This post is meant to address myths being circulated regarding the candidates who support re-arming the school monitors. These candidates are alleged to be single issue. The candidates who are endorsed by the Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools are alleged to be under the control of SPSS. It is also alleged that all these candidates have accused their opponents of not caring about the safety of the students, teachers, and staff at the schools.
All of these accusations are untrue but they seem to be finding considerable traction.
At the risk of being snarky, I decided to do what most of the people circulating these kinds of things should have done, which is actually ask the candidates to address these accusations.
As comes as no surprise to me, the following statements from the candidates show that this stuff is utterly without foundation.
Connie Woytowich’s Response
1. Several candidates have asserted that the candidates who support re-arming the monitors are single issue candidates. I know that your answers to my questionnaire indirectly addressed this but I am asking that candidates address this issue directly.
Over the past decade, I have tirelessly served the educational community of our school district. I have volunteered on a multitude of school building and district initiatives, including serving as the PTA President at Division Street School. I have dedicated my entire career to K-12 education as a science teacher and am a designated NYS Master Teacher.
Categorizing me, or any of the other candidates, as a single issue candidate demonstrates a failure to be educated on the candidates and their work in the community. Such accusations are unfounded, insulting, sensational, irresponsible and superfluous.
2. During this campaign period there have been accusations that the people on the school board who voted to disarm the monitors did not care about the safety of the students, teachers, and staff in our schools. Could you share your thoughts on this?
I find it hard to believe that anyone who is willing to volunteer a large amount of their precious time to our school community does not care about the individuals that work or attend our schools. I will restate here that such accusations towards the five people that voted to disarm the monitors are unfounded, insulting, sensational, irresponsible and superfluous.
The five people that voted to disarm the monitors have stated why they voted the way they did. Never once did they state that they did not care about safety. They have stated their personal opinions and perspectives based on the information that they had at the time and voted no as a result. I respectfully disagree with their votes and will work collaboratively to rearm qualified, trained and evaluated law enforcement in our schools in order to provide a safe learning environment for children, teachers, administrators and all staff in our buildings.
Shaun Wiggins’ Response
Are there issues beyond the question of whether or not the monitors should be armed that motivate your campaign to be on the school board?
Education occurs at the intersection of learning and teaching. This is where what I refer to as the “Teacher-Student Exchange” occurs. Where, in a safe and secure environment, the teacher and student meet, and the teacher imparts knowledge to the student and in exchange receives fulfillment. It is the role of the Board of Education to ensure teachers have all they need to deliver on student achievement. To accomplish this, I am running on THREE issues:
1. Safety – I will work to increase the safety and security across our schools. This will include a comprehensive program that includes armed personnel.
2. Education – I intend increase support for teachers and help enhance the quality of education for all students in Saratoga Schools. This includes support of the teachers’ push to “Correct the Tests” campaign. I fully support the call for the establishment of appropriate benchmarks to ensure ELA and math tests accurately measure student knowledge and learning, to reduce the amount of testing appropriately, to make the tests developmentally suitable, and to improve the rollout of computer-based testing. Finally, and it is important to note, I will also support students’ desires to learn in a safe, secure and friendly learning environment, allowing them to use clean bathrooms void of activities such as vaping. I also intend to lay out a path to allow greater student access and voice with the School Board.
3. Transparency – I will increase communications with the voters in our district exponentially, allowing easy access and understanding for the budgeting process, decision-making, and planning. We live in an age of ideation and communication. With greater transparency, not only will the voters be more informed through proactively pushed information, I believe that they may offer new ideas and methodologies for better student achievement. I will ensure that their thoughts and ideas are easily communicated to the Board. This will allow the School Board to “bring the voter along” as opposed to last minute revelations or discoveries; or, only allowing community members to participate through (what are perceived) meaningless procedures where the Board does not even respond, and in some cases send texts during this process, disrespecting the community members. The School Board is elected by the voter and represents their values, beliefs, and priorities. I will make sure there is full accountability to the community for all Board actions.
There has been quite a bit of controversy over the Saratoga Parents for Safe Schools group which supports your candidacy. Would you describe your relationship to this group?
