Questions for Clarkstown School Board Candidates

 

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The following questions were asked of the eight candidates running for Clarkstown School Board.  Two candidates did not respond – Phil Degatano and Jay Papp.

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) Contact the candidates?


Brief biography

Christian Jauntig
My name is Christian Jauntig and Clarkstown has always been an essential part of my life. 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. In June of this year, I will graduate from Clarkstown South High School. Next year I plan to attend Rockland Community College, giving me the opportunity to maintain my involvement with Clarkstown Schools. As said before CCSD has always been a very central part of my life. 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 2 Years
-Office Manager
*New York Southern Tier Quarter Horse Association
-Youth President 5+ years
-Show Manager 4 years
-Show Secretary 4 years
*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.

Sean Magee
I am 41 years old and have been a resident of Clarkstown my entire life, raised in the Hamlet of Congers. My wife and I are currently raising our 3 children here in Clarkstown. We grew up down the street from each other and have been married for 13 years. We have three beautiful children, two of which are in the Clarkstown Central School District. Like our parents who moved up to Clarkstown from the Bronx and Brooklyn in the late 60’s and early 70’s in hopes of a better life, our life’s goal is similar … to raise our children in Clarkstown with the hopes of giving them an even better life.

I attended St. Paul’s School in Valley Cottage and then graduated from St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, NJ. Upon graduating St. Joe’s in 1990, I acted upon my drive and desire to serve my country and others. I joined the United States Navy and served my time in the Persian Gulf on board the USS Thorn DD-988, a Spruance Destroyer. Upon receiving my Honorable Discharge from Active Duty in 1992, I began college and graduated in 1996 from the State University at Cortland with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy & International Relations.

After graduating Cortland, I joined Active International, a corporate trading company headquartered in Pearl River, NY. After a very successful 14 year career with Active, I joined Sherwood Trading Group in its infancy. I have been one the architects in building Sherwood into one of the leading corporate trading firms in industry today.

My business experience in sales, finance and marketing has given me the opportunity to learn how to manage large financial budgets, build collaboration, manage expectations, and make hard decisions while creating an environment internally and externally where people strive to work together for betterment of the whole.

Darin Diamond
I reside in New City with my wife, Deborah and our three children. All of our children attend Woodglen Elementary School (our oldest child is graduating this year and will be attending FFMS in the Fall).

I hold a MBA with a specialty in Executive Management from St. John’s University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Management with a concentration in Marketing from the University at Buffalo.

I have 18 years of professional business experience and have held various leadership and senior management positions in the areas of Finance, Operations and Marketing. I currently work for Asurion, where I lead client engagements and manage the product and operational execution of large scale inter-company programs.

As a School Board candidate, I bring to the table strong leadership and collaboration skills as well as significant experience in financial and operations management. My broad professional experience – and track record of success – will be helpful in addressing the challenges facing our District.

David Gosman
I’m a life long Clarkstown resident, and live in New City with Stacey, my wife of 12 years, and our two children. Community is very important to our family. Over the past few years, I’ve coached a few sports, volunteered at several school events and been active in the Clarkstown School District’s budget workshops and committees. I care greatly about both our community and our schools.

I attended Clarkstown schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. After graduation, I attended from SUNY Albany and earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and a Masters of Science degree in Computer Science. Throughout my five years at the university, I was a teaching assistant and volunteer tutor for computer science and math classes.

I’m in my tenth year as the Chief Executive Officer and co-owner of pcAmerica, a 60-person, Pearl River-based software company that provides point of sale solutions to retail stores and restaurants. We have several local customers and sell throughout the United States and Canada. Prior to becoming the CEO, I was the Lead Software Developer and Product Manager for our software products.

I’m fortunate to be able to work close to home, as it gives me the ability to attend my children’s school events and extracurricular activities. As an active community member, a graduate of Clarkstown schools and a parent of two young children enrolled in the schools, I care deeply about the future of our district. As a business owner, I have the experience and knowledge required to make informed, forward-thinking decisions.

Karen Policar
My name is Karen Policar and I have been a New City resident for 15 years. I have been attending Board of Education meetings for several years and have been a very active member of the PTA. Since my oldest son is graduating from Clarkstown North High School, I have first-hand experience of going through elementary, middle and high school within the Clarkstown District. My youngest son is in 4th grade at New City Elementary where I amcurrently the PTA President.

George Ballane
Professionally, I am the Director of Educational Technology at a High School in New Jersey. I have a BS in Computer Science, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA), and I am currently enrolled in a Doctor of Education program.


Why are you running for School Board?

Christian Jauntig
I am running for school board to maintain the quality of our district, and to make sure all students are offered every opportunity and beyond what I was offered in Clarkstown.

Sean Magee
I am a strong advocate for children’s education, citizenry, community, and leveling the taxpayers’ burden. I am running for School Board because I can channel my advocacy for education and my acumen for business solutions in terms of helping the board and administration become more unified towards the sound development of a strategic long-term plan for the Clarkstown district.

