Q&A with school board candidates from the Geneva 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?

FRED BROCKWAY:

I am running for a position on the Geneva B of ED to invite fellow members to consider the “learning – model of the child” in forming policy decisions.  The Wisdom of Elders that once guided community affairs is no longer available but the “Child Wisdom” of each new generation is always available.  Sound adult decisions that flow from this vibrant “Child First” mind-set makes all the difference.   

SAM CAPPIELLO:

The unique challenges of the current pandemic and the recent appointment of a new superintendent, make this moment an especially critical one for Geneva’s schools. I think it is important to have individuals on our school board who are invested in our community and also have a good understanding of teaching and learning and how our public schools work. I have worked in public and private school classrooms from kindergarten through college. I am now an administrator in a Deaf Education and Vision department which serves nearly 200 students in more than a dozen school districts across several counties. My staff serve students who are deaf, hard of hearing, visually impaired, on the Autism spectrum, and/or have multiple cognitive and physical disabilities. I feel my broad range of experience in the field of education and my familiarity with special education in particular would be valuable to our district leadership.

SHELLEY HIGGINS-CORBET:

I am excited to see so many community members interested in school district leadership. As a parent who has been advocating for more family engagement at all levels of school leadership, it is an encouraging signal that others recognize the need for more meaningful input from a diversity of voices. Our children are consumers of the legally guaranteed educational services our district provides. Family involvement in such a formative, influential institution is so critical to our students’ success. I am happy to lend my energy wherever I can be most effective.

SARAH CUPELLI:

I am running for school board because I feel that I would be a strong voice for students, families, teachers and staff due to my experiences. I am a long-time resident of Geneva and graduate of Geneva High School. My children have attended Geneva City Schools and I have been an active participant in their education and our community. I have been active in education for the last 18 years. My experiences as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent will allow me to be a collaborative and knowledgeable board member.

MICHAEL ELLIS:

I have lived in Geneva for the last 8 years, and I am completing my first full term with the GCSD Board of Education.  I have come to love this community and I feel a strong sense of pride in what the community and the district have been able to do for our students.  The district has worked diligently to address the graduation rate and we are making gains to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed; there is still progress that we need to focus on with the future in mind.  While addressing the graduation rates, and the equity – the district has also been able to ensure that our students have access to programs and resources that are not found in other districts.  We stand apart from other districts with these programs, dual language, UPK, extracurricular activities (master minds, sports, musical programs, aviation club, and ag program to name a few).  Other districts do not have the resources that Geneva has, but they also do not have some of the hurdles.  We have a high percentage of students (about 60%) who qualify for free and reduced lunch, over the years we have received many students who are homeless from outside of Geneva, and we have a high costs for our students with disabilities.  We manage to ensure that each student has equitable access to program and educational opportunity.

BRIAN FINNERTY:

Editor’s Note: Brian Finnerty did not submit answers before the deadline, nor did he do so after an extension was granted. 

ANTONIO GOMEZ:

A. IN AM A PARENT OF THREE GIRLS, ONE ITS ALREADY GRADUATED FROM F.L.C.C. WITH THE DEGREE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE

MY MIDDLE HILD EVELYNE ITS IN 7Th GRADE IN MIDDLE SCHOOL GENEVA

MY YOUNGER CHILD HADASSA IS IN SIXTH GRADE MIDDLE SCHOOL GENEVA 

B. I WANT TO CONTINUE WHAT I STARTED IN 2019 WHEN I RAN FOR CITY COUNCIL WARD-1 DISTRICT-1 AND IS TO SERVE MY COMMUNITY WHICH I CALL HOME AND LOVE. 

C. I CAN BRING A POSITIVE IMPACT FOR THE GENEVA CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, BECAUSE I KNOWTHE DIFFERENT CULTURES WITHIN THE CITY. I TRULY HAVE A GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF OUR DIVERSE COMMUNITY THE INTEGRATE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT. 

