This is the second in a series about the upcoming Peekskill school board election and budget vote on May 15. We'll also provide a candidate Q&A with the rest of the candidates who are vying for the two open seats and who provided responses to our questions.
School Board candidate Colin Smith is seeking his first three-year term in this year's election. The others running for the two open seats are: incumbent Marcela Bobe, Lisa Aspinall and Rev. Darryl V. Footmon.
Smith has lived in Peekskill most of his life and attended Peekskill schools from kindergarten through high school. He know holds a J.C. in law from Pace Law School and a Bachelors in Philosophy from Cedarville University. He currently lives with his Domestic Partner, Cynthia Torres, and two step children, one who is currently attending the Peekskill Middle School and is in the 8th grade.
Read Smith's answers to Patch’s questions below.
Q: Why are you running for Peekskill school board?
A: I decided to run for the Peekskill school board because I am concerned that our students are not being properly prepared for college level education and beyond. I have a step-daughter who is currently a student in the Peekskill School District and I would like to see her (and her classmates) have the opportunity to obtain the best education possible in the Peekskill. Our school district has consistently ranked among the lowest in quality of education in our County for far too long now. This must change.
Q: Why should district residents elect you to the school board?
A: I am a life-long Peekskill resident as well as a product of the Peekskill School District. I have deep roots and strong ties to this community since most of my family and friends either still live here or are from here. I have an interest in seeing conditions improve in the schools for all of our City’s youth who are just as deserving of a quality education as every other student in the State.
Q: What experience-- either personal or professional-- do you have that makes you a strong candidate to serve on the Peekskill Board of Education?
A: Although I am not an educator by profession, I have always been a student. I believe life is a learning process that never ends. And I believe that a love of learning should be instilled (or at least attempted to be) at the earliest stage possible. By way of profession I am an attorney with an emphasis on practice in the fields of criminal, family, commercial and corporate law. Thus I feel I have the tools and the training necessary to analyze and assess the many issues facing our school district today.
Q: What do you consider the three top concerns in the district?
- The current budget deficit which has drained the school of valuable resources and resulted in the cutting of staff and programs vitally needed to preserve the quality of education.
- Disciplinary issues in the class room which the faculty and staff are increasingly forced to confront with diminishing resources
- Student literacy.
Q: What is your tentative plan to address these issues?
- By proposing alternatives to spending and spending cuts in the face of minimal state and federal aid.
- And, on that note, by helping facilitate the process whereby the District is able to secure additional grant monies to help supplement the widening budget gap.
- Encouraging active participation between faculty and Board members to implement positive and effective solutions to address disciplinary issues facing the District.
- As to the literacy rate among our students, it is will be a primary focus of mine, along with the other members of the Board, the faculty and staff and the parents in our community, to develop more effective ways of the literacy rates of our students.
Q:How do you think the recently mandated 2-percent tax cap will impact the future of education?
A: I think it will only serve to further deplete the already slim resources the school district has available, thereby depleting the quality of education of our district in the process. I think it is typical of the government to place such restrictions on the furtherance and development of our educational system and so I don’t expect it will change until a successful lawsuit forces the issue.
Q: What is your opinion of the proposed 2012-13 budget and the impact of the cap on the tax levy?
A: I think that the proposed budget is potentially successful in dealing with some of the issues brought on by the continuing budget crisis, however the staff cuts proposed are likely to prove more detrimental to the overall quality of education in the district as a whole thus cancelling purported immediate fiscal relief. The impact of the cap on the tax levy will only further exacerbate the current predicament.
Q: What would you propose to improve student achievement (as measured by test scores) in general and reading in particular?
A: In order to improve our students’ average test scores, we need to implement more efficient teaching models that better encompass the standardized state test subject matter. Specifically, this should include incorporating more required reading assignments and making them integral part of the grading process, in the hope that beyond just improving test scores we can improve the reading comprehension of our students as well.
Q: What do you think of hallway sweeps to combat tardiness at Peekskill High School?
A: I think it goes without saying that when class is in session, the students should be seated in their respective classes.
Q: What do you think of the district's new alternative education program?
A: The only thing new about the alternative education program, as far as I can tell, is in certain approaches to the teaching methodology used and its location. Since the State Education Department has essentially rejected the District’s proposal to house the alternative schooling facility in the Administration Building, we are now forced to scramble to find a new location (most likely the high school) which, it appears, has little available space for such a venture. Thus in my opinion, the viability of such the alternative education program will depend in large measure on the availability and propriety of using space within the existing schools.
Q:Is there anything we haven't asked you about that you would like the public to know about you or your candidacy?
A: Not that I am aware of at the present moment.