This is the first 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 Incumbent Marcela Bobe is seeking her second three-year term in this year's election. The others running for the two open seats are: Colin Smith, Lisa Aspinall and Darryl V. Footmon - all first-time candidates.
Bobe has lived in Peekskill since 1996 and has two daughters who attend Peekskill High School. Her kids have been in the Peekskill school district since kindegarten. Bobe is originally from Argentina, South Amreica and moved to New York about 24 years ago. She is an attorney, specializing in consitutional guarantees during the due process, but her work experience over the last 17 years is in the finance area.
Read Bobe's answers to Patch’s questions below.
Q: Why are you running for another term?
A: The first term barely allowed me to get my feet wet learning all the components of the school district and the many complexities of school laws. I’ve learned a lot in these three years from many individuals but mainly from the administrators and my board colleagues, to whom I’m very grateful. I feel the District has started an important, positive chapter in its history and I’d feel honored to be given the opportunity to continue assisting any way I can to ensure we keep moving forward.
Q: Why should district residents elect you to the school board?
A: Short answer: because I’ll work my hardest to ensure our kids receive the best possible education and I will never settle for mediocrity. The longer answer is this: if our citizens haven’t had an opportunity to be present at the BOE meetings and/or watch them on our district’s education cable station, I’d encourage them to go to the district’s website and watch some of the videos of the meetings. If they like what they see in my work with the BOE, I hope I can count with their vote on May 15th.
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: The job experiences that have proven most relevant to the work of the BOE are:
- Seven years as a compensation manager for a sales organization of about 300 sales employees and independent reps. Besides being responsible for supervising their commission calculation and pay (an annual budget of about $30 MM), I managed a $25MM fixed selling budget which included items such as salaries for full and part time employees, benefits, reimbursement of business expenses, consultants and other professionals’ expenses, etc;
- Four years of internal audit experience, mostly performing operational audits, both in the US and many of the company’s 19 international offices;
- Two years working on streamlining back office processes used across all offices, domestic and international, such as payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, etc.
- Three years in the treasury function where, among other things, I was responsible for settling the company’s cash position and investing up to $800 MM on a daily basis on behalf of the company;
Q: What do you consider the three top concerns in the district?
- Unfunded and underfunded Federal and State mandates that school districts must comply with but for which no funding or insufficient funding is provided (with the additional limitation of the 2% tax cap);
- Identifying new ways to deliver instruction to students that would allow maintaining or increasing the quality of their education, while doing so with fewer resources (a direct consequence of unfunded/underfunded mandates, lower revenues, 2% tax cap, etc).
- Raising the performance bar for every person in the district, from students to teachers, from parents to administrators, including BOE members. We need to expect more from all of us if our goal is to prepare students to become productive citizens.
Q: What is your tentative plan to address these issues?
A: First, I’d like to clarify that Board members don’t operate alone so one member having a plan would be just that, a plan. The Superintendent makes recommendations and the board approves or rejects them, after extensive discussions. Having said that, the SED (State Education Department) asked each BOCES region in NYS to name two superintendents to work for a few meetings with the staff of the Governor’s Mandate Relief Council on relief from regulatory mandates. Our Superintendent has been selected as one of them to represent school districts in the Putnam-North Westchester BOCES region, and we’re very proud about it.
As for the 2nd concern (identifying new ways to deliver instruction), the district is already working on it. If approved by our citizens on May 15th, the 2012-13 budget includes funding that will allow the district to go back to the practice of replacing equipment (such as computers, printers, servers, etc) before they become obsolete. Concurrently, our staff will receive the necessary training that will enable them to incorporate the use of technology to enhance instruction delivery to our students.
As far as the 3rd concern (raising the bar), the BOE has already started working on it. The board has shared with the district Superintendent our expectation to see all members of the district being held accountable. In addition, members of the board, broken down into three groups, have been meeting with Elementary, Middles School and HS teachers to identify ways the board can support their critical work. More needs to be done, but these are two very important steps. The hallway sweeps is a good example of the outcome of these meetings.
Q:How do you think the recently mandated 2-percent tax cap will impact the future of education?
A: Unless revenues increase significantly in future years, the mandated 2% tax cap will present additional challenges to all districts but especially those similar to Peekskill. If the needed revenues to educate our students were available (Federal and State aid), the 2% cap would not be as critical an issue.
Q: What is your opinion of the proposed 2012-13 budget and the impact of the cap on the tax levy?
A: The budget is the result of the multiple financial limitations school districts similar to Peekskill are faced with today, including the 2% tax cap levy. It clearly doesn’t make me, the BOE or the administration happy when personnel and/or programs need to be reduced or eliminated. While we all work towards addressing the multiple unfunded or underfunded mandates imposed on school districts, I trust that our citizens will, once again, show their support for our students’ education on May 15th.
Q: What would you propose to improve student achievement (as measured by test scores) in general and reading in particular?
A: This question requires a multifold answer:
- Use existing data to ascertain where each student in the district stands in terms of academic performance. Those who need assistance need to be identified early in the school year so that the adequate resources can be used to address the student’s needs. Students identified as performing ahead of their grade level, also need to be provided with the opportunity to be part of programs that foster their talents.
- We must take a look at the resources available to educate our students not just during the school day but also after school hours. An inventory of all programs available through grants needs to be completed and then ascertain the best way to utilize them in the most efficient way such that our students’ educational needs are met.
- We must reach out to volunteers to complement and/or supplement the district’s efforts. Reading is the perfect activity for volunteers to help our students become not only reading proficient but, almost as important, individuals who enjoy reading beyond school material. A reading volunteer program has been, and remains, a goal of mine for a while. I’ll continue working on it to make it happen (whether I’m elected or not). There is no excuse for a single one of our students not to be a good reader.
Q: What do you think of hallway sweeps to combat tardiness at Peekskill High School?
A: I fully support them. Punctuality is a habit that students should develop in school (and really be taught and/or reinforced at home) as it’s something they’ll be expected to show anywhere they go, regardless of what they do once they graduate from school.
Q: What do you think of the district's new alternative education program?
A: I think it’ll give students who perform better in a non-traditional learning environment the opportunity to succeed in school. The plan presented by the district to the BOE sounds very promising.
Q: Is there anything we haven't asked you about that you would like the public to know about you or your candidacy?
A: Our district is facing serious challenges but at the same time, I feel the right steps are being taken to address them. Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election as far as BOE candidates is concerned, I’ll continue supporting the current and future efforts to ensure our students are given the opportunity to access the best possible education that will prepare them to be contributing, productive citizens. Education is the most empowering tool an individual can be given. As a society, it should be everyone’s goal to have a highly educated population. The country’s future depends on it.