D. I WANT THE LATINO COMMUNITY PARENTS TO BE PART OF THE DECISION MAKING WITHIN THE SCHOOL DISTRICT AND I CAN BE A BRIDGE SO PARENTS CAN BE ENGAGE. 

E. TO BRING FRESH IDEAS TO THE BOARD, FOR I AM READY TO SERVE AND LIKE TO GET THINGSDONE. I HAVE A TOOL BOX OF EXPERIENCE MANAGING AND SUPERVISING STAFF ON LOCAL FARMS, I WAS ALSO IN CHARGE WITH FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES.  I AM A RELATIONSHIP BUILDER AS THIS HELPS IMMENSELY OF GETTING THINGS DONE. 

LISA PIETROCARLO:

I am running for school board because Geneva is a good community that I am proud to be a part of. Our schools have dedicated teachers and staff working hard for our children. We need to support their efforts. As the district hires a new superintendent, I am interested in being part of the team that maps out the future of our schools. Our district needs leadership we can believe in.

RJ RAPOZA:

I am running for school board for many reasons but there are three that are particularly salient right now. [1] The current situation created by the pandemic will result in budget challenges that will require creative problem-solving and fresh eyes to mitigate. [2] While GSCD has taken impressive strides to reach all students, I feel like there is more work to be done to help marginalized students break free from the challenges created by structural obstacles that still exist in our educational system. [3] I have worked with students from 2nd grade to career entry and I feel I can offer a unique perspective on student development.

FUNDING & FINANCES

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

FRED BROCKWAY:

My approach to the likelihood of budget cuts is to optimize community engagement.  The “Community School Initiative” which is already impacting students’ health and wellbeing as well as that of school families is an untapped resource.   A well-organized core of volunteers that match talents with student needs is the workforce of the Community School Initiative.   The likelihood of 100% of current staff returning may be in question.  I suspect the the additional stress of “social distancing and mandated professional protocol” may provide some to consider resigning/retiring.  Perhaps attrition will impact budgetary matters.

SAM CAPPIELLO:

This is a difficult question. I cannot say with confidence how the district should approach a possible budget gap. We don’t yet know the full impact of the pandemic or the level of support the state will receive from the federal government. I do know that adjusting for budget shortfalls will not be an easy task. I would give priority to the primary business of education: to teachers, to rigorous programming, to arts education, and to our athletic programs — all of the things that make our public schools a solid foundation for a well-rounded, educated citizenry.

SHELLEY HIGGINS-CORBET:

Clearly, a twenty percent budget gap is very difficult to surmount, especially as there is very little clear guidance from the state regarding the actual numbers. Nearly a decade ago, when foundation aid was drastically cut, many districts resorted to laying off teachers and support staff; Others were able to re-open contract negotiations in an effort to retain personnel, but still cut some services and course offerings. Our current financial situation will require more creative maneuverings to offset the lack of funding, while still maintaining the level of education and support to which our students have a right. We as a community and school district must plan for ever more difficult times ahead as the final fallout from this crisis is as yet largely unknown. The responsible, realistic focus must always be on equitable, quality instruction in core-required areas.

SARAH CUPELLI:

I would expect the district to be looking at multiple scenarios, at various percentages of loss, and options with regard to the possible budget shortfall. Completing a needs assessment and identifying the most critical components of their programming and areas where they could cut back with minimal impact to the educational experience of a student.

MICHAEL ELLIS:

This is an unusual year for all school districts throughout the nation.  Our plight is not significantly different than that of other districts throughout NYS.  We were initially coming in with a significant shortfall because the anticipated costs for special education were up dramatically, and with the governors original budget proposal we were in a pinch.  I do not believe that this is the only year that we will need to worry about – if the pandemic financial issues persist and we do not receive assistance from Washington, this could be a 5 year process.  We are possibly facing at least 3 difficult years financially, and the financial issues are not of the districts making or within our control.  The board needs to be responsive to the community, while trying to maintain as much program as possible.  Our cost drivers have shifted and we are now looking at additional costs for COVID-19 safety, distance learning, all amid a statewide and national budget shortfall.  Hopefully in 5 years we will be able to rebuild and add in the things that we will be forced to set aside during the budget shortfall years.

