Dear Editor,

 I’m running for a seat on the Shen Board of Education because I believe my leadership and experience will both support our current school board district's initiatives and the following areas where I believe more work is needed:

-         Provide more training opportunities for our teachers and school staff so that they can work in an environment technologically advanced to create a better experience to benefit student education.

-        Offer a Full Day Kindergarten program. I believe this is key in making a better future for our school system. 

-        As global markets are changing quickly, we need to prepare students with new skills. We should use the available technologies in our school system to improve the quality of our education. Review existing reading, writing, computer and mathematics skill courses for high school students to achieve better college readiness.

-        Recognizing that the safety and security of our schools is important to many parents, I believe we should have an ongoing open forum for our voters to voice their opinion and school safety concerns, together with the support of our parents, the board and school district can take necessary initiatives to review and improve our school safety environment.

-    Rebalancing enrollment or redistricting can help with crowded classrooms and could position the district to determine what is needed to move to full day kindergarten. As a board member, I would like to work through these issues and budget numbers to make recommendations.

-     I would just state turnout for school votes has been very low and can be improved through two methods. 1) Multiple polling places such as Chango,Okte, Shatekon and the Town of Halfmoon can choose a location 2) Early voting. where people can vote over multiple days. These initiatives will make it more convenient for people to vote and will increase participation.

 I have a proven history of leadership. I was elected President of the Tricity India Association, a leading Indian community organization for 2016 & 2017; served as Board Member of Albany Hindu Cultural Center; and an active Board Member of Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs(APAPA) Albany Chapter since 2016. In these leadership roles I have worked with state and local elected officials to help the community as well as with the non-profits such as the YMCA and Red Cross on community services. I have professional work experience as a New York State IT Consultant for the past 18 years.

As a father of two children, I am involved in school programs and have volunteered in classroom and the community. I have been a resident of the Shenendehowa School District since 2005. My children attend Shenendehowa High School and Koda Middle School.

 I bring my wealth of experience in information technology. My creativity, collaborative spirit, passion and commitment for public education will enable me to be an effective School Board member.

Please consider me (Ram Lalukota) for the Shenendehowa Board of Education on May 21, 2019.

Ram Lalukota                                                                                                                                               

Put a Moratorium on Solar Farms

Clifton Park and some of the other counties in the area are making mistakes by turning an apple orchard and farmland into solar farms.  Unlike wind turbines, solar does not allow any useful application of land beneath it and it becomes an eyesore uninviting to any nearby future development.

Glenville has a solar array next to its Composting and Recycling Center on Hecheltown Road, which is marginal, but they had to cut down more than a dozen trees along the road to make it work.

Clifton Park and other entities should put a moratorium on any solar farms until they have looked at the total land-use for the foreseeable future. Let’s not take beautiful land and turne it into something that may be useful in the short term, but not in the long term.

Gerard F. Havasy

Clifton Park

Get Out and Vote on May 21 – It’s Our Civic Duty

With the Shenendehowa School District being just shy of 10,000 students and largest employer in Clifton Park it should be alarming that fewer and fewer voters are casting their ballot each May. Since 2011 voter turnout has dropped 64%. In May 2018 only 2,118 votes were cast for the school budget. In contrast, a year earlier our district had a record turnout for the land sale referendum. Low voter turnout means a minority of residents approve a budget that impacts the current and future education needs for all district students and the amount of tax levied on the district’s constituents.  I believe the drop in turn out is largely driven by the school tax levy cap imposed in 2011 by Governor Cuomo.  The term “cap” implies there is a limit to spending but in reality a budget over the cap only requires 60% voter approval for the budget to pass. Even before the school tax levy cap was imposed in 2011 this district had received and continues to consistently receive greater than 60% voter approval. The unintended consequence of the tax cap is that fewer and fewer constituents see the need to vote. 

