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In their words: Saratoga school board candidates

In their words: Saratoga school board candidates

In their words: Saratoga school board candidates
Saratoga School District candidates speak at an open forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters at Saratoga Springs High.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- An election for three school board seats in Saratoga Springs has drawn intense focus this year as the district grapples with how best to keep its students safe. 

Seven candidates have joined the race, staking out opposing positions on whether to rearm district grounds monitors, some of whom are retired police officers who had carried firearms on school grounds until last spring. After the board in October narrowly voted against authorizing the monitors to carry firearms again, a community backlash grew up to call for armed monitors.

Three of the candidates who support rearming monitors are running on a slate with the financial and organizational backing of a group that emerged as part of the backlash and has raised over $33,000 to support the slate of candidates. The group has spent an unprecedented amount of money on the campaign, purchasing yard signs, digital advertisements and mailers.

Throughout the race, candidates have raised a litany of issues in the district, from budget challenges to district communication to students vaping, as they look to broaden the debate beyond a contentious gun debate. But concerns about student safety and how best to foster a safe learning environment has dominated debate in the school district since the fall and is sure to play a key factors in this month's vote.

As the May 21 election nears, each candidate was given a chance to respond to the same set of questions in their own words. Here are their responses (in the order they will appear on the ballot): 

Heather Reynolds

Name, age, occupation?

Age 51, associate professor of teacher education, SUNY/Empire State College

Why are you running for the school board and what qualifies you for the position?

I was elected to the Saratoga Springs City School District Board of Education in 2016 and have served as both a trustee and vice president. I have 25 years of experience working in the field of education. I am committed to public schools and the support and education of teachers. My work in schools in a variety of states, and my work supporting new teachers in many of the school districts around the Capital Region has allowed me to see how different schools approach issues, programming, professional development, and assessment. I have seen programming and initiatives in schools that have been successful as well as those that have not. I often use this knowledge to help inform my decisions at the board table.

What three issues do you see as most pressing for the board's attention?

  1. Positive school climate: I believe we should evaluate the climate of all of our schools. A school with a positive climate has supportive, caring teachers and staff, low levels of bullying, strong student connectedness, high levels of parental involvement, fair disciplinary practices, and sufficient school mental health services. Research shows a variety of positive social and academic outcomes for students.

  2. Student well-being: Parents often ask me about issues such as substance use/abuse, bullying, vaping, and the dramatic increase in depression and anxiety among students. We need to hold high standards for our students but also support them as they navigate the increasingly high demands and stress brought about by academics, sports, and social media.

  3. Meeting the needs of all students: How are we going to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population? We need a districtwide, comprehensive K-12 plan to ensure we provide consistent supports and challenges for every student at every grade level.

How would you plan to work through issues that divide the school board and broader community?

In my experience as a board member talking through issues and having an open mind are paramount to any group decision-making process. BOE members need to keep an open mind about all issues and try to collect all of the necessary information to make an informed decision. We need to be informed on a wide range of issues and feel comfortable asking questions that lead to a better collective understanding. Above all, we have to be able to work collaboratively, trust each other, treat each other with respect, and work for the greater good of the district despite our differences of opinion. Depending on the make up of the board after May 21st we are going to have a lot of work to do to heal, both as a board, and as a community, from this divisive election.

How will you evaluate trade offs that come with each year's budget?

I have three years of experience working through and passing a budget. There are always trade offs. The most important thing I always keep in mind is to make sure we are focused on changes/improvements that benefit the most students, teachers and staff and that the concerns of all school stakeholders are heard throughout the lengthy budget process. I’m also very cognizant about programming costs, and whether we have data that provides strong support for either adopting or removing a program or practice in each budget cycle.

Explain how you envision the role of district grounds monitors and what you would like the district to accomplish in the next year to improve safety and security in Saratoga schools.

The grounds monitor program (who are a mix of retired police officers and others) continues to operate and these individuals are important members of the school community who fill a security/monitoring role. We have two School Resource Officers (SROs) who are active duty police officers with specialized training to work with children in schools who are based at the high school and the middle school. We are one of the safest districts in the state (NYSIR confirmed this through their safety audit). We have a continuous improvement model for safety and are always assessing how we can make physical or procedural changes to improve security in our district. Our resources and staffing also need to be focused on prevention through using a comprehensive threat assessment model, providing sufficient counseling/mental health support, actively preventing bullying and harassment, and promoting a positive school climate.