BRIAN FINNERTY:

Editor’s Note: Brian Finnerty did not submit answers before the deadline, nor did he do so after an extension was granted. 

ANTONIO GOMEZ:

FIRST I WOULD LIKE TO LOOK IT ALL THE EXPENDITURES FROM PASS TWO YEARS AT LEAST TO MAKE ANY DETERMINATION.

LISA PIETROCARLO:

It’s disappointing that our schools will be hit, once again, with less funding. Attempting to provide quality programs with less financial support.  After weeks of online learning, I believe the community recognizes the challenges educators face on a daily basis. I am hopeful that teachers will be appreciated now more than ever. With financial concerns, the first place to look are those items that will have the least impact on students – supplies, equipment, travel, conferences.  We are in small community where the school is a hub of activity. Sporting events, theater, music. To lose the programs that make school memorable and enjoyable would be detrimental.

RJ RAPOZA:

This is a difficult question to answer in the abstract but I feel there are few principles to keep at the forefront of ANY budget development process.

  • Make student-centered decisions. Budget decisions should be based on what is best for children, not adults. In many cases, there is pressure to develop a budget that puts the interests of adult stakeholders above the interests of students. That priority should be reversed.
  • Invest in teachers. No matter how bad the budget gets we should never give up on investing in our teachers. They are the backbone of your school, and without their continued help and hard work, your students will never succeed. Teachers are going to need professional development to be most effective in this new environment.
  • Use technology to find efficiencies. This could be on the administrative-side as well as the curriculum-side. Just as we are doing in Higher Ed. right now, there are likely lessons learned from this 100% online experiment that we can leverage into real savings moving forward. For example, are there processes that are labor and paper intensive that could be streamlined or even automated? Are there elements of the curriculum that worked well in an online environment that could be explored further?
  • Democratize the budget development process. Every effort needs to be made to remove the barriers to participate in the budget planning process. Meetings need to be help in multiple formats on varying days and times, for example. And when the inevitable comment arises saying “We tried that and no one comes” then we need to ask back “why do you think that is?”

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

FRED BROCKWAY:

My approach to the likelihood of budget cuts is to optimize community engagement.  The “Community School Initiative” which is already impacting students’ health and wellbeing as well as that of school families is an untapped resource.   A well-organized core of volunteers that match talents with student needs is the workforce of the Community School Initiative.   The likelihood of 100% of current staff returning may be in question.  I suspect the the additional stress of “social distancing and mandated professional protocol” may provide some to consider resigning/retiring.  Perhaps attrition will impact budgetary matters.

SAM CAPPIELLO:

“It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” – Ecclesiastes 5:5. I feel it would be unwise to promise anything until I am working with the my fellow board members to find solutions using all the information and resources at our disposal. The only assurance I can make now is that I will do my best to find reasonable, equitable, and practicable solutions to the challenges before us. I hope to be accessible to all stakeholders – students, parents, teachers – and would seek their input on important issues.

SHELLEY HIGGINS-CORBET:

Our district, though there have been improvements to be sure, still produces less-than-desirable outcomes for higher risk students. As a result, entire groups of our student population continue to be left behind. Continuing to strive toward narrowing this tragic achievement gap is absolutely necessary for the lives of our students and the health of the community. Therefore, I would oppose any staff reductions in the areas of Special Education, Academic Intervention Services, and support for English Language Learners.

SARAH CUPELLI:

With regard to areas I would vow to keep in the budget or would cut if elected that is a difficult question. As a board our role is to ask questions and approve an over-all budget. The school district’s role is to plan from that budget and identify how they will get there. So, I cannot promise to cut or not cut something specific as that wouldn’t be my role. I can promise to ask questions and to advocate to keep programs to ensure we have an effective and rigorous instructional program for students and still offers unique, enriching opportunities. I would also promise to ask questions and advocate to ensure decisions are fiscally responsible and in the best interest of all students.

