Guilderland school board: Rebecca Butterfield

Rebecca Butterfield

Rebecca Butterfield

GUILDERLAND — Rebecca Butterfiled is a child-health advocate who believes her expertise is especially valuable to the Guilderland School Board now as it faces educating children in the midst of a pandemic.

She works as a pediatrician at Albany Medical Center, specializing in caring for children who have been abused. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology and United States history from Union College and a doctorate degree from Albany Medical College.

Butterfield and her husband have lived in Guilderland since 2007 and have a son who is a student at Farnsworth Middle School.

She was one of five candidates who interviewed for a school board position after Christine Hayes resigned; Butterfield was appointed to the board last October.

“I really wanted to serve my community,” said Butterfield this week, adding that she has enjoyed her seven months on the board, which has shown her “how the school system is pivotal to all children but particularly vulnerable populations of children.”

During crises, Butterfiled said, vulnerable groups can be disproportionately impacted. “It’s important for members of the board of education to have that knowledge and background,” she said, “so that policies that are implemented don’t inadvertently marginalize or exclude those vulnerable groups.”

About a fifth of Guilderland students are considered economically disadvantaged by the State Education Department.

Butterfield’s primary goal as a board member is “providing every student in the district with equal access to quality education but particularly with a bent toward being mindful, inclusive, and supportive of all students, particularly those more vulnerable students.”

Butterfield has served on the board’s audit and business-practices committees and also on a task force that looked at a later start time for high school.

Butterfield said she was proud of adopting a budget that stayed under the tax levy limit.

On remote learning, Butterfield said that children today are growing up in a cyber environment their parents didn’t have but she doesn’t think the face-to-face relationship between a teacher and child should be replaced.

“That’s especially true for young children although it continues throughout adolescence as well,” she said. “We’re seeing some mental-health problems in teenagers as they’re staying home and more isolated.”

Butterfield said, “There needs to be a fine balance. It’s going to be a difficult one to achieve but I think it is achievable.”

She also thinks there needs to be a focus on cyber security as part of remote learning. “We don’t want our children victimized,” Butterfield said.

On finances, Butterfield said, “Even before COVID-19, the need for restoration of equitable state aid was a problem.”

In January, Butterfield attended a forum on the sustainability of schools with 10 districts participating to raise awareness about the decline in state aid. “With the COVID crisis, it’s of course even worse but the bottom line is Foundation Aid is rather flat.”

Butterfield said she “doesn’t want to sacrifice any programming or services to children” and is hopeful that federal aid will make up for any shortfall in state aid. She has written to New York’s senators and Congressman Paul Tonko about the need for such support, she said.

Butterfield supports expanding the co-teaching model to all grades at Guilderland. She points out that students are legally required to be placed in the least restrictive environment.

“It can be very enriching for all students to work together, learning from each other and growing together,” said Butterfield. Although Guilderland faced challenges in adopting the model, she said, she has heard positive feedback from both teachers and parents.

Butterfield concluded that she has been honored “to be part of such an innovative community of educators, students, and parents.”

She named a number of “unforeseen hurdles before us,” including fiscal challenges, school reopening in the midst of social-distancing requirements, and “perhaps, most importantly, the social, emotional, and educational needs of our students who have been out of school since March.”

Butterfield said, “I really want to help navigate these issues using my experience and advocacy with child health.”

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