On May 20, voters will decide the fate of the $57.4 million spending plan and select four candidates for six open seats on the School Board. Here are interviews with two of the candidates. The other three ran last week, and one of the candidates couldn’t be reached. See Saugertiesx.com for the first round of interviews.
Saugerties native Damion Ferraro, 41, lives with his wife and two daughters who attend elementary school in the district. He works as a program manager at GTECH and is running for the first time.
Why are you running?
It’s twofold. The first reason I’m running is I have two young daughters in the school system so I have a vested interest in what their learning paths are, how they’re going to be prepared for the future. Secondly, I want to make sure that the community is fairly represented by the board and that their voices are heard. We can make some decisions based on the community.
I’ve been to several board meetings over the past year and a half or so, and I personally experienced speaking out and was able to make some difference. Last year we went to the board to speak about the lack of math books in the elementary school system. We met with the principals and the assistant superintendent and this year we have books. I’d like to think that our involvement helped.
What do you think of the current board and its priorities?
I think their priorities are primarily financial. It’s nine people representing a community, so there’s going to be good and bad there. I think their focus needs to be more on the education side. Right now it seems like they’re trying to keep taxes low, but the children’s education seems to be suffering.
We have similar surrounding school districts [and] if you look at school rankings, Saugerties ranks 452 out of 694 schools on schooldigger.com. They do a comprehensive data analysis. If you look at Red Hook, they’re at 85. New Paltz is 154. I’m just curious why that is. It’s very disturbing when you see the amount of money that goes into Saugerties schools and you have poor performance when it comes to these educational rankings.
What are your particular areas of interest?
I want to make sure that teachers have the resources they need to teach our children what they need to know. You can’t build a house without a toolbox and you can’t build a child’s education without the proper tools.
The other piece I’d like to focus on as well is gifted students. A lot of classrooms have aides, and the struggling students have one-on-one interaction with aides, but you also have children that excel and they’re not getting that type of instruction. I’d like to know what we can do to cultivate these children.
The wave of the future is technology. Saugerties really doesn’t focus much on technology from what I can see. I’d like to see us utilize technology so our children can be competitive.
What is the role of a good School Board trustee as you see it?
First and foremost, it has to be about the children. Every decision that’s made has to be in the best interest of the children in the district. Going forward from that, it has to be what the community is looking for. For example, another thing I’m looking into is the “sit and stare” policy. The superintendent said there is no “sit and stare” policy at the last board meeting, but there is. The surrounding school districts are allowing children to go to an auditorium and read quietly. Parents came in and spoke about it and it seemed to fall on deaf ears. You have the community coming out to speak about something that they don’t like. If there’s smoke there’s fire. When you see this kind of thing, you have to start asking some questions.