IRVINGTON, N.Y. -- School board elections are coming up on May 21, and The Daily Voice wants to highlight candidates running for the Irvington Board of Education.
Four candidates are vying for two open seats on the Irvington Board of Education: incumbent Robert Grados, John Montgomery, Seth Oster and David Graeber. Check back as Election Day draws closer to see more candidate questionnaires.
Robert Grados is the current School Board President. Grados, 44, is an attorney and partner at international law firm Allen & Overy LLP, where he practices real estate law. He has lived in Irvington with his wife and three children since 2006.
What qualifies you to be a school board member?
I am the current president of the Irvington school board. I am a strong proponent of public education, and my wife and I chose to move to Irvington, in part, because of its strong schools. I first ran for the school board to ensure that the school board practiced good governance and made decisions that were in the best interests of Irvington's children and the district. I approach each issue that the board faces with an open mind, and rather than being guided by politics or ideology, I base my decisions solely on what is in the best interests of the district and our children. In my legal practice, I represent lenders and borrowers in multi-million dollar transactions, and work routinely with budgets and contracts, and want to continue to bring those skills to the board. In addition, the board routinely faces legal and policy matters. As the only attorney on the board, I am able to assist in interpreting legal issues for the other board members.
What have you accomplished as a member of the school board?
I am proud of so many things that the boards on which I have sat have accomplished, as well as my own contributions to those accomplishments. The highlights include:
- fiscally prudent budgets, culminating in some of the lowest average annual tax increases in westchester county.
- the completion of our collective bargaining contracts, resulting in savings to Irvington school district taxpayers of more than $2,000,000.
- the creation of the director of curriculum position, which will pave the road for curriculum advances that will benefit our children into the future.
- proactively addressing our deteriorating playing fields.
- the settlement of all significant litigation affecting the district.
- streamlined board meetings to enable more time to be focused on substantive issues affecting the district.
- sound, progressive leadership in the administration in the hiring of Superintendent Kristopher Harrison and, most recently, principal David Cohen at the high school.
- new and varied communications initiatives for the district: updating of the district's website; creation of a district facebook page; televising of board meetings.
- commissioned a professional space study to proactively address potential cost savings in our facilities.
What would you like to accomplish if elected?
Irvington is a very good school district, but we must strive to become elite, both in educational product and in recognition by colleges and universities. If re-elected to the board, I will make it my goal for the board, with the assistance of the community and our administrators and teachers, to adopt a long-term plan that has as its goal elite status for our schools.
If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax cap, what would you cut?
I feel that the boards on which I have sat have done a very good job of cutting "fat" out of our budgets. The board has provided for Irvington some of the lowest school tax increases in Westchester County during my tenure. Unfortunately, if the district were forced to make cuts, we would need to look to cut matters over which the board, as opposed to the state, has control: language programs; extracurricular offerings; our teachers and administrative professionals; and sports programs. While we will continue to look for cost savings and efficiencies, I feel that additional cuts to the foregoing would greatly and negatively affect our educational offerings in Irvington.
What are the three biggest issues facing the school today?
There is one overriding issue facing not only our school district, but all school districts in New York: how do school boards maintain educational and extracurricular offerings when faced with the monetary burden of state-imposed unfunded mandates?
If elected what would you do about them?
The board needs to strike a balance between the pressure imposed by state unfunded mandates and the desire to maintain the high quality of our schools. The board continually needs to explore cost-savings and efficiencies, but must always be mindful not to sacrifice our children's education in doing so. In addition, the board and community need to be more active and organized in lobbying for changes to state unfunded mandates.