At a special meeting Wednesday night, members of the Bedford Central School District's Board of Education got a chance to learn about the three candidates who are vying to fill the seat previously held by Lee Goldstein, who resigned due to a move out of the district.
The candidates - they are Mount Kisco's Edward Reder, Pound Ridge's Joe Malichio and Bedford Corners resident Brian Sheerin - were interviewed with board members watching and with a moderator asking questions in a format similar to an election forum. Unlike an election, however, it will be up to the school board to pick a successor. Board President Susan Wollin noted that this format has been previously used twice and that it has yielded more people applying than those who submit petitions to run for election.
Malichio, a resident of about 10 years who grew up next door in Lewisboro and has three kids in district schools, noted that he has been outspoken but hopes that it does not disqualify him. He noted that if picked he would offer communication to the community with the same fervor as before but keep his concerns internal. He also feels that he gets along with others and that's important. Additionally, Malichio feels it is important to have a Pound Ridge resident on the board, stating that there is currently no one from the town who is on it.
he raised include improving the district's rankings and dealing with
the practice of red-shirting kids, a
term that commonly refers to
delaying kindergarten entrance of kids. His local background,
according to his application, includes coaching baseball and basketball, getting
involved in Pound Ridge's Neighbor to Neighbor program and getting
involved in holiday events in town.
For Malichio, his family is why he wants to volunteer.
“There are no self interests here. It's just for them.”
Sheerin, who has lived in the area for about seven years and is a Fox Lane Middle School dad, wrote in his application that he is civic minded. At the interview he noted that he advocated for impactful legislation. He also said the thing he is "most proud of" is his kids. One priority for Sheerin is to improve school rankings, arguing that based on his involvement in real estate, a strong school system is tied to home values. Sheerin's volunteer experience, according to his application, includes having been a fundraiser for Mount Kisco Elementary School's parent group and serving on a recruitment committee for foster parents.
Reder, who has lived locally for more than seven years and is the father of two kids who attend Mount Kisco Elementary School, feels that his experience in both the private and public sectors will be helpful. His career, according to his application, includes serving as a legislative aide in both the state assembly and state senate, as well as being the general manager of a startup company and as a chief technology officer for another. Reder is passionate about technology management and would like to help with the issue if he is chosen. In addition, he serves on a search committee for a new executive director for Mount Kisco Child Care Center, which he compared to how he would deal with serving on the board.
The candidates received questions about Bedford Central's economic status and how to approach academics.
One question involved opinions about the proposed capital plan bond, which is about $31.8 million and will be up for a referendum on Oct. 22. It includes major interior and exterior renovations for West Patent Elementary School, renovated science labs, larger cafeteria and other rehabilitated space at Fox Lane Middle School, track and turf replacements for the Fox Lane campus, and roof replacements for six out of the district's seven schools.
Sheerin was skeptical about the large amount for the bond.
“I think at this point I don't know that I would take on such a large bond, candidly.”
Reder is in favor of the proposal, saying that “I think it's an important initiative.” He cited low interest rates as a positive and noted that he has listened to what the board has said
Malichio, meanwhile, supports some items of the plan but not the full scope. In particular he questions the necessity to dealing with West Patent. Noting that the Katonah-Lewisboro school district is considering school closure due to falling enrollment, he suggested the possibility of moving students from the school to elsewhere within the district.
Candidates were also asked about the state-mandated tax levy cap, which limits how much tax revenue can be increased each school year by the lesser of two percent or inflation, albeit with some exemptions.
Malichio feels that the district should have a long-term financial plan, like 15 to 20 years, which would not only include operating budget data but numbers for bonds as well.
“So, I think we can work with what we have but we need a long-term plan.”
Sheerin felt that spending does not necessarily mean a good outcome.
“I think throwing money at – just more and more money every year after year – doesn't always produce the best outcome results.”
In contrast, Sheerin wants to support what can help students, noting, as an example, that music and sports can help a positive academic benefit.
Reder praised the school board and Superintendent Jere Hochman for their leadership in recent years, noting that they have slowed the growth rates of budgets and tax levies. He worried about recent job cuts and felt that what needs to be done is to advocate for reform at the state level to bring relief, such as pushing for pension reform.
On the academic side, candidates were asked for their thoughts on high-stakes testing.
All candidates expressed concerns with the current system, including the cumulative time spent on testing. Reder while that some of the national intiatives are good but is concerned about the level of testing that kids are going through, although he added it is too early to know what the effects will be on them.
“The jury is still out on all these assessment tests," said Sheerin, who is skeptical of the system and noted that some results for testing done months ago are not yet available.
Malichio feels there has to be some sort of testing but doesn't think there should be as much as there is now, nor does he feel that teachers should teach to the tests.
Another question related to dealing with a structure like that of a board, in terms of working with others.
Sheerin noted his experience serving on a board and being part of a search for an executive director, and how it was a decision-making process that they worked on as a team. Reder brought up his ongoing work on the search committee for Mount Kisco Child Care Center's new executive director, explaining that there was sharing of knowledge among members and in learning about where the center is now and what its challenges are. Malichio noted that he has been on teams throughout his life and that even if he disagrees with a decision he notes that you have to go along with it as part of a group. He also noted that he has been able to persuade others to agree with him.
Once the interviews ended, Wollin told the candidates not to worry about their replies, saying, “I know my colleagues appreciate honest answers, so have no fear.”
A replacement will be chosen based on his application, interview and public input. The later can be given until Friday by emailing the district at email@example.com.
The school board ended its regular meeting with a planned executive session to debrief about the issue. Another executive session will be held for the matter, with the goal being to select a new board member by the board's next meeting, according to Wollin.
Applications from the candidates can be found in the board's meeting agenda, which is posted on Board Docs.