Patch sent questionnaires to all three candidates for the two open seats on the Pearl River School District Board of Education.
Incumbents Bruce Bond and Jackie Curtiss and challenger Patrice Carrieri will be on the ballot when Pearl River to the polls from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Pearl River High School’s Pirate Cove. Voters will be able to make two selections.
The 2012-13 Pearl River School District budget and and the Citizens’ Petition to modify the bus limits for Pearl River High School to 1.5 miles for all grades will also be on the ballot. Check back with Pearl River Patch for more details on those items later today.
The candidate information sheet provided by the district, which includes details about their families, education, careers and volunteer work, is attached to this report.
For more from the candidates, Patch’s report from last week’s candidates’ night can be found here.
Video clips and pictures from candidates’ night are attached to this report.
Let us know how you will be voting in the poll and comments below.
The questions are in bold and italics. The candidates’ answers are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
Why are you seeking a seat on the board?
Bruce Bond: I invested a lot of time in school district over the last 24 years. With the two percent cap we will have to deal with, it’s not going to be easy. We’ve been fortunate enough through hard work of the board, the administraition and the teachers buying in. We put off cuts looking at down the road. Right now we are in as decent finanical position as you can be. I got something from the New York State school boards. A third of districts are looking at cutting teaching positions. Half are looking at increased class sizes. Those are things we have to be dealing with in the future. In my tenure, we’ve been able to add a lot of things. I hate to see them go away. I’d like to be around to ensure they are still around.
Patrice Carrieri: I am running for a seat on the Pearl River Board of Education because after serving many years as a volunteer, I would like the opportunity to serve my district on a broader level. I have volunteered in the district for the past 15 years and have held all positions in the PTA from secretary to president. During my years as a PTA representative I learned the value of teamwork, leadership and fiscal responsibility. I will bring new ideas and a broader perspective as a newcomer to the board.
Jackie Curtiss: I have worked very hard over the last 9 years to improve our Special Education program. It is better now then it was, we offer more programs within our district so more Pearl River students can stay in Pearl River but we are still in need of change for the better. I would like to work with the current Administration to continue this effort.
Why should people vote for you for board of education?
Bruce Bond: Because I have a proven record on the school board. For the last 24 years, the Pearl River school district has made great strides academically. We have been able to add sports. We’ve done a lot of things. I would compare our district with any other district in Rockland. Our per-student cost is the lowest in the county. Our budget is lowest even though we are not the smallest district. We pride ourselves on being fiscally responsible and pushing academic excellence. During the last 24 years, been able to do that and keep ball rolling upward.
I have experience with contract negotiations, which are going to be important as they come up over the next several years. That’s where the bulk of the money is spent.
Patrice Carrieri: My life and professional experience has been with children and their families. It is my belief that the district needs to view the student as a whole; with fair and equitable value placed on their needs and interests, recognizing their different learning styles, and interests that motivate and inspire them. If elected, I will advocate as a board member to insure that the taxpayer’s dollar will uphold the high level of education for our students, continued support for our teachers and district staff. Lastly, that the money will be spent fairly and equally across all programs and extracurricular activities while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
Jackie Curtiss: I have worked over the last nine years to maintain and improve our programs while keeping the tax increases low. Each Board Member brings something different to the table. I am the only candidate and Board Member that has a genuine understanding of our Special Education program and I believe this is extremely important.
How many years have you served on the Pearl River Board of Education?
Bruce Bond: 24 years
Patrice Carrieri: I have served on other boards within the Pearl River School District but I have not served on the Board of Education.
Jackie Curtiss: 9 years
What are the top issues facing the Pearl River School District?
Bruce Bond: The top issue is going to be dealing with the two percent tax cap from here on. At some point you will need to pass a budget that is going to be over the two percent cap. The budget will be squeezed and squeezed. You can only cut so much. That’s one of the dangers to this cap. School budgets are the only budgets voted on in whole state. I don’t understand why state so concerned in enforcing cap on us. We’ve tried to stay on range time I’ve been on board.
The other thing is we need to sell the African Inland mission apartment building, whether it be condoed or sold as a whole apartment building, that is something we need to move in the next year or year and a half. The community is relying on the district to come up with the best use of it.
Patrice Carrieri: The top issues facing the Pearl River School District are: High school busing, selling of the apartment building on the AIM property, Advancing special education programs, consistency and continuity of programs.
Jackie Curtiss: The biggest challenge is always funding. We do not receive a large amount of state funding, so most of our increases are on the backs of our families.
Do you believe the district should always adhere to the state mandated tax cap or do you think it will eventually be necessary to ask voters to override it?
Bruce Bond: I certainly believe we should make a serious effort to, but you will only be able to do it for so long. Every district, that so long will be a different number of years, depending on your financial situation. In our case, we got that million dollars that we didn’t expect to get from Olympus. We expensed some money this year. Some we deliberately carried over because we will need fund in future to help make district successful. At some point, you run out of ways to do that. You can only do that so long before it comes back to bite you. We have had support in community on past. We pass pretty much all budgets with 60 percent but you can’t expect community to do that (approve going over the cap) every year. You will have to make hard decisions. No matter what percentage of kids it effects, they are still kids. Some districts are looking at cutting Kindergarten. I can’t believe that.
