also the Boys Soccer Coach, along with the Girls Basketball Coach. Ellen Leopold, retired department chair of home and careers at Felix Festa Middle School. My Grandfather and now Grandmother Ellen are now both retired from teaching and coaching in Clarkstown, but many can testify to the past they leave behind. My Grandmother Kathy Mosher, Resource teacher at Congers Elementary School has helped many students, including myself, flourish in the ELA program. My Grandfather Thomas Jauntig, served as an auditor for the district, as well as the Town of Clarkstown for over 20 years.

While attending classes at RCC at night, I work at Westrock Insurance Agency in New City during the day as a Customer Service Representative. I plan on taking my Insurance Licensing test this summer, so that I can be a licensed Insurance Agent.

During my time in Clarkstown I have held a number of positions that require maturity, and responsibility.

*Nickel-O Farms- Camp Counselor 2006-2012
*Horsemen’s Riding Club of North Jersey-Trustee 3 Years
-also served as Office Manager
*New York Southern Tier Quarter Horse Association
-Manager
-Youth President 5+ years
-Show Manager 5years
-Show Secretary 5 years
-Chair of Various Committees
*Horses R Us 4H- President 2 years
*American Sign Language Club at South High School-Secretary

Some of the responsibilities I incurred as President, are those similar to any other, facilitating meetings, preparing of an agenda, and fundraising coordination, just to name a few. Many of these other positions put me into some difficult situations, that taught me time, and employee management, as well as customer relations.

Why are you running for School Board?

George Ballane

As an educator, the primary reason I am running for the Board is because I care about the quality of education for the students in Clarkstown.

The current board continues to cut teachers, TAs, and staff positions, which continues to erode the quality of education.

Tamara Bierker

I have spent my whole career advocating for children and now I wish to continue to advocate as a trustee on our Board of Education.  Clarkstown is an excellent school district and we owe our students the highest quality of education we can provide.  This is not an easy task and it takes different talents to address the issues.  My extensive background in education and knowledge of the Clarkstown School District addresses a need on the present Board of Education.

Matthew Spool

I live in New City with my wife of ten years, Aileen, and two children, who both attend Laurel Plains.  I grew up on Long Island in a district similar to Clarkstown and received my Bachelor of Science from the University of Delaware and my MBA from Long Island University at the Hudson Valley Campus in Orangetown.

As the product of a district with high academic standards similar to Clarkstown, I know the value that those standards bring.  As a parent of children in the district, I have with a vested interest in seeing those standards continue here so that our students are positioned as best as possible to succeed in whatever their futures bring. 

Zizette Deutsch

I did not take the decision to run for the school board lightly.  Over the past nine years I have seen the various issues our district has had to face. Some of those issues have been controversial and some have created a divide in our community.  While it is great that our community is so passionate, I think we have steered off the path of what really matters: working together to make CCSD the best school district.  I would like to help lead our community in healing and to once again work collaboratively. Not all board members agree all the time but they work together for the greater good of the children and the whole community. I would lead by example, collaborating with all stakeholders in our schools and community.

I believe my education and administrative experience can focus a different lens on issues vital to educating our children.  I believe in transparency and collaboration for all.  I have worked on funding models for Specialized Programs that bring special education students back into their community schools rather than Non-Public schools.  Bringing in a fiscally responsible budget while providing a quality, forward thinking education is vitally important to me.  I have worked collaboratively with parents, teachers, school building leaders and Central based Administrators on defining protocols, policies and programs for all students. 

Christian Jauntig

I have always enjoyed being part of the Clarkstown Central School District. These past few years I have felt that we as a district have lost sight of our goals. Our Goals as a District are to provide a safe and effective learning environment to all our students. Making sure that our students are given the best opportunities, and the best education is a must in my eyes. We as a district need to stop being reactive, instead we need to be proactive!

In your opinion, what are the three biggest issues facing the school district.

George Ballane

  • Poor financial management by current board members
  • Eroding quality of education because of cuts.
  • Decreased program offerings

 

Tamara Bierker

  • Sustaining and improving our Academic programs
  • Address the Common Core
  • Equal educational opportunities for all students

 

Matthew Spool

  • State of disrepair of our buildings
  • The Common Core curriculum and associated State Assessments
  • A divided community and public mistrust of the School Board

 

Zizette Deutsch

  • Staying within the tax cap and maintaining quality education
  • Aging facilities and a plan for moving forward
  • Common core and state testing

 

Christian Jauntig

  • Condition of our facilities
  • Maintaining the quality of our district/education while staying within the budget, and not putting it all on the community
  • Learning Standards/Testing

If Elected, what would you do to overcome these issues?