My relationship with the SPFSS is straight forward, I am running on a “ticket” that is endorsed by the organization. This means that I accept financial support. With this acceptance, I maintain the responsibility to report all fund received from SPFSS and I approve all messaging that that has me quoted (approval means that I agree to messaging or I edit the messaging). I have no involvement in the day-to-day operation of SPFSS — this includes who they decide to hire or fire, how they raise money, what funds they accept or reject. That is solely their responsibility. Conversely, they have no involvement in how I run my campaign.
It has been alleged that some candidates who support re-arming the monitors believe that those supporting their disarming do not care about the safety of the children in our schools. Would you address this allegation?
These allegations are patently false. To address the accusation that I am of the mindset that the Board members who voted to disarm the monitors do not care about our children’s safety, let me be clear: I am absolutely positive that they care just as much as I do about our children’s safety. They are simply of the belief that we do not need armed personnel to ensure that our children are safe. It is our collective experiences that are foundational in shaping our beliefs. With that, my experiences constantly remind me that there are bad people in our world…and I will take it a step further, there are evil people who, for whatever their reasons, seek maximum harm/disruption. While I wish that Saratoga Springs existed in a bubble void of violence, hate, and all other bad things, the fact of the matter is…we don’t. We face the real risk of an active shooter(s), and my belief is that having at least one armed personnel on each site during an event will save lives. I am uninterested in reading or discussing various reports that point to facts that armed personnel make no difference; I can point to other reports that point to facts that armed personnel DO make a difference. This is where my experience overrides academic beliefs. I have been very clear with voters, informing them that I will work my hardest to bring back armed personnel (whether they be in a security guard, School Resource Officer, or regular law enforcement capacity).
Of course there are many details that will have to be worked out, but that’s the job. I have the experience to find consensus and path to reintroduce armed personnel and better manage other risks that our school system faces.
Dean Kollgian’s Response
My top 3 priorities are as follows:
1. Education Quality
2. Safety & Security
3. Infrastructure monitoring and long-range facilities planning
Education Quality – I believe that our school district as a whole is great and I completely value and support the public school education system. Saratoga Springs City School District is one of the best in the Capital District, supports students academic and athletic aspirations and has strong graduation rates. We could certainly work on and continue to monitor things such as; class sizes in our elementary schools, challenging educational opportunities (STEM, honors programs, etc) and our athletic and extracurricular opportunities.
Safety & Security – This priority is relatively self-explanatory. We need to bring back the common sense security that we have had for the past 30+ years within our District. Having highly trained and educated law enforcement personnel (active and retired) on our properties on a daily basis provides for the most safe and secure learning and teaching environment for our students and teachers.
Infrastructure monitoring and long-range facilities planning – Our largest capital expenditures will always be “brick and mortar”. We need to make sure that we are taking a proactive, versus reactive, approach to the ongoing maintenance / renovations / construction of all of our facilities. Taxpayers want to have a better understanding of the needs of the District when it comes to these large expenditures. Although the largest expenditures may not happen on a regular basis, it must be made well known that ongoing costs are going to be incurred and we need to perform these tasks with great fiscal responsibility.
As for my “relationship” with Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools it goes no deeper than the fact that we have a similar interest in the safety and security of our students, faculty, staff, administrators and visitors within our buildings and grounds. When I agreed to be “endorsed” by this group, we met and hashed out quick a few ground rules. One ground rule was that at no point in time could I direct them what to say anything within their platform and the same went for them toward me. We agreed that we would join, in collaboration, with 2 other candidates that they would also endorse as all 3 of us had one goal in common – again, safety and security. When fundraising began, we agreed that the 3 candidates would have a shared account. We would see each and every transaction that came in, and went out, of the account. We would approve every single expense, without question. We agreed on this three months ago and we haven’t had one problem since. The 3 of us; myself, Shaun Wiggins and Ed Cubanski are independent in the fact that we have many other issues that we would like to see addressed if we are fortunate enough to be elected. To think that any of us are “one issue” candidates is preposterous. There are many other issues that we discuss publicly and look forward to discussing with the Board of Education in the future. We have spent countless hours going door-to-door, attending “meet-and-greets”, attending Community events and talking with all of the stakeholders (parents, teachers, administrators and most importantly students). We look forward to continuing this over the next few weeks to continue to educate ourselves on the myriad of issues that different people see within our community.
