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Andrea Furey Reflects on School Communication

May 18, 2009

To the editor:

As my campaign for school board candidate winds down, I’d like to share an anecdote: Handing out leaflets at the Croton-Harmon train station I was greeted by a man rushing home who yelled to me, “Tell me in one sentence or less, why should I vote for you and what do you think of the Mandarin program?” I did my best under these frustrating conditions and didn’t get as far as I wished. But Hey —I thought — this is the reality. Yes most issues are complex, but to truly engage the public, the Board needs to boil them down to their most basic facts and get them out there - even if it means handing out flyers at the train station.

For engage the public we must. And by “public” I mean the entire Village of Croton and our Croton-Harmon educational community.

A silver lining of the economic crises has been that it has focused us on our schools. Croton has been in danger of maxing out its tax base for years. With our present economic situation questions about the future economic sustainability of our schools seem particularly critical. During these past months the public has showed up in unprecedented numbers to discuss the budget and to express their feelings about what is most important for our schools. Many people went on record about Mandarin (although probably not the gentleman that was sprinting away!), reading teachers and afterschool programs. Most importantly public engagement let the administration know what many Crotonites felt they could handle as a tax increase while maintaining the strength of our school programs.

In direct response, the budget went through 5 revisions. I think the end result is a reasonable compromise: A 0% tax levy increase, with minimal trimming of academic and after school programs. If voted in, this budget will be made workable through the efforts and cooperation of administrators, staff members, teachers and ultimately students. For example, some of the janitors will be involved in grounds work and landscaping. Most teachers will be handling more students. Our new superintendent, Dr. Fuhrman, and other school administrators have elected to take on 20% of their health coverage, as a model for the Croton-Harmon teaching staff now involved in contract negotiations. We all wait in anticipation to see what proactive response the teachers will be giving us. We do know that teachers care about the welfare of our children and the good of our community. As tax payers do their part, we look to the educational staff to do theirs.

In tough times we must come together to maximize our resources, to share our talents and ideas and it is an important role of the board to facilitate this. I believe that my background in Communications, Advocacy and Community Building for Non-Profits makes me a good match at this time. The Journal News endorsed me for this very reason. My years of working with non-profit budgets, which always means squeezing every dollar when you know that you are working for a vital cause, would give me the right perspective as we examine each expenditure to see how we can maximize the result for our children —- and the tax payers. My communications background gives me many creative and common sense ideas about how to get the word out. My years of advocacy for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and CH SEPTA organizing people and crafting messages for legislators and the school administration informs me that you are only heard when you bring together large numbers of citizens who speak in one voice.

It has been an exciting and rewarding experience to spend the last six weeks or so meeting with so many community members to discuss the “what” and “how” of providing a great school program for our children. The “what” being our district’s absolute “must have list” of priorities. The “how” being how we can work together to make them a reality.

In conclusion I’d like to share my thoughts about the other candidates: They are an extremely dedicated, motivated and personable group of women and I have enjoyed getting to know each of them enormously. I am truly grateful for the civility of this race, and I hope it sets an example for our town, including our children. I ask for your vote tomorrow because I bring a new set of skills and experiences that would be helpful to the board and the work that needs to be done.

However, whatever the outcome I plan to remain engaged and I call upon you to engage as well. The future welfare of our nation depends upon the education that our children receive today. Win or lose, you’ll probably see me leafleting at the train station!

For more information please visit http://andreafureyforschoolboard.blogspot.com, e-mail me at andreafurey@msn.com or call 271-7640.

— Andrea Furey



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