 

John Brueggemann 

Name, age, occupation?

John Brueggemann, 54: I have worked at Skidmore College for 25 years, where I am a professor in the Department of Sociology. During that time I have been a teacher, researcher, department chair and associate dean of the faculty.

Why are you running for the school board and what qualifies you for the position?

I am a teacher and my wife is a pediatrician. We feel a deep connection to this community. We have three kids in district schools and talk about the well-being and development of children all the time.

As an educator, I am passionate about teaching and learning. There is something amazing about the moment when students learn something, for real, about the world or themselves. Being a part of that process is a special gift. I am eager to help bring the best out of every single student in our district.

As an administrator and board member, I have overseen personnel decisions, budgets, strategic planning, curriculum development, fundraising, governance, and benefits.

I have participated in volunteer activities associated with Shelters of Saratoga, EOC, Leadership Saratoga, Saratoga Wilton Soccer Club, and our church. All of this volunteer work represents my commitment to supporting the groups and community that enrich my life.

What three issues do you see as most pressing for the board's attention?

From talking to so many people, I can see there is a broad range of important issues that need attention. For many, the top of the list includes (1) the health and well-being of students; (2) academic challenge and support at all levels; (3) and related questions of community, trust, communication, cooperation, and school climate.

Each of these issues ties into the budget. Our district has some hard years ahead that will require difficult choices. We have to prioritize things that add real value. We do not have the money or time to spend on issues not supported by evidence and logic. Adopting measures that add little value or offer false comfort pose a threat to genuine assets proven to benefit our children in terms of education, safety, and well-being. Wasting resources this way would put at risk the positions of teachers, social workers, psychologists, counselors, and bus drivers.

How would you plan to work through issues that divide the school board and broader community?

I believe the solution lies in two things: relationships and community.

First, relationships. I have had productive conversations with hundreds of parents, students, teachers and staff in recent months, often with people who disagree with me about a specific issue. When people sit down in good faith and try to understand one another, good things happen. We will not always agree. But when we find our common ground, we can better manage the difficult issues over which we disagree. Rapport and trust make everything else easier.

Second, communication. The district can do a better job of proactively sharing information about difficult topics before rumors and misinformation spread, and the discourse becomes heated. Trade offs should be explained and consultation undertaken before actions are taken, not after. You can’t make everyone happy all the time, but more attention to substantive and inclusive communication will surely help.

How will you evaluate trade offs that come with each year's budget?

My basic approach will be to make sure that the process of generating a budget is as inclusive and transparent as possible. The knowledge of administrators who run the district is critical, of course. But important choices must be based on substantive input from various stakeholders, including those who know students best, teachers, as well as students themselves, staff, parents and others in the community.

Board members must be informed about a range of issues, including the budget’s history, New York state regulations and aid, managing debt, how the fund balance is determined, the fluctuating tax levy, changes in key markets (e.g., information technology) and demographic changes in the district. The process leading to final decisions should generally be informed by appropriate evidence, best practices, and the input of relevant experts, whenever possible. Cutting is always hard but will make more sense when the context and trade offs are made clear.

Explain how you envision the role of district grounds monitors and what you would like the district to accomplish in the next year to improve safety and security in Saratoga schools.

In my view, anyone carrying firearms in schools needs high level training for working with young people, including special needs students, and they need expert supervision, which our district is not equipped to provide. The grounds monitors have not had this training or accountability. Among its numerous recommendations, our insurer NYSIR did not add rearming grounds monitors. For these reasons, I support the Board of Education’s previous decision to not re-arm them.

Because I have three children in district schools and value the well-being of all young people in our community, I care deeply about safety and health. I therefore want to broaden the conversation so we are not only talking about guns, but also vaping, anxiety, depression, suicide, opioids, peer pressure, bullying, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, nutrition, social media, screen time, sleep issues, and the other things that threaten a lot of our children all the time.

 

Shaun Wiggins

Name, age, occupation?

My name is Shaun Wiggins, and I am the owner of a local business. My business is focused on managing risk – implementing processes, procedures and training to help ensure bad things don’t happen; keeping operations running while issues and crises are being resolved (because people do bad things); collecting and analyzing data to understand how to mitigate issues and crises quickly; and, communicating with my customers’ key audiences to explain the genesis through resolution of an issue/crisis as well as provide marketing & communications of products and services.

Why are you running for the school board and what qualifies you for the position?

