WPCNR Daily Mirror. Special to WPCNR May 8, 2002, 2:00 PM EDT.Five WPCNR correspondents delivered similar assessments ofthe Board of Education candidates debate held Tuesday evening at The Women’s Club in White Plains.
Five CitizeNetReporters said insurgent candidate Maria Valentin presented extremely well Tuesday evening, and said she called for Board of Education outreach to all neighborhoods.
They noted incumbent Larry Geiger with 18 years on the Board of Education possessed impressive knowledge and articulate understanding of district issues, saying that Geiger was eager to serve another three years and that the district had to “look to the future.”
They report William Pollack calling for “new blood,” and that Bob Tuck announced he was only going to serve one term on the Board.
Geiger and Sules Talk About the Yanofsky Departure.
Correspondents report that in a response to a question about Dr. Yanofsky’s departure, Larry Geiger said the Board could not give all the details because it “was a personnel matter.” He did say that the Board liked Dr. Saul Yanofsky, but his desire not to serve a full term forced them to seek a new superintendent. Geiger said that “originally it was agreed” by both the Board and Dr. Yanofsky, that it would be “in the best interests of the district” not to announce his departure until sometime last fall.
Another correspondent said Stephen Sules described the decision to seek another superintendent this way: “He (Saul Yanofsky) was the CEO of the organization (School District). When the CEO is becoming ambivalent about his job, it’s the responsibility of the Board to seek another CEO.”
Geiger added that it was a “mutual decision” by the Board to seek another superintendent, because of Yanofsky’s reluctance to serve a full term.
Geiger calls for new P.R. Person.
Mr. Geiger went on record as saying the Board of Education handled the announcement of the Yanofsky departure “poorly,” that they did it “wrong,” and expressed regret for that. So did Sules.
In a related question, a member of the audience complained he had not heard of the appointment of Timothy Connors as choice for Superintendent of Schools, having read about it in the White Plains Watch. Sules said that everyone in the District was notified of the Yanofsky departure, but the challenging candidate, Maria Valentin, who is a homeowner in the district said that was not true, because she had never received such an announcement letter.
More Communication Needed.
Mr. Geiger said he favored appointing a new full-time public relations person to
improve district communication. Geiger, on the subject of communication, said that he was in favor of distributing the “About Our Schools” district newsletter by mail throughout the School District, instead of inserting it in the monthly newspaper, White Plains Watch.
Ms. Valentin, according to our team of correspondents, said she would work to bring the Board of Education into all neighborhoods in periodic meetings to hear first hand concerns of parents and residents in those areas on how Board of Education issues affect them. She used the phrase “Board Outreach” to describe this initiative.
Pollak calls for Support of Connors.
William Pollak said “You can’t say anything bad about this man (Connors). We have to be supportive. He said all the right things.” Pollak also showed a sensivity to the seriousness of issues saying in response to a question about astroturfing Eastview Middle School field, that he was not sure if that was an appropriate question to consider at this time. Ms. Valentin said there were a number of fine soccer fields at George Washington, while Mr. Geiger quickly pointed out that in his position on the Recreation Committee he was in a position to work actively to fill recreation needs, without being specific.
Candidates say they attended Board of Ed Meetings.
In response to a question on how many Board of Education meetings the new candidates Valentin, Tuck and Pollack had attended, no candidate gave a specific number, but all said they had attended some. WPCNR which attends Board of Education meetings regularly has not seen the three challengers as being “regulars” at Board of Education meetings in 2002.
Opening and Closing Statements, Rebuttals, Restrict Content.
Three correspondents deplored the debate format. The format called for opening statements by all five candidates, followed by a question and answer period in which just six questions were asked, with all five candidates responding in turn.
No questions were asked about the new school budget, for example, or how the candidates would deal with a budget that has been going up consistently. No questions were asked about test scores, the minority achievement gap, the aging elementary and Middle School plants, the referendum.
One correspondent, a veteran observer of League of Women Voters debates was highly critical of the lack of content produced by the League of Women Voters debate format.
He described the debate as “watered down, tight-collared, tight-laced, so structured, so repetitive, it becomes routine, and little more than just a chance to have coffee with them.” This observer, who has seen a number of such debates, said the format should be far more free-wheeling so candidates could respond informally, and “tell me what you’re about.”
Valentin, Geiger present strongly.
This same impartial correspondent observing the debate said that “Maria Valentin should be elected in a landslide. She has the experience in the classroom, in administration, and other areas, giving her skills that could make her very valuable to the Board. Geiger with his corporate experience, deserves one more term.”
Two other observers for WPCNR said Valentin was the only candidate who showed any “passion” for the Board of Education position. One correspondent quotes her as saying “I really want to do this. I want this position.” This correspondent said “she’s the only bright light up there.”Another correspondent said Valentin defined the issues facing the district very well in her opening statement.
On the other hand, two of our contacts reported Robert Tuck did not read a prepared opening statement, and appeared to be adlibbing his opening remarks, not having a grasp of the issues. At the close of the debate, Tuck said he was only going to serve one term because he was getting old. Candidate Pollak acknowledged he was getting old but he was “ready to rumble.”
Over fifty persons attend. To be televised May 17 through 20.
Observers agreed that between fifty and seventy persons attended, but a person who attended the raucous community meetings during the Yanofsky departure controversy last fall, said “there was no passion and that’s disturbing to me.”
The debate, according to a spokesperson for Channel 73, the Board of Education Channel, will be telecast at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM, beginning
Friday, May 17 and running twice nightly on May 18, May 19, 20 and 21st.