Patrice Carrieri: I believe that if the district comes to a point in time when the budget is in a “crisis situation”, meaning all resources have been exhausted and our standard of academic excellence and programs are in jeopardy, the board and the Pearl River community should join together to explore the option of overriding the state mandated tax cap. The budget may need to be compiled in a different way, starting with what classes, programs and activities do we want to secure and how much will it cost to do the job?
Jackie Curtiss: Yes, I believe we need to adhere to the mandate. Before the mandate was put in place, the Board had been working to keep the tax increases to under 3%. With the economy the way it has been it would be unreasonable to ask the public to vote on a higher tax rate.
Do you think the bus limits for Pearl River High School should stay at three miles for grades 9-12 and two miles for eighth graders or go back to 1.5 miles for both? Why?
Bruce Bond: I understand why it was put back up. The community voted for increasing the limits last year. That’s one decision that has to be by the community. It is not something the board has a say. If the community votes back to lower limits, whether I’m on board or somebody else is, they have to deal with that increase of half a percent to the budget. That is 25% of your cap already shot on transportation. If the limits go back, I’m not looking to do this every year. As far as I’m concerned, if it passes, it’s back. We will not put it up the following hear to look to cut every year.
If they voters don’t improve higher limits, I don’t think we will look to put it to a vote. Either have lower limits or at the state limits. We can’t keep putting it up for a vote every year. A lot of tough decisions have to be made the next three years with the cap. I’ve never been afraid to make tough decision. I’ve got experience with it on the school board or (Orangetown) planning board. I try to do what is best community and our students.
Patrice Carrieri: My opinion is that the bus limit should go back to the 1.5 mile for both. The safety of our children is first and foremost. We cannot afford for one child to be harmed due to unavailable transportation. If one child is harmed (unsafe walking conditions, darkness, lack of sidewalks) it is one child too many. Parents need to make an informed decision with clear and detailed information provided from the board as to what this would mean to the budget of 2013-2014.
Jackie Curtiss: I voted no last year and was surprised that the proposition passed. I still am not sure how I will vote on Prop 2. If this passes the funds for next year would be taken from the reserves, but the following year the money would have to come out of the budget. This becomes very complicated with the 2% tax cap in effect. $200,000 is not a couple of clubs, teams or greeters; we would be talking about staff, which is not something I think we should do.
Do you think the apartment building on the former Africa Inland Mission property should broken up into smaller units for sale or kept as one unit to be sold? Why?
Bruce Bond: I think to condo it means that somebody is going to own each unit, which would be a good thing, whether we do 55 or over, either age restricted or not age restricted. You can make an argument either way. Personally, I don’t see the need to age restrict it. We have young families would look to buy a condo. We can support that.
My concern about the apartment building is who buys it? Is it a local individual? At least with condos, individual units are going to be sold. With an apartment, somebody could buy and condo it after. To me (making it into condos) is a cleaner way to go.
Selling the units as condos, you’ve got a minimum $1.8 million. I’ve yet to have anybody tell me it’s wroth that kind of money as apartment. I’ve heard a million to $1.5 million. I think there is a market for that. Are there ways to restrict it, where somebody from our community can benefit? Those are discussions yet to be had.
Patrice Carrieri: I believe that the apartment building on the AIM property should be sold as one unit. We are educators, not real estate developers. A condo conversion will take 1-2 years and you will need to find 10 buyers instead of one. Cost of conversion could exceed $100,000 covering legal, engineering, renovations, and architectural expenses. The building would also need to be managed and maintained until this process was completed, at a cost to the taxpayers which could take years to complete. We are presently in the best market for buyers in the real estate industry, having the best rates available, yet we are still faced with plenty of unsold units in much better locations.
Jackie Curtiss: From the information that I have received to date from the school district and local realtors I do believe that we should move forward and sell the units as condos. While this may take some time and money I believe it will best for the community. We will offer 2 studio, 4 - 1 bedroom and 4 - 2 bedroom apartments for a price that would move while making a profit for the taxpayers. An appraisal of the property was recently done. Once the Board receives this information along with the cost analysis for converting the building to condos we can make an educated decision. The Board can not do anything without the approval of the community.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like the public to know?
Bruce Bond: I would like to remind people to vote. We have to pass the budget. Any time a budget gets defeated, it hurts the entire community. It is important people come out and exercise their right to vote. Our kids depend on it.
Patrice Carrieri: I may not have served on the board of education but I have been a member on many other boards in this district. All board members require the same skills, responsiveness, active listening, flexibility, compromise and fiscal responsibility to the people they serve. During my years as a PTA officer, I have participated and created events and programs for all buildings within the district and learned the value of teamwork, leadership and fiscal responsibility. I simultaneously served as a girl scout leader for both my daughters troops and served as a co-chair for the Pearl River girl scouts for 4 years, overseeing 660 scouts and 275 leaders. I implemented leader training while creating programs for the scouts on a unit and council level. I returned back to school full time and received my Masters Degree from NYU, juggling my role as a mom, wife and volunteer. I can do this job and do it well, putting 100 percent effort and commitment to the students, board and the Pearl River community.
Jackie Curtiss: I am honest, willing to speak to parents and community members about any issue and I care about ALL the kids in Pearl River.
I would like to ask something of the community. There are two seats open on the School Board this year, when you go to the polls vote for two candidates. Thank you for your support in the past and I hope to continue to serve on the Pearl River Board of Education for three more years!!!