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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 19, 2012

Emilio Genzano
By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Emilio Genzano, who has been on the Guilderland School Board for three years, says he wants to use what he’s learned to help the schools weather the economic storm.

“We’re in a tough time economically and the environment is different than it had been,” he said. “I’d like to stick it through to help with that. It takes three years just to understand what’s going on. I’ve learned a great deal.”

Genzano has been on the school board for three years because of two separate appointments and an election last year.

“I’ve tried real hard,” said Genzano. “I thank the community for allowing me to do this…I want to do more.”

One of his goals, if elected, Genzano said, is “to subsidize whatever we can to keep kids in extra-curriculars and athletics.”

Two years ago, he spearheaded the drive by sports boosters to raise over $60,000 to restore the freshmen and repeat sports cut from the 2010-11 budget. Last year, he convinced the board at the last minute, in a split vote, to restore half of the funds for freshmen sports with the rest to be contributed by the Friends of Guilderland Athletics, which he heads. Next year’s budget works on the same model.

Genzano said this week, “We need to prepare kids not just to graduate and go to college but to be ready for the next step in life.”

He cited an idea from his wife, “Today, it’s like we send our kids to college, just to grow up.” He contrasted this with an earlier ethic where students worked their way through college, adult enough to support themselves.

Genzano’s wife, Jill, is a stay-at-home mother who devotes much of her time to their middle child, Joey, 15, who has muscular dystrophy and is a student at Wildwood. He plays Challenger football in a program his father helps run.

Their older son, Emilio Jr., is a junior at the State University of New York College at Brockport, where he is a kicker on the football team, majoring in physical education.

Their daughter, Maria, 10, is a sixth-grader at Westmere Elementary School.

Genzano works as the assistant vice president for engineering and construction at Albany Medical Center and prides himself in bringing “a private-sector influence” to the board.

When asked if his chief allegiance is to students, taxpayers, parents, teachers, or the superintendent, Genzano answered, “All of the above.”

He went on, “A school board member has to take input from all of the parties. We act as a unit; we have to act as a group of nine.”

Genzano supports the budget proposition and says, of his three years on the board, the board did its best work on the 2012-13 spending plan.

“We really took it apart and looked at the needs of the children and the data,” he said, crediting the superintendent for her leadership. “It set the stage to be flexible…We challenged the nine-period day,” he said of middle-school scheduling. “There will be challenges in the future and we need to do things differently.”

He concluded, “Preparing the kids for the next level is something we need to work harder at.” Genzano also said he is happy that the enrichment posts remained in the budget. “The elementary years are pivotal,” he said. “They set the stage. We need to try to involve parents more.”

On the budget process, Genzano said, “We made this almost a year-round process for the community. We have everything online. The Community Conversation is a crescendo.”

Asked what course the board should take if the budget were voted down on May 15, Genzno said, “I’m not looking at that now. I think we’ll pass it.”

On whether the board, in the future, should go over the levy limit in order to preserve programs, Genzano said, “We have to be able to take care of all the stakeholders. The taxpayers are important. Only about 3,000 people come out to vote….We have to care about the people that don’t have kids. We need their support. We need camaraderie as a group.”

On giving raises, Genzano said, “Teachers are professionals. The units are all professionals. If you ask yourself if you deserve a raise, of course you do. The question becomes: What does the environment allow us to do?”

Genzano said he envies his colleagues who served on the board before the recession when they could add programs and give raises.

“When the money’s there, we all should benefit. When the money is not there, we have to give back and take less,” he said of school employees.

While each unit is different, Genzano concluded, “The bottom line is, we have to tighten our belts.”

On restructuring the school day, he said, “I am for change because I think we have to. I was happy to see a stand to explain why not; it forced us to look at it even more.

“Change sometimes is not well received. The unknown causes fear for many people. We have to start becoming flexible. Marie Wiles is allowing us that opportunity,” he said of the superintendent.

Genzano went on, “There’s a lot of pressure on teachers today. They have to deliver; the results need to be there. They want to do what they know works,” he said of sticking to the same schedule. “I respect that. But we have to be able to change.”

Genzano said of the teachers’ union president saying the eight-period day would have to be negotiated, “I had a hard time with that.” Two memorandums of agreement about the nine-period day were signed by a former superintendent, not by the school board, he pointed out. “The right thing to do was to take that off contract negotiations,” said Genzano.

On sate tests, he said, “It’s a process we have to work with. We have to deal with it as best we can.

“Should a teacher be judged on a standardized test? In part, yes…Responsibility and accountability are good.” But, he went on, “It has to be done fairly.”

Genzano concluded, “The important factor is to work on it and make it better. It’s part of any career — you’ll be judged.”

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