Q&A with school board candidates from the Canandaigua City School District

Editor’s Note: Candidates’ answers were not edited or modified in any way. They were published, as received, by the newsroom. Candidates were informed prior to answering the questions that all answers would be published unedited.

Why are you running for school board?

KEVIN COLLEA:

My name is Kevin Collea. I have been a part of the Canandaigua community and have had the pleasure of working with the public here for 40 years.  Now it is time to continue serving the community as a school board member. I will continue to provide my best with the trust and the faith that the community has allowed me to return to them.

JULIANNE MILLER:

Serving on the school board is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time (I first ran for a seat on the school board as the “student representative” when I was a senior in high school!).  My interest in education – in the role it plays in our communities and in the lives of young people, and in the people and policies that shape and enrich it – has only deepened over time, and it is the reason I wish to serve on the Canandaigua City School District Board of Education.  A school district matters not only to the families it serves, but to the community it shapes.  As a parent of children in the district, the quality and character of the educational experience in Canandaigua is of the utmost importance to me.  But all of us – parents, students, citizens – have a deep interest in creating a school system and a community that value and nurture thoughtfulness, kindness, civic responsibility, open-mindedness, and a commitment to growth. 

As a school district, we currently face unprecedented challenges – budgetary, curricular, and communal.  We will need to think creatively and, in some cases, make difficult decisions about how to move forward in a time of fiscal and structural uncertainty.  While these challenges are daunting, I want to be a part of helping our school system navigate this together, emerging even stronger as a district and a community.  If anything, I am even more motivated to serve our community in this moment.

Finances & Funding

How should the district approach a possible budget gap of 10-20%?

KEVIN COLLEA:

Education for students ranks high on the list of needs. Decisions made would reflect the needs of both students and staff.  Measures such as cost reductions through budget efficiencies will be taken into consideration while keeping the public informed. These decisions will be made with the goal of protecting the social and emotional needs of students, while also preparing them for their future. 

JULIANNE MILLER:

As a member of the Board of Education, my job will be to work collaboratively with the other members of the Board and with the professional leadership of our district to make thoughtful choices about the budget moving forward.  Those decisions must be guided by the core principles that are at the heart of who we are as a district.  We must do our best to prioritize student experience and to minimize the ways in which the student program is directly impacted by budget cuts.  We must value all of the children of our district, keeping in mind the different needs and experiences students have at different points in their educational journeys.  And we must honor and value the work done across our district by the professionals who engage with our children every day.  We must also act with clear deliberation and transparency, engaging with stakeholders across our district throughout the process.

We must approach this situation with a long-term point of view; as has been suggested by the district leadership team, we cannot think of this as a one-year situation. We need to take a longer view, considering how to take steps over a period of years to make sure that our core values remain in place, and that over time any cuts are spread out so that no single age group, group of students, or department is unfairly disadvantaged.

Are there any areas you can vow not to cut if elected? 

KEVIN COLLEA:

As a school board member, I cannot promise that I will always vote for or against any one area.  What I can promise is that I will go into every meeting with an open mind, with the best interests of students and staff in mind.  I will work with the rest of the school board to make decisions that prepare our children to be successful, well rounded learners.

JULIANNE MILLER:

The budget of the school district is quite complex, made up of multiple interdependent parts, so I can’t – and shouldn’t – make promises about specific areas without working collaboratively alongside colleagues on the Board and on the district leadership team.  We are lucky in Canandaigua to have a team that has a positive working relationship, and I want to respect and enrich that process.  The Board is also lucky to have the opportunity to learn from those who live this work every day, and to benefit from their experience and expertise.  That said, when difficult decisions have to be made, we must prioritize our core academic mission.  We must make sure that our students still have the resources they need to learn – and that our staff have the resources they need to teach – the core academic skills required (and tested) by the state and that will allow them to move forward and continue to grow.  We must also make any necessary cuts with an eye toward equity, valuing the needs of all students and taking care not to disadvantage any one group or one school.  If we prioritize this central mission, our students will be ready to take advantage of the wealth of other opportunities that Canandaigua offers as they become available.

