THORNWOOD, N.Y. – Four candidates will vie for three spots on the Mount Pleasant Central School District Board of Education next week. Incumbents Theresa Fowler, Vincent D’Ambroso and Jim Grieco will be challenged by Thomas McCabe.
The Daily Mount Pleasant spoke with McCabe about his background and his plans if he is elected on May 15.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
• Married with five children
• Resident of Mount Pleasant for over 20 years
• Two children graduated from college, one is a senior at Westlake High School, one is a student at Hawthorne Elementary School, and one is set to enter kindergarten this upcoming fall
• Works as an Account Manager for VCE
• First time running for the Board of Education
What other organizations are you involved with?
• Member of the 2011-12 Mount Pleasant School Budget Committee
• Member of the Concerned Parents of Mount Pleasant community group
• Student Advisor/Mentor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• Coach for local Mount Pleasant youth baseball, softball, soccer leagues
What inspired you to run for the Board of Education?
McCabe: Part of it is to give back. Over the past few years I’ve become very interested in the whole education process. I also think I can bring value, not only from a business perspective and understanding the economic challenges that we’re going to face but also bringing some capabilities to be out in the community. Plus I have a long-term need to have very successful schooling for my kids, and I think it’s important that as a community member we give back.
In the scenario where reductions must be made in the future in order to stay under the 2 percent tax cap, what areas would you look at if you are elected?
McCabe: It’s my opinion, the further away that you get from the core educational values that the school is set up to be – in other words, the teachers or advisors – the more we would need to take a look at those outside areas. There is a cost in those areas and we need to look at what are our priorities. Top priority for me and the top priority I would think for every parent would be a well-rounded educated individual that is ready to take on the world’s challenges. And that doesn’t just come from school, it comes from parenting as well. It depends if we expect the school to become a social experiment where the school is taking on all kinds of responsibilities, such as health – whether that be through team sports or through gym. Is that something that we’re looking for our schools to do for us? Or are we looking for our students to be specialized in things like math, history or English, things that we cannot deliver at home? We need to focus our energy and effort on the things that add value outside of the home.
What do you think are the three biggest issues currently in the district, and if you are elected to the board, how do you plan to resolve them?
McCabe: I think it boils down to the funding of core elements in these poor economic times. We’re going to get capped. So we need to look at how are we going to fund the things that we want to fund. Secondly, I think this whole new law about teacher evaluations is a major challenge. I don’t think people understand the risk of information getting to the public that’s not well-informed. We can’t just judge teachers on the performance of a test. Under the law, 75 percent of the evaluations of our teachers can be outside of the testing, and we need to set up criteria so that our teachers can perform to a level that we expect. The worst thing we can do is put a teacher at-risk because they have a class full of poor-performing test takers, either because they aren’t ready for prime-time or they have a bad day. That’s just not an effective way to tell the entire story, so we have to be careful in how we tell that story to the community. The third is community involvement. People need to realize that the school doesn’t stop outside of the four walls of the school. We’ve got to be able to inform communities of how we can educate our children without relying completely on the school. There’s plenty of free resources out there that we’re not taking advantage of.