The Batavian has reached out to school board candidates in Genesee County to get their answers to five questions prior to voting on June 9.
At Oakfield-Alabama Central School, five candidates are running for three open positions – Jackie Yunker Davis, Daniel N. Groth, Douglas Russo, Shanda Spink and Peter Zeliff.
The candidate receiving the most votes will begin serving on June 10 with the term ending on June 30, 2023. The terms of the two candidates with the second and third most votes will be July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2023.
The questions are as follows:
1 -- What is your position on your school district’s proposed budget for 2020-21? What parts do you support? What parts would you change if you could?
2 -- Are teachers in your district compensated adequately?
3 -- With what we know now about COVID-19, should schools reopen in the fall?
4 -- Are you satisfied that your district responds to parents’ complaints and concerns in a way that ensures the parents know they have been heard?
5 -- What two books published since The Enlightenment have influenced you the most?
JACKIE YUNKER DAVIS
1 -- I am in favor of the proposed 2020-21 tax neutral District budget. Considering the current status and economic downfall of NYS, I cannot, however, be in favor of a Capital Improvement project that relies so heavily on a state that has such an enormous deficit. I do support the district’s ability to scale back appropriately as needed pending state cuts. The concept of "doing more with less" is here and real. Change is inevitable. I would certainly like to see proactive measures versus reactive measures in how we handle this change as a district.
2 -- I fall somewhere in the middle here. I would certainly like to see compensation relative to performance. As with many businesses/schools, you will have the high performing educators who go above and beyond their duties, day in and day out, and are under compensated in comparison to their value. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the middle or low performers who are overcompensated.
3 -- School should absolutely resume in the fall. Will it be the same as it was? No, certainly not, given what we know about COVID. I do think it's possible if we are willing to change how we’ve always done things, and have an open mind ... to make it happen. OACS has very dedicated, responsible, highly-educated, and caring individuals as part of their administration and staff, that I am confident will continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of all.
4 -- I can speak only from what I know through my own experiences with the district, and what is voiced to me from others. I do believe OACS has done an excellent job of addressing the needs of both parents and students during these trying times. They have offered several different platforms of communication. They are visible and supportive. I have heard many complementary remarks of how OACS has worked through this and I am very proud to be in this district!
5 -- So many books to choose from however, I would say the two books that I find worthy to keep on my bookshelf, and often re-read or reference, are Who Moved My Cheese? Dr. Spencer Johnson. A classic. Change is constant. Adapting to change is a must. Always pertinent to our lives, and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey. I absolutely love that our O-A students are getting such early exposure to timeless principles of what it takes to be “good humans.”
1 -- I feel it is appropriate given the current economic situation. I support all parts of the proposed budget. There are no parts of the proposed budget that I would change.
2 -- At this point in time, I think it is too early to make that decision. Schools will need more guidance, data and feedback. I’m confident the right decision will be made for all schools.
3 -- I feel teachers are compensated fairly.
4 -- I am satisfied and any communication I have had, the district responded in an appropriate and timely manner.
5 -- Eisenhower in War and Peace, Trail of Tears
1 -- I feel that the proposed budget is prudent and fiscally responsible for the taxpaying citizens. Therefore, I will support the budget for approval. I recommend the budget because it offers a 0 percent tax levy increase to our district property owners. Meanwhile, there is an increase in funding for instruction, which I believe is essential for our students. As we move forward, there is a grave concern regarding a reduction in (New York State) aid to our school district. If there are any changes to the school budget, I will work hard to ensure funds are allocated in a fiscally responsible manner and that the monies are well spent for our children. As a board member, I will advocate for fiscally sound (future) district budgets and, along with the rest of the board, will monitor our school organization's financial well-being.
2 --Teachers are compensated according to the collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the teachers association. I can tell you firsthand that the profession as a teacher is challenging while rewarding. Teachers hold an essential function in our community that impacts our children's learning and students' success. Maintaining and recruiting extraordinary teachers that are responsible for student achievement is a priority for our school system. As a board member, I will advocate that our school district provides equitable compensation, not only to our teachers but to all school staff members. I am devoted to working with the other board members and the administrative team, creating policies for a school environment that fosters a safe and positive workplace for all of our staff members and that it encompasses a collaborative culture with a growth mindset focusing on student achievement.
3 -- I was saddened by the sudden school closing this year. As a father, my daughter Kiera, who is an Oakfield-Alabama Senior, missed-out on her senior events. As a teacher, I had 34 high school seniors in my class, and they missed out on essential activities. Most seniors were in the process of performing an internship at their designated worksite. We need to get students back to school as soon as possible in the fall. However, we must be diligent and cautious. Safety to our educational community is Priority-1. The COVID-19 is undoubtedly a harmful virus, and we must take the necessary steps so that students and staff and their families remain safe by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New York State guidelines. Thereby, we must work together and be innovative in the learning process to discover new ways and solutions to teaching our students, implement safety measures and continuously monitor the well-being of our community regardless if school resumes or shutdown continues.
4 -- Speaking for myself as a parent, Oakfield-Alabama School District has always listened to and addressed my concerns promptly and adequately. Every parent and student should be treated with the utmost respect, understanding, and dignity by our school district. One of my main objectives as a school board member is to listen to all stakeholders' interests and concerns in our district and our educational community effectively. As a board member, I will bring forth ideas to assist in developing and constructing district policies that will enhance and ensure a high level of student equity, equality, and excellence for ALL of our students and that it encourages parent involvement.