What type of programs or services would you be willing to cut in order to balance the budget? 

KEVIN COLLEA:

As a school board member, I cannot promise that I will always vote for or against any one area.  What I can promise is that I will go into every meeting with an open mind, with the best interests of students and staff in mind.  I will work with the rest of the school board to make decisions that prepare our children to be successful, well rounded learners.

JULIANNE MILLER:

This again must be done collaboratively, with an eye towards our core values as a district, and with respect for the expertise of district leadership.  We may need to reduce spending on elements of our educational program that are outside of the core academic mission. This is not to say that they are not essential, or are not key components of our mission, for they are.  One of the things that makes our district so special is the breadth of opportunities – co-curricular, not “extra” curricular – that are available to our children.  But we may need to temporarily reduce spending in some of these areas.  As a Board, we would need to work collaboratively with each other and with the district leadership team to place these decisions into a multi-year context and minimize long term impact on any particular program.   We will also need to think creatively to minimize the impact on students, potentially working in collaboration with other districts to take advantage of opportunities to reduce costs and increase the availability of opportunities to our students.

The AFT issued guidelines indicating that class sizes should be 12-15 students. While making class sizes that small might not be possible in every district – where does shrinking class size rank in your priorities given the importance of social distancing?

KEVIN COLLEA:

Given the crisis at hand with the Covid-19 pandemic, taking precautionary measures to protect the students and staff is of high importance.  I do believe getting the students back in the classroom is essential for them to learn, as well as for socialization needs, a safe environment, and providing them with meals.  As a district, there are certain guidelines that will need to be followed mandated by New York State.  The board and school professionals working with the state will come together to make social distancing a priority, and this may very well include smaller classroom sizes.

JULIANNE MILLER:

As a school district, the health and safety of everyone who works and learns (and visits) in our buildings must be our top priority.  Every person – student, family member, teacher, staff member, administrator – deserves to know that we value them as individuals and that we know they are understandably concerned about the family members they go home to every day.  Our educators – faculty, administrators, and staff – are a huge part of what makes the Canandaigua City School District the special place that it is. 

Social distancing and the smaller class sizes that may go along with it must be part of a comprehensive look at how we come back together as a district community.  We must make decisions about not only class size and structure, but every aspect of the school day, from the bus ride to lunch to afterschool activities and everything in between, in a way that is mindful of the guidance of state and local officials, medical experts, and the input of our administrative and educational teams – and in a way that puts the well-being of the people of our district at the top of our priorities. Answers about social distancing must be explored in the context of every step we need to take to safeguard health and safety.

How do you propose making the district more inclusive for all students amid potential budget cuts and a global pandemic?

KEVIN COLLEA:

During this time, with potential budget cuts and the global pandemic, there may be decisions that need to be made to support budget cuts. It is important to come together as a community and to see that the needs of students and staff are met. The school board and public need to have open and continuous communication.  We must all work together to continue to provide the outstanding education for the students that the City of Canandaigua School District is known for.

JULIANNE MILLER:

Some aspects of inclusivity clearly have a financial cost, especially when we consider accessibility and the provision of support services.  We will need to grapple with that as a district as we must (legally and ethically) meet student needs.  All elements of a Canandaigua education must remain accessible to every student, regardless of need.  It is equally true that there is much we can do in the area of inclusivity (cultural and otherwise) that is budget neutral. The choices we make around curriculum and communication shape an inclusive community.  Inclusivity and cultural literacy should be top priorities for us as a district in part because we believe in the inherent dignity of each human being, and celebrate the value that each of us, with our different cultures, lived experiences, and backgrounds, brings to the community we build together.  Cultural inclusivity should also be a top priority for us because our students will graduate from CA and enter an increasingly diverse world. We must give them the skills and knowledge they need to interact with peers from different backgrounds. This can be accomplished through careful choices about the books they read, the topics we discuss, and the way we emphasize empathy and an understanding of other people’s views and experiences.  And we now have the ability – because of what we have had to learn during this pandemic – to use the technological tools increasingly at our disposal to connect students to people, cultures, places, and experiences that they do not regularly encounter.


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