Guilderland school board: Judy Slack

Judy Slack

Judy Slack

GUILDERLAND — “I love working with kids,” says Judy Slack who has served on the Guilderland School board for 12 years and is now seeking a fifth term.

Growing up in Ithaca, Slack said, she “babysat for everybody.” She went on to graduate from Russell Sage College in Troy with certification to teach English in grades 7 to 12. Slack then taught in Troy and Berne-Knox-Westerlo schools for five years before staying home for a decade to raise three children — all Guilderland graduates.

She then worked as a teaching assistant for 24 years at Lynnwood Elementary School and, after retiring, continued to help out in the classroom as a volunteer, doing what she used to get paid for.

“It’s in my blood to be with kids,” she said.

During her tenure on the board, Slack believes the board’s most important accomplishment was hiring Marie Wiles as superintendent. Slack described Wiles as compassionate and intellectually brilliant — “an incredible leader.” Wiles is respected by her out-of-district colleagues, Slack said, and “people turn to her for help.”

Slack is also proud of the co-teaching model the district introduced a few years back, which she said returned special-needs students to Guilderland, “giving everyone equal opportunities.”

Slack observed a high school class where the two teachers worked together seamlessly, she said. “The special kids aren’t necessarily special,” Slack said. “They’re part of a bigger group,” which, she said, makes them ready to face the world.

Also, the other students in the shared classroom come to accept the special-needs kids as their friends, she said, and they worked together.

The board had hoped to extend the program to the seventh grade next year but won’t be able to now with the budget cuts, Slack said. But it’s too important of a program to let it die, she concluded.

Slack is also pleased with the way the school board works with the community. “We’ve had a great deal of support,” she said. “We listen to what the district wants and needs.”

One “big disappointment,” Slack said, was the narrow defeat of a capital project “based on things we needed.” The board pared down the project to $31 million and it passed last year.

Residents are proud of the Guilderland schools, Slack said, and want the kids to succeed.

Looking ahead, Slack’s goal is to “keep things in tact” in light of the uncertainty of state aid.

Slack said the school board should not propose a budget that goes over the state-set tax levy limit. “Everyone is hurting so badly,” she said.

In order to preserve programs, Slack said, “We might have to negotiate with teachers … We’ll have to find more money.” She also said, “We could possibly increase class sizes,” although she also noted that the current budget proposal for next year already increases class sizes by one student in classes at the elementary level.

“Parents don’t like it, understandably,” she said of larger clases.

“Our problem is not going to be the next school year,” said Slack of 2020-21, noting money was saved during the pandemic shutdown on things like substitute teachers, bus fuel, and utilities. “The problem will be the year after,” said Slack.

She noted the last time that the state made mid-year cuts, staff at Guilderland was cut.

On remote learning, Slack said she doesn’t like it because, in many cases, “you lose the students who need you most.”

While the district is fairly well set with computers and wifi, she said, the problem isn’t the material. “We need the interaction,” Slack said of teachers relating to students in a classroom. “Little kids” especially need this interaction, she said.

When she volunteered to help elementary students who needed more, Slack said, it helped the other kids in the classroom, too.

Slack feels she represents the community well and is a “strong advocate” for what the district is doing. “As a board member, I like to think I listen well,” she said.

Slack believes the board members are “good stewards of the resources people have entrusted to us.”

“I love this district,” said Slack, praising the employees, from the top down, as “wonderful.”

Slack feels she is responsible in doing what the community elected the board to do. She hopes to continue to be a part of that, she said, to help the Guilderland community to thrive.

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