Darin Diamond
As a resident of the District, with three children in our schools and as a homeowner and taxpayer, I am invested. I value our public education and I feel it is important for me to be at the table helping to make the difficult decisions as we navigate through the challenges facing our district.

David Gosman
I grew up in Clarkstown, and live here with my wife and two children. The issues facing the district directly impact our family, our friends and the general community. I’ve been a pretty active participant at board meetings over the past year and recognize that we have several issues that need addressing, ranging from budget to buildings to curriculum. After a lot of consideration, I decided I wanted to dedicate the time and effort to try to guide the district forward. Clarkstown has an excellent reputation for education – we need to ensure that we fix our issues and set even higher goals, so our children get the best education possible to help prepare them for their future.

Karen Policar
As a homeowner, taxpayer, and mother, I have a vested interest in maintaining the quality education that Clarkstown provides while keeping taxes at a manageable level for the community.

George Ballane
I am running for the school board because, as an educator, I care about the stability of the students and how the decisions made by the board impact the students each day. I feel that I am the candidate that can “bridge the gap” between the business aspects of a school district and the educational aspects. Running a school district is very different than a business as there are children involved.


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

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

Sean Magee
Common Core
The safety issues in our facilities
NY State Tax Cap

Darin Diamond
Our school buildings and infrastructure are in desperate need of repairs.
We continue to operate at a budget deficit with an over reliance on dwindling reserves.
Our ability to increase revenue continues to be compressed by the State.

David Gosman
A budget with an unsustainable trajectory
The deterioration of our facilities (school buildings)
The implementation of the Common Core curriculum, and issues that surround it

Karen Policar
Budget cuts – particularly effecting childrens’ programs
Common Core – standardized testing
Redistricting – closing buildings

George Ballane
Finances
Facilities
Returning Clarkstown to the high ranking district it once was.


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

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.

Sean Magee
We have serious financial issues, safety issues, and state mandate issues. I would spearhead a transparent and collaborative dialogue with ALL stakeholders in the Clarkstown Central School District that leads to a strategic plan that speaks to all of these key issues.

Darin Diamond
As your School Board Trustee, I commit to:

– ​Drive a long-term strategy for the district – that includes capital improvements – and ensure that we execute upon it flawlessly and rigorously.

– Maintain maniacal focus on our financial discipline; ensuring our district is operating efficiently and our budget is balanced.

– Support lobbying efforts to eliminate unfunded state and federal mandates. If the state or federal government pass mandates to our community, they should also provide the necessary funding to support such mandates.

David Gosman
If elected, I would take an objective approach to every issue we face. The first step would be to absorb and understand the issue – gaining knowledge from my own research and input from knowledgeable parties. I would then collaborate with fellow board members and the relevant parties to solve the issue to the best of our ability.

1 – In regards to the unsustainable trajectory of the budget…I’d work with the board and the administration to identify smart cuts that would save us money while having minimal impact on our children and their education. I was part of the Community Budget Workshops hosted by the district a few months ago, and we highlighted several ideas – some difficult, and some relatively easy – that were used in the formation of the actual budget.

2 – It’s highly likely that we would have to pass a bond to repair our aging facilities. I’ve proposed a plan of how to approach the repair of our facilities. Our board just approved the 2014-15 budget that falls within the tax cap and secures a rebate for most New York State taxpayers. This rebate is also available in relation to our 2015-16 budget I propose that we spend the next 6 months obtaining updated estimates for the necessary repairs of our buildings. We then design a 2015-16 budget that includes the cuts necessary to stay within our tax cap, and approach the taxpayers with a bond to repair our schools, and a responsible budget that secures them a second consecutive rebate while showing them we are serious about being careful with their money. It’s as close to a win-win situation as we can get.

3 – The Common Core had a flawed implementation within our district…we can’t change history, but we can try to improve implementation in the future. I would work with the various parties (board, teachers, administration, parents, etc) to understand the challenges we face with the implementation of Common Core today, form a strategy for a better approach and and give firm direction to the Administration to execute on that approach. At the same time, I would encourage the public to lobby elected officials to restore local control of our curriculum and testing policies back to our local district – while a school district has the responsibility to ensure it is in compliance with mandates, I’m a fan of local autonomy and think we should push for it.

Karen Policar
If elected, I will work together with the community and my fellow Board members within the guidelines to find the best possible solutions to address these concerns. More specifically relating to budget cuts, I feel it is important to evaluate with community involvement and fellow Board members in order to develop a plan that keeps our District on the right track.

In regards to redistricting and closing buildings, I feel it is important to keep an open mind and have as much information as possible; such as the demographer’s report, transportation studies and as I become more informed of all the facts that would help make the best decision for our children.

George Ballane
I am a big believer in planning. A long term strategic plan that includes finances, facilities, education, technology, and more is necessary for this district. That plan will guide this district into the future on a successful path to financial solvency, repaired facilities, and the highest quality education possible.


