LWV Questionnaire Responses
- 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?
My name is Tom Stein and I am running for the Rye School Board. I have three children, two of whom will be at Osborn this fall and a third who is at Nature Center and Rye Pres. I am an attorney and business executive and have experience both being on and advising boards. I believe the Rye City Schools are excellent overall, but are also in need of nurturing and long term planning to maintain that excellence. Our school administration is top notch, led by Dr. Byrne and we have phenomenal teachers, students and parental support. Much of our infrastructure, however, is old and in need of maintenance and investment. Passing the bond last year was an important step in planning for the next five, ten, twenty years and beyond, but is not a panacea and long-range planning and forward thinking is needed to efficiently maintain our assets and infrastructure. If elected, I would work with the administration and the rest of the Board to identify opportunities and potential issues and act on them proactively, rather than reactively — which is one of the best ways to save money.
2. Student Issues: How have and/or would you improve the quality of teachers, the curriculum, and school facilities in your district?
This is a question that gets at the heart of what the role of a School Board is, which is not to run the school district — that is the role of the Superintendent and the Administration — but to provide advice, consent and oversight to the School Administration, and be a liaison to the community. We are lucky to have a strong Administration currently in place. I would use my professional skills to help the School Administration navigate and resolve difficult issues, while also making sure both that the voice of the entire community is heard and that the logic and rationale of the Administration and Board’s decisions be better conveyed to the community.
I got quite involved in the Bond issue after its initial defeat last year and what I discovered was that there was a lot of confusion and misinformation about both the Bond and the process. I firmly believe that if all the issues had been better conveyed to the community, there would have been nearly unanimous consent. As someone whose career is based not just on diving deep into the details of things, but being able to distill and communicate issues simply and clearly, I believe I can help bring consent within the community on difficult issues that arise in the future.
I would apply these skills and that perspective to help the Administration continue to improve the quality of the teachers, curriculum and facilities.
3. 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?
Long-range planning. As I analyzed the Bond issues last year, I discovered that Rye Schools over the decades have been reactive to a lot of issues, rather than proactive, which resulted in more expensive fixes than were needed and directly contributed to the size of last year’s Bond. The old adage of a stitch in time saves nine is very true here and proactive planning is the best way to provide tax relief over the medium to long term. The current Administration and Board have been more proactive the last few years and I want to continue and expand that trend.
In the short term, I don’t come with any preconceived notions and would instead analyze the budget and needs of the district to see where efficiency and savings in the short term might be realized. I understand the tax pressure our community faces and am sensitive to them. By the same token, the value of our primary assets — our homes — is directly tied to maintaining and increasing the quality of our schools. We should continue to focus on how to most efficiently provide the world class education the Rye City Schools are correctly known for.
4. 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?
Fortunately or unfortunately, these are obvious. In the last year, it is the Bond and after closely analyzing the issues, I was firmly in favor of it. The vast majority of the Bond went to either long overdue maintenance and fixes or to planning for the future. Additionally, the economic structure of the Bond was a very efficient way to do so in light of state laws and regulations.
In the coming year, it is obviously Covid-19 and what that will mean for our schools and learning. As this will highly depend on what happens over the next couple of months and decisions and dictates from the state I don’t have any set positions now, other than a commitment to focus on the safety of our students and community, balanced with ensuring quality education and a safe eventual return to normality.
5. 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.
In line with the above and with respect to the question, I don’t believe we yet have a new normal. This is a fluid and changing situation. We have to continue to prepare for the possibility of distance/virtual learning while also looking for the safest ways to resume in person education. I will also note that we as a community should be extra supportive of our teachers, who quickly pivoted this year and will likely face new and increasing challenges next year, however education is modified.