First, the school monitors were very publicly disarmed by the school board. My company conducts security audits, active shooter trainings, and implements policies & procedures focused on active shooter events. Security is important to me.

Second, I received an email about some classes increasing the student-teacher ratio from 17 to a sub-optimal 27 children per class.

Third, I spent a significant amount of time seeking school district budget information. Once found buried in a poorly designed website, key information was not available.

I decided to run because I feel that the elected Saratoga School District Board of Education can, and needs to, do better.

I have worked as an executive in both GE and Shell. I worked as a senior official in both the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. I have significant leadership, budget, and consensus-building experiences, all of which will help ensure an effective Board team.

What three issues do you see as most pressing for the board's attention?

  1. Safety – The school board needs develop and implement a comprehensive plan that increases the safety and security across our schools that must include armed, well-trained, thoroughly screened personnel. (I prefer the personnel to be School Resource Officers, but the current budget does not allow for such, so we need a stop-gap measure).

  2. Education – The school board must increase support for teachers and help enhance the quality of education for all students in Saratoga schools.

  3. Transparency – The school board must exponentially increase communications with the community, allowing easy access and understanding of operations, budgeting process, decision-making and planning. The communications must allow for community feedback to the board.

How would you plan to work through issues that divide the school board and broader community?

Education occurs at the intersection of learning and teaching. This is where – what I refer to as – the “Teacher-Student Exchange” occurs. Where, in a safe and secure environment, the teacher and student meet, and the teacher imparts knowledge to the student and in exchange receives fulfillment. It is the role of the Board of Education to ensure teachers have all they need to deliver on student achievement. Specifically, as laid out by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), there are five core skills that our school boards must possess to ensure that the students in our district achieve at high levels. These core skills are as follow:

· Vision

· Accountability

· Policy

· Community Leadership

· Relationships

These skills are a framework for effective school governance and are skills that I have maintained across my professional career. With these skills, I will ensure that the board exercises its responsibility in establishing and guiding the vision for the schools to fruition. I will do this reaching out to other board members collaboratively building consensus. I will explore, question, and assess budgeting and operations to ensure what is working remains in place and what needs improvement is changed to ensure improved outcomes for our students. I fully intend to ensure the board is accountable, respectful, and responsive to the community. Further, I will ensure that the board keeps front of mind that the it executes on the values, beliefs, and priorities of our community.

How will you evaluate trade offs that come with each year's budget?

The budget is the greatest challenge that the Saratoga Springs School District faces. To help resolve this, there will need to be trade offs. I will start with engaging key stakeholders to form a committee to gather all pertinent information related to budget allocation. With all key stakeholders engaged, an examination of the  policies and principles that guide the budget process will begin. This committee will work with the district budget team to review existing and set new priorities to determine funding reallocation. Hard choices will need to be made; these choices will be transparent and have the involvement of key stakeholders.

Explain how you envision the role of district grounds monitors and what you would like the district to accomplish in the next year to improve safety and security in Saratoga schools.

While I fully support that the Saratoga Springs School District schools have School Resource Officers, the current budget does not allow for such. With that, as a stop-gap measure, I fully support having well and continually trained armed personnel who report under peacekeeping authority. I have had preliminary discussions with Saratoga law enforcement leaders, and they support this path. This is done simply though a memorandum of understanding detailing mutually agreed upon roles and responsibilities.

Regarding the monitors:

First, I will ensure that all armed school monitors will undergo state run testing that certifies them to carry a weapon. I will ensure additional training focused on diversity, mental health and possibly more.

I envision the grounds monitors as working closely with school administrators to help create a safer environment for students, teachers, staff, and visitors. They will respond to dangerous, disruptive incidents on school campuses with the responsibility of the protection of the general school population. They will document all incidents occurring on the school campus that he/she is assigned and in which he/she is involved. They are not School Resource Officers, so they will not have the authority to arrest. They will be responsible for the safe holding of any individual(s) that are required to be turned over to law enforcement for violating laws. The monitors will have NO disciplinary roles or responsibilities.

 

Edward Cubanski

Name, age, occupation?

Edward J. Cubanski, III, 53, Chief Operating Officer of the American Red Cross Eastern NY Region.

Why are you running for the school board and what qualifies you for the position?

