The three candidates for two open seats on the Nanuet School Board met Monday at A. MacArthur Barr Middle School for a candidate’s night, which was hosted by the Nanuet PTA Council.
The three candidates running for the three-year term in the May 21st election are incumbents Karen Franchino, who’s been on the board for 24 years, and Ron Hansen, who’s been on the board 15 years total in two separate stints, as well as Scott Walters, who is running for the board for the seventh time in nine years.
A lot of Walters’ answers Monday night focused on bringing a new energy to the board. When asked why he wanted to be a board member, Walters talked about how he would bring something new with him.
“I’m making another run for school board because even though there is plenty of good that’s going on in the Nanuet schools, there’s still plenty more to do,” he said. “New voices and new ideas need to be heard. Right now, with a 24-year incumbent and basically a 15-year incumbent, the ability to have fresh voices and fresh ideas is somewhat limited.”
When Franchino and Hansen were asked why they wanted back on the board, they talked about the difficult time facing the district currently and wanting to help navigate the situation.
“Right now I think we’re probably at the toughest time in my 24 years, and I just don’t feel that it’s right after all the years I’ve been here to be bailing at this point,” Franchino said. “I think it’s going to be tough for our taxpayers right now. It’s going to be tough for our school board right now. It’s going to be tough for our administration right now, and most importantly, for the children. So this isn’t the time to give up.”
Hansen agreed with the sentiment, and said that while there are tough decisions to be made that not everyone will agree with, he feels people should give back to their community and he enjoys being on the board.
The three candidates spoke about a lot of large topics facing the school board, but one of the more specific issues that came up was the “last in, first out” policy, in which if a teacher is to be fired, the last teacher hired is let go. Walters, a music teacher who said he was laid off due to the policy, originally brought it up, even tying it back into his original point about the benefits of getting new perspectives.
“We need to do that by making sure that we value all of the employees equally. The concept of last-in, first-out is flawed, practically in a fatal way,” he said. “What it does, it promotes the premise that someone who has 15 or 24 years more experience is more valuable than someone who has eight months of experience. This may or may not be true. The person with 15 or 24 years experience may be quite excellent, but the person who’s just starting out may be just as well.”
Franchino said the policy is mandated by New York State.
“We don’t have any say in that at all,” she said. “There are many times that we would absolutely love to keep a teacher, and then you look at the list and you say, ‘she’s the next one’ or ‘he’s the next one to go.’ It’s not for us to say. What we try to do is to balance it in such a way so that it does not touch a program as much as possible.”
Hansen said it’s part of the difficult decisions the board has to make when coming up with the budget.
“It is always a balancing act,” he said. “We try to bring back people that we can. We are letting go of close to nine positions. It’s unfortunate, but we have to keep it affordable and at the same time keep the quality there.”
Walters also talked about the need to bring in other revenue to the district outside of taxes. He said he thinks the district should have a director of development and alumni relations working on a commission basis to try and find other sources of money for the district. He said private schools and colleges use those methods to bring in more money.
It was disputed as to whether or not such a position could be on a commission basis or not, however. Franchino and Hansen said the board has discussed in the past about looking to companies to bring in money through various means, but added that it’s a potentially slippery slope and they have to really watch for what companies would be allowed on campus partially because of the messages it could send to students.
They were also asked about their strengths as candidates.
Hansen said his work in finance helps him as a board member, and he has kids in the district currently, helping him stay in tune with what’s going on in the district. Walters said he’ll bring a fresh perspective to the board, and that he will comes to the board as a parent and an educator. Franchino said she’s experienced and has been a member of every committee on the board, as well as sat in on negotiations with groups like Pfizer and the Nanuet Mall.