George Ballane

I plan to take a deep dive into the financials, ensure that there is a focus on the quality of education, and restore unity to this community.  My background in education will enable me to help the board make financial decisions, while keeping in mind how the students will be affected.

Tamara Bierker

I will research and evaluate issues that affect the future of the district as we continue to strive for academic excellence. I will work to support programs that maintain the academic rigor of top achieving school districts.  This academic rigor not only includes the four required subjects also music, art, technology, home and careers, health and foreign language.  An excellent school district must also support an outstanding sports program.

The rush by NY State to implement and assess students using the Common Core has created havoc for students, parents and teachers.  I will work with the BOE, administrators, New York Regents and beyond, if necessary, to find a solution to this challenge.  An atmosphere of distrust has been created and parents need support as they decide what is best for their children. 

Although educators in the district started a conversation to find a way to solve the issue of courses missed by the students in special education and students who receive additional remediation the process is proceeding slowly.  I will strive to speed up the process so that these students can choose to take the same courses. 

Matthew Spool

The state of disrepair of our buildings is well documented.  The Facilities Use Committee on the current Board has put together a plan that is a good first step in correcting the current issues and it addresses the most critical of issues.  There are likely additional capital improvements that may be required.  Windows, electrical improvements, technology infrastructure, etc are all possible areas where improvements may be needed.  I would work with the other Trustees and the community to develop a long-term plan to provide for the repair and upgrade of these additional items.

Unfortunately, the Common Core curriculum and the associated State Assessments are something that the CCSD Board has limited control over.  What I can promise is to work with the rest of the Board, as well as our fellow districts here in Rockland County, to lobby our elected officials in State government to restore as much local control to curriculum and teacher evaluations as possible.

Over the past two years, a variety of issues have created a divide in our community and has created a general feeling of distrust of the Board.  While I wish I could wave a magic wand and make those issues go away and restore the public’s trust in the Board, that’s obviously not possible.  I can, however, promise to maintain open and honest communications and to bring as much transparency to the Board as possible.

Zizette Deutsch

Tax Cap:

We have stayed in under the Tax Cap for the last 3 years and hope we can continue this trend by making smart and sometimes hard decisions while keeping the quality of education.  I would be mindful of the increases of taxes for our senior citizen population and all of our taxpayers.  I would also look at the technology bond and see once the parameters of the bond are disclosed to the BOE how we can best maximize our the funding for longevity and cutting edge technology.

Aging Facilities:

I would recommend a needs assessment of all our buildings which I believe that is in the works now through the current board.  Mr. Diamond and Mr. Gosman  are currently working on a facilities improvement plan.  I would carefully review the urgent areas of need and make decisions based on the facts and information. One Bond or several bonds over time, whatever is going to be best for our district to be fiscally responsible for not only our younger generations but also our senior citizens.

Common Core and State testing:

I would encourage our families and PTAs to be heard on the state level when it comes to their dissatisfaction with the Common Core.  I believe that we need to have standards but the implementation of the Common Core standards was flawed from the beginning.  As for tying the tests to teacher evaluations I also think that is unjust.  As an educator we are told to differentiate for the different needs and learning styles of our children and state testing is the complete opposite of that.  There are better ways than using one test to assess the skills of children and using the information we get from various methods of assessment to determine and remediate appropriately based on our students individual needs.

Christian Jauntig

If Elected I will put the time and effort into the district, to make sure we are working towards fixing these issues. Community involvement is very important. I feel that the community needs to be aware that the district is working towards fixing those issues. I also have some ideas that I think could bring more revenue into the district.

What is your opinion of the new Common Core Curriculum?

George Ballane

I believe that Common Core was poorly implemented.  The one-size-fits-all model does not work.  It will not work throughout the state for different districts.  I think it is unfair to evaluate a teacher through results of testing and not based on the growth of the student.

Tamara Bierker

Why were districts in New York mandated to test students on curriculum that had not been taught?  Many student have felt like failures because they did not recognize much of the material on the tests.  It is my goal to see a committee formed of all the stake holders in Clarkstown to lobby the Board of Regents and discuss how we can best service our own students during this difficult time.

