Board of education candidates attend forum to answer student questions

Max Feigelson, Editor

Correction: An earlier version identified Jeffrey Reynolds as a general at West Point. Mr. Reynolds is the Chief of Protocol at West Point. We apologize for the error. 

On Thursday, May 9, a forum was held for voting-age students to ask questions and hear the policy of the five candidates for the Monroe-Woodbury Board of Education. The current student representative to the school board, Christian Hess, and another senior from the student government questioned each of the candidates on their respective policies, as well as how each would respond to particular problems in the school.

In the upcoming election, the five candidates are competing for three seats on the board. Suzanne Donahue, Stacey McCleary, and Lorraine Carroll are all incumbents on the board running for reelection. Keisha Tillman, an assistant principal at Clarkstown High School North, and Jeffrey Reynolds, Chief of Protocol at West Point, are running for two of the open seats.

The questions, written by Hess, were asked one at a time to each of the board members, who received the questions in advance, with the exception of Carroll, who arrived late due to a family medical problem. Reynolds was not present at all, and his emailed responses for each question were read by Hess after that question was asked.

Hess first asked the candidates where they saw the district in five years.

Tillman said she wanted a “safer environment” for students and staff. She also said that she supports the integration of social and emotional learning, a teaching method which encourages students to manage their emotions in a positive way.

Hess followed up by asking about the candidates’ stances on bullying.

In his email, Reynolds wrote that it should be “stamped out” with “harsh punishment.”

“We need to do more,” said Donahue, a board member for six years. “If kids see those in power being bullies, that sets a tone.”

Tillman said that the social and emotional needs of the bully need to be met as well.

The potential board members were then asked to list what they considered to be the three most pressing issues in the district.

McCleary, Donahue, and Tillman all listed vaping as important issues in the district, though McCleary said that there are “lots of issues. [There’s] no top three.”

Tillman also said that she wants to “promote social and emotional well being.”

The upcoming elections do not just involve the five candidates. Voters will also be deciding on a $181.3 million budget for the district, money that will be spent on new teachers, a bilingual psychologist, a behaviorist, and 11 new vehicles.

If the voters choose to do so, student resource officers–police officers specifically trained for schools–will be hired for every school in the district.

Voting takes place on Tuesday, May 21 and is open to all eligible voters who live in the Monroe-Woodbury School District.