Qualifications: Please state your name and your district. How would you best describe the current state of your district and why should voters elect you to lead its future?
James C. Culyer: Rye City School District.
The RCSD is in excellent condition; with a strong Administrative team; great teaching and support staff and on solid financial footing. (Having recently passed an $80,000,000 Facilities Bond package by the Community.) With today’s worldwide uncertainty due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic I feel that my prior involvement with the RCSD as a member of the Facilities Committee, the Technology Committee, but most importantly as a Board of Education member, having served twelve years, four of which were as Board of Education President, make me uniquely qualified to bring Experience and Proven Leadership to the RCSD at this time.
Student Issues: How have and/or would you improve the quality of teachers, the curriculum, and school facilities in your district?
The teachers in Rye, as in all NYS School Districts go through a three/four year period upon their hiring, where they are mentored, provided professional training prior to being recommended for tenure by the administration. The curriculum is reviewed each and every year from the elementary school, to the middle school and the high school by a committee of the board. From elementary school standardization to advanced placement and most recently the incorporation of STEM into the curriculum are all part of the ongoing process of education in RYE. With regard to school facilities, as I mentioned earlier, the RCSD has entered upon an $80,000,000 facilities upgrade, approved by the community. In addition, there is a five year facilities plan that incorporates annual facilities updates as necessary.
Financial Issues: Property taxes remain the most important issue to voters. How can you provide relief to the taxpayers and ensure a balance between property values and the quality of education?
New York State passed laws to ensure property taxes remain under control through its TAX CAP legislation. We have to keep in mind that this is PUBLIC EDUCATION, any child living in The City of Rye is entitled to a free education. The RCSD has for years and continues to be very mindful of our residents/taxpayers and has led Westchester County school districts in maintaining extremely low cost per student ratios for education. It has been said that Rye City School District offers a family a private school education at a public education price.
Challenges: What do you feel are the major decisions the Board has made in the last year and will make in the coming year, and what is your position on those decisions?
The passage of the $80,000,000 facilities bond; the introduction of a co-teacher model; the introduction of the Columbia Teachers College model; are all major decisions that have been made. One of my biggest concerns is the unknown. Not knowing how education is going to be affected come September. I do feel that my experience and proven leadership that I have shown will help the District navigate these choppy waters.
What do you propose the District should do to address the new normal in delivering quality education post the COVID-19 crisis? This includes, lost schooling, new learning alternatives, and a healthy and safe environment.
The health and safety of our children, families and staff should be our number one priority. Second is the delivery of education to our children. We have learned that through distance learning, things are different. We, as a district need to ensure that all three elementary schools are consistent in their learning. Working with the administration we need to continue to ensure a quality education for our students whether through classroom or distant learning. Do we limit the number of children in a classroom? Do we incorporate split sessions? Do we incorporate distance learning in our everyday curriculum? How do we address lunch? How do we incorporate physical education? What about specials? Currently there are many, many issues that the school district will be facing come September. I don’t believe that today there is a right or a wrong answer; today it is still the unknown!!