Matthew Spool

Standards aren’t necessarily a bad thing.  There have been statewide standards in place for decades in the form of Regents exams.  That said, the Common Core standards leave much to be desired.  From the acceleration of subject matter to an inappropriate level at each grade to test questions that are not grade appropriate, saying that there are issues is probably an understatement.  Unfortunately, Common Core is a State Mandate (i.e. law) and the district needs to follow it until the State changes it.  That doesn’t mean we need to rest on our laurels.  We can work with our State legislators to lobby for change.  We can work with our fellow districts to lobby Albany for change.  Parents can opt their children out of the exam as a form of protest, as is already happening.

Zizette Deutsch

see above

Christian Jauntig

My stance on Common Core is that we were handed a curriculum and told to teach it. As you know it is very different than anything we have had before. I feel that it is stressful on the children as they are thrown into it as well and told to forget what they were taught before. I feel that it is frustrating, and takes the enjoyment out of learning, and creativity is gone. I think if Common core is going to be the path that we continue on we should think about implementation. Unfortunately we probably should have done a better job from the start. I think if you start with Kindergarten and work your way up, that eliminates some confusion for the students, as it will be “all” they know instead of like my cousin who has had 4 different curriculum taught to her in her 5 years of schooling.

Recently, many parents have decided to opt-out of the standards testing for grades 3-8.  What is your opinion on parents having their kids “refuse the tests”?

George Ballane

This is a decision that is up to the parents.  I believe strongly that parents need to do what is right for their child and I support them 100% in their decision.

Tamara Bierker

Every parent needs to evaluate the needs of their child and make this very difficult decision.  I am thankful that we live in a country where a parent has the right to make this decision!  If elected I will work with the other board members and as many state officials I can reach to force the Board of Regent to change the way state assessments are structured and used

Matthew Spool

I have two viewpoints on this. One side of me is the parent that says if these tests are truly not grade appropriate and they’re causing my child an undue amount of stress, then the parents should be able to opt their children out. This is a personal decision that each family must make on their own.

The other side of me is as a potential board member who must weigh the good of the district as well. The penalties for a district that falls below the 95% participation rate for 3 years are unclear. As of now, the State Department of Education has not yet reduced aid for non-participation. That said, there is nothing saying they can’t or won’t. Our district depends on state aid for over 15% of our budget. Any significant decrease in this would represent a significant blow to our district and would result in either the cutting of programs or the cutting of personnel, either one of which is a poor option.

My hope is that the significant outpouring of protest over the State Assessments will prompt the State to revise the Assessments, the participation requirements, and their link to teacher evaluations.

Zizette Deutsch

First and foremost it is a parent’s decision if they want to “op out” or “refuse the tests.”  I made the decision for my family based on a lot of research and situations I encountered along the way.  First as a parent but also as an educator I think that judging or determining a student and a teacher’s value on one test is unjust.  In today’s world of education we talk about how no two students learn the same and that we should differentiate, teach to their needs and the whole concept of standardized testing goes against that belief/mantra.  The test is one size fits all and our children are not one size fits all.  Some children excel in academics but fall apart during testing for various different reasons, is that a reason to punish the child and/or teacher?

I believe we all need to get involved and have our voices heard and put the educating of our children back into the hands of people who are in education, have done the research and who actually teach our children.

Parents need to have their voices heard not just on the local level but at the state level, that is where the mandates come from.

Christian Jauntig

 I feel that parents have every right to “refuse the test”. Every child is different, and if a parent feels their child is not up to taking it then they have every right to opt out.

Contact

George Ballane

http://www.voteballane.com

george@voteballane.com

Tamara Bierker

tbierker@aol.com  845-623-9133 

http://www.electbierker.com

Matthew Spool

mspoolccsd@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/SpoolforCCSDBOE

Zizette Deutsch

Zdeutsch01@gmail.com

Christian Jauntig

Facebook: Elect Christian Jauntig CCSD Board of Ed

http://christianjauntigforboe.weebly.com

christianjauntig@aol.com

845-551-8123

Wendy Adolff

  wadolff@ccsd.edu

Michael Aglialoro

mikeaglialoro@ccsd.edu

About the Author
  • Scott Walters

    I wish I were handed the same questionnaire for my run in Nanuet…