At no point in time have I, personally, ever eluded to the fact that the other candidates “don’t care about the safety of our children in the schools”. I am sure that each and every person, current Board members and those running, cares about the safety of our children. What we differ on is the approach to managing the safety and security within our schools. I look forward to the opportunity to listen to their opinions, as well as the ability to share mine. At the end of the day we all want what is best for our children. After all, they are the future of our community!
Ed Cubanski’s Response
Kaufmann Questions 2019 May 01 – Cubanski
Q1. Are there issues beyond the question of whether or not the monitors should be armed that motivate your campaign to be on the school board?
A1. Yes, I’ve stated my campaign focuses on the three pillars of safety, education, and advocacy.
First, Safety. Safety is an all-comprehensive program from physical security, identifying students and school adults that may be having issues that may negatively impact the school and those around them, counseling, and having the resources to resolve an active shooter in a timely manner.
Second, Education. We need to have programs to address each level of student from those struggling to pass a class, those that do very well in school, to those that do not feel challenged in our school district. We must provide resources to meet the needs of every student.
There is some thought that kids that don’t feel challenged will leave the school and will go to a Charter School or private school. Does that benefit every student? Isn’t it better to have students that may be near the top of their school serve as role models for those ranked lower? What about the benefit of a diverse education skill level work together on a class project? Would such grouping benefit the student that learns a new study habit or how to gather information as part of a team project? I firmly believe the answer is yes.
Would smaller class size K-3, less than 20:1 improve the core math and ELA skills to have students flourish in grades 4-12? The common-sense answer would state the answer is yes to reducing class sizes K-3 to less than 20:1. The Center for Public Education studied 19 different class size programs throughout the country over the last 20-years and came up with the same verdict.
Third – Advocacy. I have heard directly from teachers that many new programs that come out were not at the request of the teachers. Additionally, many of that same group told me that it was rare for school administrators to take action on resource requests and are provided the answers, “we cannot do that due to budgetary reasons.” Additionally, the teachers also reported that most of the programs rolled out by Administrators relied mostly on the teachers training the teacher on the new program versus having a structured professional development program to teach the teachers as a group.
I want to be part of a school board that listens to the teachers. I would survey the teachers to solicit anonymous responses (if they so desire) to a list of 1) fill in the bubble questions, but also 2) provide space for them to write down their issues. This written feedback is essential to gain the trust of the teachers that the school board is listening to them and can address their concerns, and maybe implement their solutions to a variety of school issues.
I also want to be an advocate for the students. I would query the parents to find out how many are receiving tutoring outside of school and why. Having this data will truly measure the success of our schools because it will identify an uncaptured set of data that may show why so many kids are failing or not performing as well as they could because they don’t have the financial resources to pay for outside tutors.
Q2. There has been quite a bit of controversy over the Saratoga Parents for Safe Schools group which supports your candidacy. Would you describe your relationship to this group?
A2. I have a great relationship with the group. The joint candidates of the shared campaign account had an agreement that any campaign purchased material or press releases with our names on it must have all of our approval.
Q3. It has been alleged that some candidates who support re-arming the monitors believe that those supporting their disarming do not care about the safety of the children in our schools. Would you address this allegation?
A3. I’ll only talk about what I am running on – Safety, Education, and Advocacy. I’ll also talk about how Shawn, Dean, and I are aligned.
I’ve stated from the beginning that I will not comment on other candidate’s positions. I don’t know their strategy, mindset, details of the reasons why they are doing x, y, or z because I don’t know the facts surrounding their strategy. Any comment I had would not know those details and would only lead to adding to the fray of negative discourse that is uniformed and show that I did not complete detailed research on their position, which should involve a direct quote from the other candidates.