MICHAEL ELLIS:

As an experienced board member having 11 years total as a board member of a school district and 6 years as a WFL BOCES board member – I have learned that it is difficult under good circumstances to vow not to cut, but under the pandemic financial crisis that we are in – I know that we are in an even more unpredictable situation.  Albany has declared that the budget proposal that they approved has the likelihood of being modified at least 3 times between now and the end of the new school year.  During the last recession school boards were forced to cut program because Albany recalled funding in December (1 time); we are facing 3 potential dates when the state may call back funding that they have already approved.  This may unfortunately force districts to make cuts in program.  As a local entity we cannot always pick and choose what cuts are made, this is because Albany and Washington have created mandates that we must provide to students, whether those mandates meet the needs of the local district or not.  Ideally I would not want to cut any program because what has been built in Geneva has been leading us to a place where all students succeed.  

BRIAN FINNERTY:

Editor’s Note: Brian Finnerty did not submit answers before the deadline, nor did he do so after an extension was granted. 

ANTONIO GOMEZ:

I WOULD GROUP ANSWERS AND STATE THEM IN ORDER TO MAKE A GOOD JUDGMENT, I WOULDHAVE TO SEE WHAT CUTS WE EXPECT TO SEE COMING FROM THE STATE. IN ORDETO THAT I WOULD NEED INPUT FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT AND THE BUSINESS OFFICE. 

LISA PIETROCARLO:

It’s disappointing that our schools will be hit, once again, with less funding. Attempting to provide quality programs with less financial support.  After weeks of online learning, I believe the community recognizes the challenges educators face on a daily basis. I am hopeful that teachers will be appreciated now more than ever. With financial concerns, the first place to look are those items that will have the least impact on students – supplies, equipment, travel, conferences.  We are in small community where the school is a hub of activity. Sporting events, theater, music. To lose the programs that make school memorable and enjoyable would be detrimental.

RJ RAPOZA:

This question is a bit of a trap since I am not privy to deep details and scope of the current budget status. IN GENERAL, I am committed to protecting programs that support the arts. These are often the reason that at-risk students stay engaged with schools. During the last financial downturn in 2008-2009, I watched too many schools gut their arts programs that have only now started to get close to their previous status. It’s hard to imagine that almost every co-curricular program will see cuts but I will work hard to approach that creatively and equitably (see below).

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

FRED BROCKWAY:

My approach to the likelihood of budget cuts is to optimize community engagement.  The “Community School Initiative” which is already impacting students’ health and wellbeing as well as that of school families is an untapped resource.   A well-organized core of volunteers that match talents with student needs is the workforce of the Community School Initiative.   The likelihood of 100% of current staff returning may be in question.  I suspect the the additional stress of “social distancing and mandated professional protocol” may provide some to consider resigning/retiring.  Perhaps attrition will impact budgetary matters.

SAM CAPPIELLO:

“It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” – Ecclesiastes 5:5. I feel it would be unwise to promise anything until I am working with the my fellow board members to find solutions using all the information and resources at our disposal. The only assurance I can make now is that I will do my best to find reasonable, equitable, and practicable solutions to the challenges before us. I hope to be accessible to all stakeholders – students, parents, teachers – and would seek their input on important issues.

SHELLEY HIGGINS-CORBET:

At this juncture it would be ill-advised to propose specific budget cuts, because we have no real clarity regarding the aggregate amount that would be necessary to reduce. A responsible course is for the district to be prepared to act quickly when required. In furtherance of this, building leaders and department heads could work with student and parent committees to establish specific and realistic lists of potential reduction items. If and when percentage cuts become inevitable, these lists would provide a workable template.

SARAH CUPELLI:

With regard to areas I would vow to keep in the budget or would cut if elected that is a difficult question. As a board our role is to ask questions and approve an over-all budget. The school district’s role is to plan from that budget and identify how they will get there. So, I cannot promise to cut or not cut something specific as that wouldn’t be my role. I can promise to ask questions and to advocate to keep programs to ensure we have an effective and rigorous instructional program for students and still offers unique, enriching opportunities. I would also promise to ask questions and advocate to ensure decisions are fiscally responsible and in the best interest of all students.

