Voorheesville school board: Argi O’Leary

A first-time candidate, Argi O’Leary said it’s “pretty simple” why she’s running: She thinks school board membership is one of the most meaningful and important ways she can serve her community. 

 O’Leary is a deputy commissioner for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance; she leads the Civil Enforcement Division. 

As a Voorheesville community member, she said, she’s coached soccer and T-ball, and currently serves on the boards of the New Scotland Soccer Club and Saint Matthew’s Catholic Youth Organization Basketball League.

O’Leary and her husband, Terence, have three sons; two of them are students in Voorheesville schools.

She said that her legal background provided her plenty of opportunity “to do justice, ensure fairness, and advocate for those who need support or assistance.” 

O’Leary said that she has qualities needed to be an effective school board member as she is approachable, a good listener, a quick learner, and capable of identifying issues and building consensus. O’Leary thinks she has good judgement, has no problem making decisions, has a good temperament, and knows how to lead — for example, in her current role with the state. 

Schools, in many aspects, serve in place of the parent, O’ Leary said; they are more than just places where students are taught curriculum that they need to know. Schools need to serve students in so many different ways. In aspects of her career, she’s taken on the role of identifying those issues. 

On school finances, O’Leary said there are no easy choices. 

Before engaging in any of the options listed above, she said the school district would need to take a step back and undertake a thorough analysis of its spending.

The state has had to live with a flat budget, O’Leary said, so she would encourage the board to scrutinize every dollar spent, as she has in her own job, where her division once had as many as 800 employees but now has 630. 

Speaking to budget cuts, she said she’s not in favor of cutting programs outright, which she pointed out is a decision the board has made in the past — during last year’s budget crunch, the board decided to phase out the French language program. 

O’Leary said she would not advocate for going over the tax cap. 

On remote learning, from her experience, there are a lot of “flavors” of distance learning happening. Each of her three sons, for example, have had different experiences.

Her eldest has had a fairly regular schedule of classes with instruction, she said.

Her middle son has assignments “being pushed out, but very little in the way of instruction,” O’Leary said.

Her youngest son receives services through the district, and he receives extra support through distance learning that has benefitted him and worked well; she said he receives one-on-one support. 

On growth, there’s been a mix of small and large kindergarten classes, O’Leary said, which has allowed the district to buy itself some time in dealing with the situation — but added the elementary school is “popping at the seams.”

She said she would redirect resources toward kindergarten. 

When children are really young, O’Leary said, that’s when they need the most face-to-face instruction and being in the school environment benefits them, proven by pre-K programs and full-day kindergarten. 

Then as students get older, she thinks there’s opportunity for increasing some class sizes, for more distance learning, and partnerships with other school districts or community colleges. 

 

More New Scotland News

  • The Voorheesville Central School District in a letter to parents said that “based on the timing of when” a person newly diagnosed with COVID-19 was “last at school, the Albany County Department of Health has indicated no need for further action, on behalf of the school, to have school community members quarantine.” 

  • The New Scotland solar law’s prime-soil and soils-of-statewide-importance provisions make siting a solar project in town nearly impossible. 

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