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Bronxville School Board Candidate Chris Atayan

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – This is the last of four profiles The Daily Bronxville has done on candidates vying for two seats on the seven-member Bronxville School Board of Trustees in the May 15 election. Each candidate was asked the same questions. The candidates are scheduled to appear at a debate at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Bronxville Public Library.

Chris Atayan, 52, is the unopposed incumbent endorsed by the Committee for the Non-Partisan Nomination and Election of School Trustees. His first term to the post expires June 30. Jeffrey Rohr, William “Bill” Rizzo and Kurt Fuchs are in a three-way contest for the seat being vacated by Trustee Richard Rugani, who is stepping down after serving three, three-year terms. 

Atayan is chairman and chief executive officer of AMCON Distributing Company and has lived in Bronxville since 1991 and in the Bronxville school district since 1997.

Tell us about yourself and your family.

I was born and raised in Lansing, Mich., and moved to New York in 1982. I have two children in Bronxville schools, Alina, who is in 11th grade, and Ara, in seventh grade. Both of my children have had, and continue to have, a very positive experience in our schools. And, of course, my wife, Rene, has been actively involved in the community for many years.

Why are you seeking another term on the Bronxville School Board?

Basically because I want to maintain and enhance the tradition of educational excellence that we have in our school district.

What qualifies you to be a school board member?

I have significant experience in financial, operational and legal matters. The role of the board is to provide broad oversight and policy in order to most effectively use the resources of the school district to achieve academic excellence.

What have you accomplished as a school board member?

I provided a leadership role in keeping costs in line while at the same time enhancing the educational product. Many of the issues we have faced the last three years have been complex and required significant judgment for all the decisions that were made.

What would you like to accomplish in the next term?

We are facing a very difficult financial future for the school district. We have to address a number of cost issues that are spiraling upward, including the exponential growth of teacher contracts, the long-term flood abatement issue and taking a responsible approach to capital expenditures while taking into account all the known or potential liabilities the school district may have to pay for.

If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax cap, what would you cut?

We are approaching our limitations on cuts that do not directly impact academics. I don’t look at the state tax cap as the objective. I would look for a zero budget increase year-to-year. That is the goal I aim for. There are opportunities through attrition to reduce expenses.

What are the three biggest issues facing the schools today? 

I would put them into three categories. First, as I mentioned before, the spiraling costs, flood abatement and taking a responsible approach to capital projects. Second, working within the constraints of our budget to develop academic policy that addresses the challenges that students will face in the 21st century. And third, fostering a collaborative school community effort toward socially responsible behavior.

What would you do to address them?

I would continue to bring a perspective that balances financial prudence, judgment and acknowledgement of the circumstances that the school finds itself in.

Does being the candidate endorsed by the Non-Partisan Committee make an impact?

I have gone through the NPC process twice and I have found the NPC members to be deeply committed to academic excellence and the responsible use of resources to achieve that objective. The NPC takes considerable time and effort to vet candidates who they believe then can best serve the community at large.

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