MICHAEL ELLIS:

Unfortunately the programs that will likely be cut are the ones that we want for our students and our community.  The programs that may be effected are, as I said earlier, the non-mandated programs.  It will be a shame if any of these programs need to be cut.  Extracurricular activities, library services to the elementary buildings, APP classes, dual language, all of the programs that have been built and make Geneva unique and the envy of other districts.  These may be the areas that we have to look at because these are non-mandated programs.  I hope that the financial crisis that I fear is here to stay for several years will not be as bad as it is being predicted, but if it is we will need our community, parents, students, faculty and staff to have a strong voice with our legislators in Albany and Washington to advocate and help us save the programs that make Geneva great.  I hope that you will all join me in this cause. 

BRIAN FINNERTY:

Editor’s Note: Brian Finnerty did not submit answers before the deadline, nor did he do so after an extension was granted. 

ANTONIO GOMEZ:

MAINTAIN A QUALITY EDUCATION FOR ALL, AND NOT REDUCE TEACHERS UNTIL THE CHILDREN GOING TO OUR SCHOOL ARE REDUCE. ITS HARD TO CUT STAFF IF THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN COMING INTO THE SCHOOL ARE THE SAME AS LAST YEAR.

LISA PIETROCARLO:

It’s disappointing that our schools will be hit, once again, with less funding. Attempting to provide quality programs with less financial support.  After weeks of online learning, I believe the community recognizes the challenges educators face on a daily basis. I am hopeful that teachers will be appreciated now more than ever. With financial concerns, the first place to look are those items that will have the least impact on students – supplies, equipment, travel, conferences.  We are in small community where the school is a hub of activity. Sporting events, theater, music. To lose the programs that make school memorable and enjoyable would be detrimental.

RJ RAPOZA:

This question is an even BIGGER trap but I appreciate the need to ask it. My hope would be that there wouldn’t be a need to cut entire programs and services completely. Rather, I would want to explore cost-saving measures within different programs. Are there expenses that can be delayed? Are there community collaborations possible to share costs? Are there regional solutions that could be leveraged with the help of BOCES? All programs should be examined through the lens of the mission, strategic goals, and student learning outcomes. Broadly speaking, we will need to look at ALL programs that are not required or mandated. The current situation is unlike your “garden variety” budget crisis for many reasons and one of those is the social distancing element. If certain types of events cannot be held safely, then the costs for those could be re-distributed to provide one-time, bridge funding for a program in jeopardy. The transparency and equity of that review will be essential because no one likes to see “their thing” get cut. Whether it be athletic events, musical performances, or academic competitions; their will likely be some small pockets of savings to chip away at the deficit. Lastly, I think that often teachers aren’t given enough credit in this regard. I would want to solicit their feedback as to what they could delay or do without in the short and long term.

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?

FRED BROCKWAY:

The shrinking of class size provides an opportunity to address the various learning styles of groups of students. The newly developed remote teaching model may match the learning style of some students.  The question is: Are there teachers who are willing and comfortable doing both?. The integration of some “Remote-Learning” and traditional class-room context may offer a more efficient solution. 

SAM CAPPIELLO:

Our understanding of the coronavirus is still limited. We gain new insights each day some of which contradict what we thought we knew the day before. I expect the parameters for social distancing and safety in schools will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and months. Guidance concerning class sizes has been issued by the CDC and recommends hybrid virtual and in-person class structuring and staggered/rotated scheduling to accommodate smaller class sizes. Should decisions about how to enact social distancing in schools fall to local school boards — and I don’t expect they will — I would work to ensure Geneva Schools adopt the best available, scientifically sound protocols. In every case, I would encourage us to err on the side of caution when planning for the safety of our students and staff.