I believe in servant leadership which puts the needs of others first thereby helping people, and in this case, building community pride and resiliency. I want to focus my experience, leadership, and volunteerism to provide broader care to the entire school system versus a singular school as I had done in the past, to benefit all students of our community. I bring 42 years of military and civilian leadership experience leading various groups ranging from 3 to 2,600 people. I have led groups to address local, state, and regional citizen concerns developing long-lasting solutions. A few of my mantras are “challenge the status quo,” “continual process and personal improvement,” and “drive to answer the question – why?”

What three issues do you see as most pressing for the board's attention?

My three campaign pillars of safety, education, and advocacy address the most pressing needs. Our school district is very good, but is it the best that it could be? Safety is a comprehensive program that includes physical security, identifying students and school adults that may be having issues that may negatively impact those around them, counseling, and having resources to resolve an assault situation in a timely manner. Great public education is the foundation of a strong community. We need programs to address each student’s needs, which includes those struggling, to those that do well, and to those that don’t feel challenged. Student to teacher ratio is an important component of effective learning. Advocacy. I heard from teachers that many new programs were not at their request and would involve teachers in more school decisions. I support additional teacher professional development days and ensure teachers are provided new program training.

How would you plan to work through issues that divide the school board and broader community?

We need to make decisions based on the goals identified by the district. Once the goal is known, transparent discussion must occur in meetings and via the provided school board assigned email address to each BOE member. I would also require all BOE members pledge to focus on the discussion and not be distracted with electronic devices during executive sessions or in public open forum comment periods. Everyone must be attentive and respect each person speaking to the group.

How will you evaluate trade offs that come with each year's budget?

As I stated earlier, we need to make decisions based on the goals identified by the district. Each goal should be listed in priority order and then discussed to weigh the pros and cons of increasing or reducing the budget in each particular area. I want to drill down through the budget data to find out the variables to see the true budget in each area within the school.

Additionally, the Saratoga Legacy Plan is critical to our school district’s future. We need to approach the legacy review with the goal of not just redesigning the infrastructure of each school, but redesigning the Saratoga School System. As Albert Einstein stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Explain how you envision the role of district grounds monitors and what you would like the district to accomplish in the next year to improve safety and security in Saratoga schools.

Establish a Saratoga School District Safety Committee. The committee would be comprised of school Administrators, teachers, grounds monitors, other school positions (i.e. custodian as recommended in the Sandy Hook After Action Report, etc), a Police Department representative, a social worker and/or mental health professional, and one or two BOE members. I would require that student intervention data be available and discussed at those meetings.

Develop a comprehensive school safety plan to identify at-risk students and adults, provide the necessary resources to care for those at risk, and provide the infrastructure resources and armed qualified active or retired law enforcement personnel to protect those attending school and associated events. The grounds monitors, and SROs, would not be distracted and have the eyes and ears to identify the potential issues and respond in a few minutes to address an issue, if needed.

Connie Woytowich

Name, age, occupation?

My name is Connie Woytowich and I am 42 years old. I am a NYS master teacher, a selective designation made by the State University of New York for teachers of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). I teach biology, chemistry, and a college level course called Personal Genetics at my alma mater, Colonie Central High School. I started my teaching career at Albany High School in the year 2000 after student teaching in both Corinth (middle school) and Colonie (high school), giving me urban, rural and suburban teaching experience.

In addition to my full-time teaching career, I own a small business called Training FUNdamentals, LLC, specializing in helping businesses with their curriculum procurement and employee training needs.

I am also co-director of Camp Invention in Saratoga, which is a nationally acclaimed one-week summer program led by local teachers where children become innovators through teamwork and immersive, hands-on creative problem-solving.

Why are you running for the school board and what qualifies you for the position?

I decided to run for the school board based on multiple factors: I have four children in the district, care deeply about education, have served on multiple committees at the building/district levels, have considered a run for the past few years, had a year to recharge after being the PTA president for two years at Division Street but still felt the desire to serve the educational community, and my expertise/interest in STEM education and professional development are issues that I am willing to work with our school district on for the benefit of all students of Saratoga Springs.

I am the only candidate that has a solid background in K-12 public education, combined with a vested interest of being a parent and taxpayer in our district. My background in STEM education, parent leadership, and desire to do good work makes me the ideal board of education member.

What three issues do you see as most pressing for the board's attention?

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (PD) – Teachers and staff deserve PD that is not only engaging and relevant, but culturally proficient and educationally sound. Student achievement is directly impacted by PD efforts, and instructional excellence is reinforced by innovative teaching and evaluation of policy and practice.