5 -- I recently read the autobiography, On the Brink by Henry [Hank] M. Paulson, Jr. Hank Paulson was an American banker who served as the 74th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the 2008 financial crisis. Paulson speaks in detail about his experience as a leader contending with the crisis. I am intrigued about the crisis that I lived through and how a leader would handle such a disaster. Paulson was a bona fide capitalist and believed in moral hazard, whereas each business determines their destiny (succeed or fail) without government intervention or interference. Paulson's objective was to change the economic climate quickly. Despite Paulson's ideology and political resistance (including friendly colleagues, which became not so friendly), Paulson sanctioned the U.S. government to annex many large corporations to obtain the objective. This book demonstrated how a leader must put ideologies aside and do what's best for the organization he or she serves.
The second book that I am influenced by is Michael Fullan's Change Leader. In short, Fullan speaks about a leader being resolute with a purpose while demonstrating empathy for others. Having a seat at the board table, I will apply the things that have impacted me through my readings. I will do what is in the best interest of the Oakfield-Alabama School District and its students. I am devoted to working with the other board members, the administrative team, and our community to establish a clear vision to create a dynamic school system.
1 -- I support OACS's proposed budget for 2020-21. Given recent events with employment for so many, the fact that our school's budget proposes a 0 percent tax levy increase to our local community members is a blessing. I believe that the Capital Improvement Project is necessary and one that will provide our children with a safer and better learning environment. The only aspect of the budget that I would change is proposition #3 to acquire more school buses. I do not feel the need to have new buses. However, I would support the purchase of them, should the school decide to have the HS/Middle and Elementary start and end at the same time as other districts around us.
2 -- After comparing OACS's district average pay for last year to other districts, I do not think that our teachers are paid enough. I do believe that we provide amazing benefits, as I experienced them first hand when my mom was a school employee. However, I believe that teachers, especially in today's age with more work behind the scenes, deserve to be paid closer to the state average, like districts and counties around us.
3 -- As a Holistic Health Practitioner, I do not feel that schools should reopen, given the guidelines that the CDC has given at this point. We need to take into account the emotional health of our students, not just physical. I do not believe the guidelines set will give my children the best education experience possible. School is not just about the information taught. I believe that a major part of school is the interactions with other students, teachers, and staff. This helps our students to be well-rounded citizens. It helps our students feel a part of something bigger than themselves. If schools should open under the CDC guidelines, our children would be missing out on many interactions that help to shape them into the people we want to see in the world. Should the CDC have new suggestions, I would consider going forward to reopen schools in the fall.
4 -- For our family personally, it depended on the situation. I have felt heard at times and ignored at others. I believe that when the problem is addressed, Oakfield does an outstanding job of making you feel heard and together come up with a solution. However, as time goes on, the solution to the problem seemed to have been pushed aside and I would have to bring up the situation again to remind them of our previous solution.
5 -- The first book that has influenced me is Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. This helped me find the courage to be brave and stand-alone in what I believe instead of trying to fit in and be the person others wanted me to be. The book talks about how true belonging is not about fitting in, pretending, or making the people around us comfortable. Instead, we need to be who we are and stand strong in what we believe in. It talks about how we need to follow our hearts and protect them from the constant evaluation you get from others when doing what you are led to do ... even if it is a little outside the box. Brené Brown says our belonging to each other can’t be lost, but it can be forgotten. Her research has reminded the world in recent years of the uncomfortable, life-giving link between vulnerability and courage. This book draws attention to the fact that we walked into the crisis of our life together and how we can move beyond it: with strong backs, soft fronts, and wild hearts.
The second book is a book that I read after attending the Global Leadership Summit, a few years ago, called Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley. It was a fresh perspective leadership book that talked about how to lead with courage then follow with character. The book helped me pinpoint and acknowledge my strengths as a leader. It also allowed me to see what my weaknesses are so that I can delegate those activities to someone else who has them as a strength. The book does an amazing job of how to be a leader in today's society. According to Stanley, "You have to courageous. You have to be clear in the midst of uncertainty. You need to have a leadership coach yourself. And along the way, it is absolutely essential that you maintain your character."
1 -- I feel our administration has done a great job on the budget and I fully support it. They always keep the taxpayers in mind while making sure our kids have everything to succeed. Managing the budget is going to be more crucial in the next year with not knowing where the state is financially and we may have to make adjustments based on that as the year goes on and pull back in certain areas. One example would be the bus purchase. I would want to know that the kids are coming back to school for sure before we made a purchase like that.
2 -- I believe our teachers are our most valuable asset and that money isn’t the only thing that motivates people. We have a very unique community and school district that does a lot of little things other communities and schools don’t do which to me has a lot of value. Our teachers should be compensated competitively with other school districts but I also want our teachers to be drawn to us as a district and community, and I believe our school district has more to offer than just a paycheck. Seeing how a lot of these teachers come out support their students at things like sporting events, plays, and how great they have been during the corona pandemic with personally reaching out to students, leaving messages on the driveways, and so many other things is what I believe we are all investing in and I feel the board needs to make sure we are recognizing what these teachers do and to make sure they have everything they need to get the job done.
3 -- My initial reaction is yes but I feel we need to continue monitoring the situation before making that decision. As of right now that should be the plan and we should be gearing up for that to happen. I believe it is important to get these kids back into a class room and a normal or as normal as it can be routine but we also have to think of the safety of all of our children and be working on plan B as well so we are prepared.
4 -- Yes, I have felt our administration has always been willing to take the time to listen to your concerns and that they are always looking for community feedback and input. The fact that they look for community members to sit in on teacher and administration interviews, committees for construction projects, and other school agendas shows that they really want to hear from us.
5 -- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Capital Gains by Chip Gaines.