SHELLEY HIGGINS-CORBET:

Ample research in the past several years has shown time and again that reducing class size to less than twenty students helps to reduce the achievement gap, especially in higher poverty districts. Smaller classes also aid in teacher effectiveness and teacher retention. In an atmosphere of concern surrounding social distancing, it seems that there is yet another solid reason to establish and maintain smaller class sizes wherever possible, but especially at the lower grade levels when the achievement gap begins.

SARAH CUPELLI:

Class size has always been a focus in Geneva, and many districts, when discussing providing the best educational program possible. This of course is now at the forefront due to social distancing and guidance being given by the CDC and State level.  I believe this is something to consider when looking at the budget not only for social distancing but also due to the amount of time lost from this current school year and a widening gap that will need to be closed for many students. Class size will be critical in being able target gaps and personalize for students to help to accelerate their learning as the district plans for reopening.

MICHAEL ELLIS:

I am not the educational expert – I am a concerned community member in Geneva.  I expect that our administrators, faculty, and staff can help us realize what we need to do to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and community.  This pandemic has created a rapid pace of learning for educators to understand how best to ensure that students receive quality and equitable education.  This is proving to be daunting for our classroom faculty – some of whom are putting in 10-14 hour days trying to navigate the distance learning.  If things continue as they are I am hopeful that we will have some hybrid version where students have reduced class size to ensure safe social distancing for the classroom.  We will need to address transportation costs also as not all students have the ability to be dropped off at school by a parent.  We will also need enhanced resources for distance learning for the days or times when they are not physically in the classroom.  I do not pretend to have the answer, but rather I will listen to the educators and advocate for what they need to fulfill our obligation to educate every student in Geneva.

BRIAN FINNERTY:

Editor’s Note: Brian Finnerty did not submit answers before the deadline, nor did he do so after an extension was granted. 

ANTONIO GOMEZ:

IT WILL BE IMPORTANT FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING IN THE FUTURE THAT IS TRUE FOR SURE. I WOULD REQUEST FROM STAFF THEIR IDEAS AND SUGGESTIONS AFTER RECEIVING THOSE IT WOULD BE NECESSARY TO HAVE A WORKSHOP WITH THE REST OF THE BOARD TO FIGURE OUT WHICH OPTION WOULD WORK. 

LISA PIETROCARLO:

If you are going to social distance, the need to reduce the number of students present in small classrooms is needed.  Once the parameters are given for schools to reopen, leaders can address the concern and the design of how that would happen.

RJ RAPOZA:

I think that social distancing inside of classrooms is probably one of the most difficult logistical challenges to overcome because there are so many variables. On the one hand, years of research has shown that smaller class sizes have a direct, positive impact on student success. At the same time, since classes are certainly well above 15 students in most cases, we will need to think creatively how to reduce density during the school day. Since we are in uncharted territory, there aren’t many research-based strategies to look to. Based on the current CDC guidance, as well as research starting to emerge, I think we should explore a “Hybrid Models” (also called “Hyflex”) in which most students spend about half their time in class and half learning at home. Of course, this idea leads to even more questions about how that rotation could work. Some are planning a day-to-day rotation (eg. odd/even days) while others are looking at weekly rotations. Regardless of the rotation cycle, we will need to consider how we can assist with childcare needs for parents who need it. There are other elements of the CDC guidelines that will require changes to current standard operating procedures for things like passing times in the hallways, eating/serving lunch, and even building arrival/departure.

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

FRED BROCKWAY:

The visit of the coronavirus is the ready-made environment for inclusiveness.  Once we internalize the COVED -19 message: “collaboration is all-inclusive”.  Inclusiveness is a mind-set and each individual has the capacity to make such a choice.  As a member of the school board I promise not to dismiss others’ ideas, rather to listen actively with the question: How can I make these ideas fit with mine? 