EDUCATION PROGRAM – Our instructional program should be varied in order to provide every student with an educational experience that is personally relevant and ensures that they are ready for career, higher education studies, and their individual life. Our world changes with new inventions, and our program should change with the times.

HEALTH AND SAFETY – I support proactive measures for safety and health in our schools and understand the complexity that these challenges bring. I support the continued work of the Mental Health Task Force and increasing armed security that are qualified, trained and evaluated, as two for a district our size is not adequate.

How would you plan to work through issues that divide the school board and broader community?

First and foremost, I will listen and reflect on the perspectives that are shared with me, whether they differ or are aligned with my own. I will also consider existing policy and the origin of the information to ensure that it is valid, and perform research if validity and reliability of data is not apparent. To that end, I will communicate information and evidence to support my claim/stance to the board and constituents regarding issues that arise and warrant consideration within the scope of the responsibility of the BOE.

I value the spirit of a strong community with diverse perspectives that can respectfully agree to disagree. Professionalism, decorum, civility and trust are fundamental in community relationships, and I work hard to uphold these standards with every decision I make. I have worked on several committees and successful initiatives through my volunteer work in our district over the past decade, and look forward to continuing to collaborate with others who share my passion for education.

How will you evaluate trade offs that come with each year's budget?

Prioritizing high-quality instruction is fundamental to the mission of any educational institution. This year in particular, provides us with multiple examples of when budgets can be impacted by several factors: necessary training, unfunded mandates, unexpected decisions, and contractual obligations.

Every decision should be made with the students' educational experience as a priority with the understanding that mandates and obligations need to be fulfilled. Understanding, researching, considering, and collaborating with others about legitimate alternative pathways to achieving a goal is fundamental when evaluating trade-offs. The information I have set forth here to support increased security, is one example of how I work to accomplish this.

Explain how you envision the role of district grounds monitors and what you would like the district to accomplish in the next year to improve safety and security in Saratoga schools.

I would work collaboratively to ensure that our armed monitors would be qualified, trained and evaluated per a newly adopted BOE policy after legal counsel and insurance review and approval. Training programs that already exist through NYSDCJS, local law enforcement agencies, and neighboring school districts should be utilized as guiding documents and then specifically documented in BOE policy. Data from other programs (New Jersey and Warren County), including pending NYS legislation that supports having a school resource officer, law enforcement officer, or security guard have written authorization to carry a firearm on school grounds (S101A) should also be utilized for proper planning, implementation, and evaluation of the safety program and its employees. Perimeter security, in addition to the scheduling and placement of the grounds monitors, should also be investigated and collaborated on with district leadership to ensure that each building has adequate and equitable safety measures in place.
 

Natalya Lakhtakia

Name, age, occupation?

Natalya Lakhtakia, 33, speech-language pathologist for a public school district

Why are you running for the school board and what qualifies you for the position?

I am a speech-language pathologist and have spent my career working with students of all ages in public education -- through early intervention, in preschools, in K-12 schools, and with adult transition programs. I love working in special education and helping young people communicate. I will always stick up for kids and what is best for them. I have always planned to run for school board, but felt compelled to do so this year after witnessing the open hostility that our administration and board received in the fall. I teach my son and my students to always be kind and respectful -- I embody those principles myself. I am a highly-qualified candidate because of my personal and professional knowledge, perspective, and problem solving skills. I will make and share my decisions collaboratively. Nothing happens overnight, but I have the drive, passion, and commitment to make smart changes for our schools.

What three issues do you see as most pressing for the board's attention?

Full-spectrum safety: Students today are confronted with new, amplified obstacles. Vaping, bullying, anxiety, depression, and even suicide are on the rise. Improving school climate and focusing on prevention will help all students and reduce the risk of tragedy. We must allocate resources to everyday safety issues through evidence-based approaches.

Communication: Streamlining communication within and from the district will benefit everyone. For example, the current board’s communications about the grounds monitor issue were ineffective. I regularly see misinformation being shared as fact. Not communicating immediately, decisively, and with a clear message has created a rift in our community. Good communication brings us together -- ineffective communication tears us apart.

Community: A community that takes ownership of its schools is strong; students connected to their community are successful. Every member of our community should feel invested in what happens in our school and have pride when our students are performing and achieving.

How would you plan to work through issues that divide the school board and broader community?