What is your opinion of the new Common Core Curriculum?

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 then 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 curriculum and she is only in 4th grade.

Sean Magee
I believe that there are key elements of the Common Core Curriculum that foster necessary critical thinking skills. However, the rushed and reckless implementation of the new standards is nothing short of a disaster.

Darin Diamond
I am not opposed to the general concept of Common Core, however, its implementation was rushed resulting in flawed and confusing materials and frustrated students, parents and educators. Our District and State need to make adjustments in order to effectively implement the Common Core and reduce confusion surrounding the curriculum. I also do not believe in “one size fits all” standards. We need to further adjust the implementation with a focus on improvements for special education students and English language learners.

David Gosman
A lot of people have been asking my opinion on Common Core. Here are some thoughts:

*** As long as a state requirement is in place, it is the responsibility of a board member to support the Superintendent and the district to fulfill the requirement. Even when they don’t like the requirement, and even while they make efforts to fight the requirement, a board member must provide support. In my opinion, you do not want a board member that will not take their responsibilities seriously.

*** As far as I am aware, if a board member does not agree with the mandate, they do have the right to oppose it outside of board activities – in my opinion this should be a united front with like-minded parents, teachers, elected officials and other concerned members of the community. In my opinion, this should be a transparent action.

*** A board can drive direction and vision. A superintendent (and his or her team) should provide vision and execution.
Now some opinions. There is always more to learn, but you’ll get a feel for my general perspective on Common Core.

*** Our current board DID opt out of the race-to-the-top funding, and also encouraged our Superintendent to write a letter challenging InBloom. These were largely symbolic (and the board knew that) but I agreed with their direction on that matter.

*** Assessments\testing. As I stated during the Candidates Forum, I do not think the Common Core testing is an appropriate tactic for measuring our students, nor do I think it is an appropriate tactic to evaluate our teachers. I’ve heard some alternate suggestions, such as the concept of “sampling”, but am still learning what that entails – as a community, we should lobby to the state level for an alternative, and we have some real dedicated people to do that.

*** Data sharing. At a board meeting a few months ago, I publicly spoke against the state requirement to share data with the now-defunct InBloom agency My belief is that should only have been allowed if the parent opted-in. As we know, this is now off the table. I don’t know the details of the possible future plans to store some data within BOCES, so I can’t yet offer an informed view of that aspect.

*** Unfunded mandates. I’m against state or federal unfunded mandates. Common Core has some aspects that are not funded (not sure which are or aren’t, but we have some very informed Common Core people on this thread that would possibly know.) An “unfunded mandate” is a policy that is forced upon our district that will cost us money to implement, but funding is not included along with it. This does not necessarily mean the requirements within those mandates is bad…but it’s my belief that we should be able to decide locally what we want to implement, and how we want to implement it. If you look at the March 21 posting on my Facebook wall you will see where I provided the public some information on a bill that bans unfunded mandates within New York State.

*** Sit and stare. I strongly disagree with the ‘Sit and Stare’ policy. Sit and read, which our district adopted (thanks to the action of many in our district) is a better compromise.

*** Implementation. From what I have seen\read, it seems like the decision to roll this in to all grades at once (as opposed to a gradual roll-out starting at Kindergarten or 1st, and progressing forward a year at a time) was a really bad decision.

*** Curriculum. Despite all of the above, not every aspect of the curriculum is bad. I’m not an expert on all aspects of the curriculum (although have experienced a limited amount with my kids’ homework), but it’s never a bad thing to explore new ways to teach. At times, it’s appropriate to raise the bar with more rigorous (but appropriate) education. As stated above, I would much prefer to see this done locally, and with the input of all parties involved – driven by the Superintendent.

Karen Policar
I will strive to be an advocate of not “teaching to the test”. Since the testing (standardized/common core) is mandated by the state, it is important that we work together as a community to strongly encourage our elected officials that changes need to be made without penalties to any district. If common core continues, I feel that additional assessment of these tests should be re-evaluated to make sure they are properly structured to the subject matter that all students are learning.

George Ballane
Common Core is a failed attempt at Education Reform. A “one size fits all” model does not work nationwide and will not work in NY State. I feel that the testing is unfair for teachers and students on many levels. Finally, I feel that the implementation was much too quick to allow students and teachers to plan and learn the new standards well enough.


Contact the candidates?

Christian Jauntig
Facebook
Website: http://christianjauntigforboe.weebly.com
Email: christianjauntig@aol.com

Sean Magee
Email: Sean_Magee@outlook.com

Darin Diamond
Facebook
Website: http://www.DiamondforBOE.com
Email: DiamondforBOE@gmail.com

David Gosman
Facebook
Website: http://www.DavidGosman.com
Email: dgosman@gmail.com

Karen Policar
Website: http://karenpolicar.weebly.com
Email: kaypo9@verizon.net

George Ballane
Facebook
Website: http://www.voteballane.com
Email: george@voteballane.com

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