NORTH SALEM, N.Y. -- The three candidates who are running for two North Salem school board seats weighed in on a variety of issues at a forum at the North Salem Middle School/High School library on Monday. May 12.
Running this year are Vice President Andrew Brown, who works for the North Salem Police Department and is seeking a third term; Arleen Henshaw, who has served as PTO president for both the middle school/high school and Pequenakonck Elementary School; and Carolyn Aversano, who has worked in the beauty and wellness industries, sold her business and has been involved with various school committees. The candidates received questions from a League of Women Voters moderator and from people in the audience.
Henshaw, a parent of a son in high school and another in middle school, said children's school performance is her reason for running, wanting to prepare them for the future. Aversano, who has two middle school-aged sons and a daughter in Pequenakonck, said interest in education reforms and her available time and energy, which follow the sale of her company, are the reasons to run. Brown touted his record, including on security and scrutinizing proposed budgets. He also spoke in support of extracurricular activities and their academic connection.
The candidates each addressed the Common Core, which has been a major educational issue, with none being wholeheartedly in favor of it.
Brown felt that it was “implemented terribly” and praised the district's staffers for shielding students.
Henshaw called it “another unfunded mandate that the state has passed down to us” and went on to talk about working with it. She also felt that the essence of the Common Core was “very good.”
Aversano was concerned about the handling of the Common Core and mentioned the school community's role in making sure that children don't fall through the cracks during the transition.
Resident Paul Giamundo brought up a scenario in which pre-k were to become mandatory. Henshaw, who called it a “great idea,” felt that putting it together would be difficult. She also explained that Pequenakonck would need to be expanded. Brown was skeptical due to the cost and noted that four more classrooms would be required. Aversano felt that inequality is a reason for mandatory pre-k but that it's not really an issue in North Salem. She was also concerned about the role of government.
The candidates also weighed in on special education in response to a question. Brown praised the work with pre-intervetion and noted the declining number of special education children.
Aversano raised concern about Autism rates but also praised SEPTO, a parent group focused on special education that was formed two years ago.
Henshaw also spoke positively about SEPTO and praised the job that North Salem has done with special education.
Another question pertained to challenges that the district will face in the future. All three candidates cited concern with unfunded mandates, which are imposed by the state government.
“One answer is to lobby, lobby, lobby,” Brown said about outreaching to the state.
“We need some relief,” said Henshaw.
The candidates will be up for election on May 20, with voting being held at Pequenakonck from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. A video of the candidates' forum is available on the district's website.