SAM CAPPIELLO:

In the midst of a global pandemic, I believe an inclusive district should prioritize equity and access in all facets of its educational program. To me, this includes unencumbered access to the technology used in remote learning, access to free wireless internet, bilingual news updates for families, and continuation of meal programs. Measures ensuring the school community’s health and safety include COVID-19 testing for school personnel and students, face masks, soap, hand sanitizer, and transparent shields. Inclusivity also demands consideration of the social and financial hardships endured by families struggling with unemployment, housing, childcare, illness, mental health, and domestic violence. An inclusive district will remain as flexible and accommodating as possible as student attendance and academic performance may be challenged by these pressures. An inclusive district will find creative ways to continue to deliver special education services and bolster student access to counseling services. An inclusive district will create ways to maintain students’ social connection to their peers beyond academic instruction.

SHELLEY HIGGINS-CORBET:

Maintaining current teaching positions as well as retaining talented teachers is paramount to student achievement. Educational equity requires a commitment to robust academic interventions and social/emotional supports within the school framework. Ensuring capacity in these areas will ensure better outcomes in student performance measures in high risk student groups.

SARAH CUPELLI:

During the reopening phase it will be critical to create a sense of community for students and to have solid plans to address social emotional needs. Leveraging the skills of the student support team in every building to develop a structure to implement restorative practices, culturally responsive strategies and social emotional supports will help to create a safe and nurturing environment inclusive of all students.

MICHAEL ELLIS:

The district has been striving to ensure that we are inclusive for all students.  We have attempted to ensure that all students have access to the technology that they need for distance learning.  This is obviously more difficult for the elementary buildings, but our faculty and staff have been working hard to ensure that resources are available at those grade levels also.  We, our staff, faculty, and administrators have worked diligently to ensure that those who need nourishment have access to meals during this crisis – with 60% of our students meeting free and reduced lunch criteria this is a significant part of our population who is nutritionally at risk.  There are areas that I am sure that we can work on to monitor and encourage students and families to engage with their course work; we are only several months into this “new” reality and we are working hard for all students.  I am concerned about the mental health piece for our students and families as well.  Services that have been offered are more challenging to address during this pandemic.  I believe that with the concern of our district family, and the community at large that we will continue to provide for our students in a consistent and equitable manner.  We are a family and community and this is when we all need to pull together for each other.

BRIAN FINNERTY:

Editor’s Note: Brian Finnerty did not submit answers before the deadline, nor did he do so after an extension was granted. 

ANTONIO GOMEZ:

I INTEND TO BE HANDS ON BOARD MEMBERS AND I WOULD REQUEST ANSWERS FOR THE SUPERINTENDENT SO THAT I COULD MAKE GOOD JUDGMENT CALLS. WE NEED TO STAY WITHINOUR BUDGETS AND MAKE SURE THAT THE STUDENTS RECEIVE THE BEST EDUCATION FOR ALL WHO ATTEND.

LISA PIETROCARLO:

I am curious where you see a concern in terms of school inclusivity. We have a diverse community. I have witnessed our students positively interact in the classroom and on the playing field with others of all genders, race and ability. I would be interested to hear from our school staff on their perspective regarding inclusivity and if there are concerns.

RJ RAPOZA:

First of all, the most important elements of an inclusive school space are free of charge; compassion, empathy, and an recognition of privilege. Without those pillars, throwing money at the problems is temporary at best and largely seen as lip service. The nearly instantaneous move to fully online schooling has shone an uncomfortable light on the inequities of students at all levels. I have college students who studied with me at the FLCC Geneva campus that were doing homework from their cars in the parking lot to get WiFi and others were trying to manage coursework from their basic smartphone. Holding them to the exact same standard as a kid who says they are using “their dad’s home office” is grading privilege and access, not performance. I would want to take a strategic look at how educational technology is deployed throughout our community. This is another opportunity to utilize community partners. As we move through the re- opening phases, are there places we can re-locate technology for students? I would reach out for partners that could host equipment such the library, churches, YMCA, Smith Opera House, etc. It will also be important to deepen our relationship with the Boys and Girls Clubs to co-locate programs. In addition, we need to work toward supplying technology to students who need it; the web-enabled device (laptop/Chromebook) has replaced the loose-leaf paper and pencil box and we need to be realistic about that.