IRVINGTON, N.Y. -- School board elections are coming up on May 21, and The Daily Voice wants to highlight candidates running for the Irvington Board of Education.
Four candidates are vying for two open seats on the Irvington Board of Education: incumbent Robert Grados, John Montgomery, Seth Oster and David Graeber. Check back as Election Day draws closer to see more candidate questionnaires.
John Montgomery is an economist at National Economic Research Associates (NERA), where he consults on financial litigation and regulation enforcement. Montgomery, a 14-year Irvington resident, lives with his wife, a daughter and a son. Montgomery previously worked at the Federal Reserve Board, the International Monetary Fund, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (under President Clinton) and Morgan Stanley.
What qualifies you to be a school board member? I care deeply about our community and about public education in Irvington. I believe that Irvington should aim to provide the best possible education for each child, from kindergarten through senior year in high school.
I am creative problem-solver who works well with people with diverse points of view. I have very strong analytical skills, and deep financial knowledge. I also have a strong professional understanding of statistics and quantitative analysis, which will help me evaluate our increasingly data-driven approach to educational decisions. I bring an independent perspective to education issues, and I know how to maintain a critical yet constructive approach to decision-making
I chaired the Village of Irvington Citizens’ Budget Committee and the school district’s Budget Task Force. I was an Irvington AYSO soccer coach for four years and a referee for another two years.
What would you like to accomplish if elected?
If elected, I will strive to be a strong and independent voice on the Board for educational excellence, effective management of administration and staff, and responsible budgeting.
For too long, school budgets have been made on a piecemeal, year-by-year basis, with longer term issues deferred every year. This practice must stop. Developing a long-range plan for the district is my top priority. That plan should include the implementation of the curriculum and programs that our community wants in our schools, instead of deferring our goals because of year-to-year budget pressures. For example, we should carefully consider changes to the foreign language program and then make those changes happen, possibly extending language instruction into the primary grades, improving middle school instruction, and adding Mandarin.
We should also get the school’s physical plant in shape, and make sure that we have the athletic fields and other facilities that our kids need. Let’s not delay needed changes and improvements. Let’s move forward to build the schools we want for our kids, and let’s do all of this in the context of a longer term plan that will allow us to assess the budgetary trade-offs and communicate it to our community.
If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax cap, what would you cut? I hope the community will support the budget, but if cuts needed to be made, I would look for reductions with the least possible impact on the education of the children in the schools. That would have to done in discussion with the Superintendent and other administrators.
What are the three biggest issues facing the schools today?
- Increased mandates to meet state-mandated curriculum rules, including Common Core and APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review)
- Budgetary pressures.
- Lack of a long-term plan.
If elected what would you do about them? Regarding educational mandates, I believe that we must prevent compliance with mandates from becoming our only curriculum goal. We need to do what is necessary to maintain and improve the quality of education in all of our schools. Although we clearly must with state regulations, we also need to recognize—in a school district such as Irvington dedicated to academic achievement and excellence—that state and national standards should only be the starting point, not the end goal, for our curriculum. Our curriculum should not just comply with the standards, but do better.
Regarding budgetary pressures, ultimately the community must decide how much money it wants to devote to the schools. It is up to the Board to ensure that every dollar is spent effectively, with the goal of having the best possible education and services for our children for the amount of money the community chooses to spend. If the Board does this credibly and effectively, I believe Irvington taxpayers will support the funding necessary to support our excellent schools. Meeting the state tax levy cap year-to-year should not be the primary goal of our policy, although the need to restrain long-run tax growth in line with the cap is a worthy goal that should guide contract negotiations with our staff.
My views on the need for a long-term plan are described above, and I won’t repeat them here.
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