IRVINGTON, N.Y. School board elections are less than a week away, and we're preparing by asking the candidates questions about the issues, what they hope to accomplish and why residents should vote for them.
Incumbents John Dawson and Robyne Camp face challenges from Robyn Kerner, Maria Kashkin and Della Lenz for two seats on the Irvington Board of Education.
Questionnaires were sent to each candidate and will be published on The Daily Tarrytown as they are returned. The following questionnaire was filled out by Camp.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself:
Robyne Camp, age 65. My first career was in financial services. I worked for Citi, where I specialized in complex lending to insurance companies. My second career began after I was widowed in my 40s in the middle of a recession. I attended law school and, after passing the bar, did pro bono work with special needs children in the foster care system. I went on to represent abused and neglected children in appeals cases, and to prosecute domestic violence crimes as a pro bono assistant district attorney in Brooklyn.
I have lived in Irvington since 1997. My husband, Herb Camp, has lived here for 40 years, and we plan to stay in Irvington for the rest of our lives.
What qualifies you to be a school board member?
Three years ago, at the start of the Great Recession and before I ran for the school board, I fought the building of artificial turf fields. That experience alerted me to waste and mismanagement in our school district that threatened the quality of our programs.
I have served on the school board for the past three years. During the past 10 years I also worked on behalf of children and families as a pro bono lawyer for Legal Aid, first handling educational advocacy cases then doing appeals so children in foster care could be adopted. I then prosecuted domestic violence cases as a pro bono assistant district attorney in Brooklyn.
What have you accomplished as school board member?
During my first term, I focused on bringing new leadership and strong financial controls to the district. The district is now operated in a much more family-friendly and responsible way.
Today we have four fewer administrators than we did when I first ran. My guiding principle as we create a new budget in a still-recovering economy: we should not lay off teachers to hire administrators.
What would you like to accomplish if elected?
Ill work with our new superintendent to reduce the number of struggling readers, adopt a world-class elementary math curriculum and bring foreign language instruction to Dows Lane.
If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax cap, what would you cut?
I would cut the curriculum administrator, a position which has not yet been filled but which is budgeted for $160,000. The cost of that position plus the secretary to the administrator is more than $250,000.
What are the three biggest issues facing the school today?
1. We need improvements to our curriculum: foreign language in the elementary grades, more help for struggling readers and a better elementary math program.
2. Going forward, we must keep the budget in check to stay below the tax cap while the personnel costs under the union contracts are double the 2 percent increase allowed under the tax cap.
3. We also have a substantial backlog of tax certs, which will mean we need to borrow large amounts to pay the tax refunds and homeowners will pay more to make up for the decrease in assessed values.
If elected what would you do about them?
1. I would make curriculum enhancements a priority. Possibly other things will have to be placed on hold. Putting those improvements in place and deciding what might have to be cut will be the responsibility of our new superintendent who has a track record of academic accountability and excellence in his schools.
2. The school board must negotiate with the unions and ask for give-backs. People argue the union has no incentive to do that, but I believe our staff has the best interest of the district at heart. They love the schools and our students as much as we do, and once the situation is laid out in a way clear to all of us, we will work together to come up with a solution. This years cooperation has been heartening. Staff members agreed to furlough days to save the district money. The custodians agreed to a different workweek to reduce overtime.
3. Going forward, we should budget and set aside money for tax certs so when refunds come due, we can pay them.
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