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Pelham Education Candidates Discuss Their Views

PELHAM, N.Y. – As the clock ticks closer to the May 15 Pelham schools budget vote and school board candidate election, the four candidates took part in their final forum Wednesday night.

The Siwanoy Elementary School-sponsored event took place at Rockwells American Restaurant. The event was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., but it began nearly an hour later because Paul Prencis , Michael Recca and Madeline Smith took part in an executive session of the Board of Education.

Christine Rosskopf chose not to take part in the session because the mother of two at Siwanoy said it was not right to participate unless she was elected.

Once they arrived, the candidates were asked questions ranging from their views on the 2012-13 school budget, their reasons for running and what they would cut in the 2013-14 budget.

Each of the candidates supported the unanimously adopted $65,560,607 budget, which features a 2.6 percent tax levy increase. They described voting down the budget as “catastrophic” and “devastating.”

When it came to their reason for running, each candidate had his or her own reason.

Recca, a 2006 graduate of Pelham Memorial High School who works for the county’s Department of Social Services, said he saw the “opportunity to run” because he does not have any children in the Pelham schools.

Rosskopf, a lawyer and member of the Siwanoy PTA and Siwanoy site-based council, was prompted to run after other people told her she should and after she learned that there were no board members who had children currently in elementary school. Smith, who has one son at Colonial Elementary School and a daughter in college, ran after she was “gripped by fascinating decisions” regarding the Princeton Plan and the Investigations math curriculum.

Prencis, a math teacher for 20 years and father of twin boys at Prospect Hill Elementary School plus a third son who will be entering the school in September, said the board needs an educator because “really bad things can happen” without a teacher in that position. The candidates were posed a question by a Pelham resident asking who they would cut if given the choice between an athletic director, a middle school guidance counselor or a teacher.

While Recca and Rosskopf each said they would let the guidance counselor go, Smith and Prencis held different views.   Prencis said teachers are the “biggest investment” and called it a “trick question because no matter what, there’s always another place to look for savings.” He said guidance counselors were important because students need “to be guided at all times.” The father of three added that he does not see it coming down to three choices as the question asked because you “look for a lot of places to save a little money.”

Smith said that after having been through the process with her daughter, guidance counselors are “extremely valuable,” but so is the athletic director. She felt that “the best of both worlds” would be to keep both the athletic director, teacher and guidance counselor.

The candidates have discussed their views in three other debates, including ones on April 26 and May 2 sponsored by Pelham’s League of Women Voters and the Pelham Memorial High School and Middle School PTAs respectively.

The Board of Education elections will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 15. The vote on the 2012-13 school year budget will be held at the same time. Voting will be in the Pelham Memorial gymnasium.

The four candidates are running for two seats. Board President Robert Eicher and member Doug Hearle are not seeking re-election. Smith , Prencis , Rosskopf and Recca are seeking seats on the school board for the first time.

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