MAMARONECK, N.Y. - Career businessman and private equity investor Jim Needham is running uncontested for his first term on the Mamaroneck Board of Education.
Jim Needham has lived in Larchmont for 37 years with his wife Leslie. They have one daughter and one son who both attended Mamaroneck schools.
Jim has had a career in private equity investing and advising middle market companies. He founded Fieldston Investors in 1989 and before that was a partner at Arthur Young & Company (Ernst & Young). He has also been director of business development at Corning and an auditor and consultant at Peat, Marwick, Mitchell (KPMG) in New York.
He has a bachelor's degree in accounting from Fordham University and is a certified public accountant.
Why would you be a good representative in the coming term?
Because I’m a consumer of the education product. I steered my children through the school system. I have a broad business background and I understand what the changing needs are in the marketplace for employment. Today the fact that college graduates are underemployed would mean that high school graduates are terribly disadvantaged.
If elected, what are the three biggest goals you’d work to accomplish?
I’m a believer in measuring performance, You can’t improve a product or anything unless you can measure it. So I’m trying to figure out how would I know I’m a success at the end of three years. I want to find out what the metrics might be. I’d like to get in the school system and find out how they measure themselves. Then, communicate those to the people who live in the community.
I think we have to communicate to the resident in the town that they have to be more active on the legislative side. The problems facing this school system are really creations of the state legislature and the government. And that is the pension plan, the retirement benefit pension plan, which will kill the school system if it's not adjusted and remedied and moved off to a defined contributions program or 401K program or something like that like most businesses use in the U.S.
We’re moving in an area of education where technology is becoming more prominent, online education is becoming more prominent, and we’re going to have to upgrade our teaching technology in this area. And to do that you’ve got to get better teachers, either improve their own skills or whatnot. I believe a bad teacher will damage a child more than a good one can help them.
Has the local government made any mistakes or had any oversights that you’d try to avoid? How?
The whole idea of the benefit program that runs at 55 percent of their salary. I think most of the people paying taxes in this town don’t have the same benefit. We have to manage the benefits better. I think prior administrations have given away the store. If we’re going to argue to make our objectives met in the area of compensation, you have to have the support of this town. As a long time resident of this town I don’t think the message got out to the residents of what’s going on at the school system.
I don’t know of any CEOs that are only in control of 6 percent of their spending. I got to the school district and I find out basically all the spending is controlled by mandates from the state. The reason I’m concerned so much with the union and its costs is it’s going to continue to grow at a much faster rate. That’s going to take stuff away from the children.
What’s the best part of Mamaroneck?
When I was younger, having my children be able to walk to school was great. I love that I can walk to town, I love the restaurants. It’s a community where you can walk around a lot and meet a lot of your neighbors. I love the [Long Island] Sound, the access to the Sound. And it’s a short distance from Manhattan, where I spent a lot of my life working.
Read The Mamaroneck Daily Voice's interview with School Board President Nancy Pierson, whose seat is up for re-election Tuesday.
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