Communication is key. It is my understanding that the board president is responsible for all official communication from the board, and I will push for that communication to be clear and effective. I pledge to listen with an open-mind to parents, teachers, and community members, and to be transparent about my own decisions and sources. I value the dignity of the trustee's office and will always act professionally. Differences are good -- discourse makes our society better. I will advocate fiercely when I think something is wrong but I will also listen fiercely. I will always avoid hostility and untruths. It is not possible to please everyone all the time, so the board’s focus must be on making fully informed and fully considered decisions and communicating those decisions efficiently and effectively.

How will you evaluate trade offs that come with each year's budget?

I have attended every budget meeting open to the public this spring, but our budget is extremely complex and I still have much to learn. I do know that our district is made up of many wonderful people who work together everyday to help our students.  I promise to talk to as many teachers, administrators, and staff members as possible to best understand the needs of our district and guide me in my decision-making. I will work as a team with the entire school board to evaluate trade-offs and make the best decisions to support the people who make our district great.

Explain how you envision the role of district grounds monitors and what you would like the district to accomplish in the next year to improve safety and security in Saratoga schools.

A risk assessment was conducted in the fall of 2018 and the experts determined that our schools are extremely safe. NYSIR ranked us in the 95th percentile for safety -- that’s an A+. I expect that our current board will follow their recommendations to make us even safer. The grounds monitors can and do support our students, teachers, and staff every day, without the use of a firearm. To further improve our already stellar safety score, we must focus on everyday dangers -- vaping, sexual misconduct, our students hurting themselves or one another. There is a marked increase in teenage anxiety, depression, and suicide across the nation -- this absolutely breaks my heart. Research shows that creating and maintaining a positive school climate helps every student feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves -- that they are not alone. This is where all safety ultimately comes from: belonging and acceptance.

 

Dean Kolligian

Name, age, occupation?

Dean A. Kolligian, 42, Adirondack Trust Company, vice president – Security officer & facilities manager, McGregor Village Development Corporation – partner

Why are you running for the school board and what qualifies you for the position?

I am seeking a position on the Saratoga Springs City School District Board of Education in hopes of being able to make a difference. I am the father of 4 amazing children, at three different schools, within the district. My wife, Erinn, has been a coach for nearly 12 years and is currently the assistant coach for the girls varsity lacrosse team. She is also a third-generation alum. Our family has a lot invested in the education system and I would be proud to be a small part of the group that is tasked with overseeing that process.

I believe that I bring a great deal of board experience to the BOE. Although I do not have BOE experience, I have plenty of other board governance experience. Over the past 16 years of living in this community I have been involved with more than 8 different boards including; Wellspring, Downtown Special Assessment District, Town of Wilton Zoning Board of Appeals, Saratoga Hospital and the New York State Troopers Signal 30 Fund, all of which I currently serve.

What three issues do you see as most pressing for the board’s attention?

  • Education Quality

  • Safety & Security

  • Infrastructure monitoring and long-range facilities planning

How would you plan to work through issues that divide the school board and broader community?

I would work through these issues the same way I do at home or at work when I am in the minority on an issue I feel strongly about. I would keep an open mind and exercise my best listening skills. Listening to the opinions of others and gaining their perspective provides the best opportunity to make informed decisions. As long as your opinion can be supported, it should always warrant spirited discussion.

How will you evaluate trade offs that come with each year’s budget?

The same way I do at home or at work, on an annual basis. Budgets should really be formed from the bottom, up. Start from $0 and justify / substantiate the needs for the expenses. There are always going to need to be “trade offs”. Unfortunately, it is always easier to spend money than it is to make it. Sometimes you have to look at the broader picture and allow yourself (and others) to understand that there are many areas looking for opportunities for expenditures, but you always need to focus on what’s most important at the time. Long range planning should come into play as well. Smart strategic planning will allow for a better understanding of the dollars needed in the future.

Explain how you envision the role of district grounds monitors and what you would like the district to accomplish in the next year to improve safety and security in Saratoga schools.

I envision having educated and trained law enforcement personnel (active and retired) on hand in all of our schools within the district. Currently, Officer Davis and Deputy Mahan are tasked with maintaining the safety and security of thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors that walk through our buildings each day. Quite frankly they need additional support as well. Whereas additional SRO’s may seem like a good option, we would need to fully understand the cost associated with this additional expense. The active and retired law enforcement that were already employed by the district provide a most cost-effective measure for this support.

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