BoE Candidate Tricia Snyder
Here’s a message from Board of Education Candidate Tricia Snyder:
The next years school budget has really increased the passion and interest in our upcoming School Board elections. I would like to share with you and your readers a number of the questions that I have been getting the past few weeks. There is a lot of misinformation being spread around regarding next years budget and what the finance committee negotiated with the Superintendent in his budget that was presented last week. If anyone has additional questions please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or I would recommend you attend the HFA School Board debate at the Multi Service Center (124 Grand St), Sunday April 6th at 1:30.
See 10 of the questions she has been asked after the jump.
First 10 questions I have been asked:
- Why did you run for School Board?
To make the schools the best they could be for ALL KIDS; including my three year old son AJ – in our Abbott Pre-K program — and my newborn daughter Allison, both born at St Mary’s Hospital.
- What is your background and whay do you do now?
I’m a Mother, a wife and a teacher too – a professor of Economics at William Paterson University.
I grew up in Florida, raised by a single mom – a teacher – who believed in the importance of public education to transform lives of children from all walks of life. I earned a BA at Florida State University and a PhD in Economics from the University of Tennessee.
- As an Economist, tell us how our cost per student got so high?
High fixed costs and an ever shrinking student population led us to this result. In the 80’s, Hoboken educated almost 6,000 students – now we’re just over 2,200. We have fixed costs that are excessive for our reduced student population.
- Then why did you recommend laying-off untenured teachers?
We didn’t – the Superintendent did. And he did it because he had NO choice. There is a fixed pot of money — $1.8 million more than last year. That may sound like a lot but notice that had to factor in a mandatory $1.4 million increase for charter schools, a projected 23% increase for group health, rising energy costs and a contractual increase for all teachers. By eliminating administrative overhead we kept losses to a minimum, but some losses were unavoidable. The light at the end of the financial tunnel has long been an oncoming train – and this year it hit us.
- So what are the Cuts?
We are VERY top heavy, with one of the most expensive administrative costs in the state. So we cut 7 administrators, 6 chair positions, and 5 special nonteaching assignments. Combined this put 15 administrators, who were all tenured teachers, back into the classroom, which helped to reduce our administrative burden by close to 1 million dollars. This is first time in over six years that we have actually reduced our administrative costs.
- Then how DO we save our excellent non-tenured teachers?
It’s hard but not impossible. One idea would be to aggressively buy-out the older teachers but the success of this approach has been spotty. In the end it’s probably going to take shared sacrifice and trust – staff taking a little less now to strengthen the district for the future. Grandstanding by Carmelo Garcia and Mayoral Candidate Michael Russo that there is some sort of “Magic Bullet” isn’t helping at all.
- How do we bring down cost per student?
Reverse both damaging trends: reduce costs and add more students. It’s a tricky balancing act though – if we won’t fund the programs that attract new students or keep existing ones from dropping out of school we defeat ourselves. That’s part of the reason for our commitment to enrichment and vocational education.
- Does each out-of-town student really cost us almost $25,000?
No, monetarily their marginal cost (additional cost of the last student added) is almost zero. We have all the buildings, administration, and infrastructure we need for a much larger district. Class size is so low as to be educationally inappropriate according to state standards. The added monetary cost of out-of-town students is considerably less than the increase in state aid their attendance generates – they can actually save the district money.
- So you think the current situation for out-of –town students is just fine?
No, it’s not fine at all. First of all everyone should follow the rules. Our students should either be verified as having a valid Hoboken address, or be enrolled here under a ‘School Choice’ program. If ‘School Choice’ was used, the economics would be even more attractive, as we could collect tuition from the sending district.
- Do you support voting Yes on the Budget?
I do. Board members like Carmelo Garcia who voted no are talking out of both sides of their mouths: spending like drunken sailors for years then trying to dodge the bill. If Carmelo were honestly interested in participating in the budget discussions he would have attended the finance meetings, which he claimed he would attend, with the superintendent. He chose not to show up and in doing so put politics over policy. Remember, if the budget were to be voted down then the City Council gets involved. That would really be putting the foxes in charge of the chicken coop.
More Q&A from Ms. Snyder to come.