Guilderland board candidates share views on education in the time of coronavirus

GUILDERLAND — Five candidates are running for five seats on Guilderland’s nine-member school board but, because of earlier resignations, the lengths of their terms will vary depending on how many votes they receive.

Of the five unpaid posts, three are for full three-year terms to be filled by the top vote-getters.

The candidates expressed varied views on how learning will unfold in a world shaped by the coronavirus pandemic. Faced with potentially drastic cuts in future state aid, the majority of candidates favored renegotiating contracts rather than cutting school programs.

[Jump to: Rebecca Butterfield, Judy Slack, Benjamin Goes, Luciano Alonzi, Blanca Parker.]

Interviews with each of the candidates can be heard at AltamontEnterprise.com as they respond to these issues:

— Finances: No one knows how long it will take to recover from the coronavirus shutdown but it’s likely there will be severe cuts to school aid as income-tax and sales-tax revenues are depleted. If there are deep cuts to school aid in years ahead, there will be no easy choices. Among the tough choices, would you advise opening contracts with Guilderland’s 11 bargaining units to reduce salaries and benefits? Or would you recommend raising property taxes to fill the gap? Or would you advise cutting programs — which ones? Or enlarging class sizes? What other strategies might you pursue? Which course would you prioritize?

— Remote learning: Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this month that New York State will work with the Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint “to reimagine education in the new normal.” Although the shutdown of schools for the pandemic left many students and teachers unprepared, Cuomo said, “Let’s take this experience and really learn how we can do differently and better with our education system.” Some educators have pushed back and said remote learning won’t replace the relationships that are essential to education.  How would you like to see education reimagined?

— Inclusion: Following state directives to include students with disabilities in general-education classrooms, Guilderland has adopted a co-teaching model with a general-education and a special-education teacher working together, with allotted shared planning time. This model is expensive. It is currently in place in eighth, ninth, 10th, and 11th grades, as well as in the district’s elementary schools. How well is this model working? Should other models be used? Are you in favor of expanding co-teaching to all grades? Why or why not?

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