I’m writing to remind readers that there are many reasons the residents in this district should be voting.  First and foremost, it is our civic duty and our children, our future, rely on us to be engaged now.  As voters we have an opportunity to weigh in on the quantity and quality of educational programs and services provided for the children of this district. 

In addition to the school budget, voters are asked to vote on a referendum to purchase new school buses and elect Board of Education members. Board members are unpaid and run at large. The Board provides oversight of the school district and represents the educational interests of its students and carries out specific responsibilities such as setting policy and goals for the school district. This year three board member seats are up for election. The seats are currently held by Gary DiLallo, Todd Gilbert and Deanna Stephenson and each carry a three-year term. All three incumbents are seeking re-election and are passionate about public education. This year’s board has been diligent in reviewing the proposed budget to ensure it preserves assets, program enhancements and provides quality and equitable academic, art, and athletic programs.

Mark your calendars now to vote. Please show your support for this year’s budget, bus referendum, and re-election of Mr. DiLallo, Mr. Gilbert and Mrs. Stephenson by voting on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in the Gowana Middle School Gym located at 970 NY-146, Clifton Park, from 7am to 9pm.

Our children notice whether or not the adults in their lives exercise their civic responsibility by voting. We set an example for the children in our community and it’s our civic duty.

Naomi Hoffman

Shenendehowa Board of Education Member

Heading to the polls

I write this letter three years after first coming to you and asking for your vote for the Shen Board of Education in 2016 with the same level of enthusiasm as I had then. This time I get to talk about what I was able to contribute to our Shenendehowa Community while sitting at the board table with six of my board colleagues.

In less than two weeks you will once again be asked to go to the polls and vote for the three best qualified candidates for the Board of Education. I and my husband Matt have lived in the Shenendehowa School District for 20 years, both as community members and tax payers. We have two children, Aidan who attends Arongen Elementary and Olivia who attends High School East. I am employed at Fidelis Healthcare as Director of Provider Relations.

This year’s budget rings familiar to years past, meaning it is robust, relevant, responsive and responsible. To remain a top performing school district like ours does not happen by accident. To continuously strive to improve is always our goal and sometimes one of our largest challenges. With continuous efforts of our district administrators and board members, our budget remains flat while our programs are enhanced and increase in variety.

It is incumbent upon us to provide a continuum of services and those efforts must be reflected through all the abilities and interests of our student body. We strive to be more responsive and forward facing to the community and students so we can engage and speak to all stakeholders about emerging issues like mental wellness, drug abuse, safety concerns, special education, alternate vocational interests, enrollment and overall student outcomes. 

If re-elected I would like to continue and build upon the efforts being made to increase community and student engagement on issues and topics that affect our community and district as a whole. I would like to delve more into overall student outcomes and how we assist our students in finding and realizing their fullest potential.

We need to continually check our progress and growth of programs against student achievement and not set unrealistic goals. It is important that our district leaders and board members continually ask the question; how can the education and experiences at Shenendehowa prepare our students for what lies ahead.

I continue to enjoy the collaboration with the community, administrators, educators, parents and students through my PTA connection as vice president of the Koda PTA, as a Shenendehowa Education Foundation Board Member, and as the vice president of the Board of Education.

When people ask me why do you want to be on the board, my response is always "I love it" and I do! I genuinely care about each and every student, K-12, on campus or off. I am always present with an open mind to new ideas and remain focused, as I have been for the past decade, on the needs of our students and community.

I would like to retain the ability to collaborate with my Board of Education colleagues on the district’s continued financial and educational successes while remaining a strong advocate for our student body.

To that end, I would like to continue to offer my contribution of service to our great Shenendehowa community. Please remember three board seats and three incumbents, Deanna Stephenson, Gary DiLallo and Todd Gilbert.

I respectfully ask and would be honored to have your continued support on May 21. If you would like to contact me please see my Facebook page at Stephenson for Shen or call me at 518.225.3398. Shen Strong!

Deanna Stephenson

Vice President Shenendehowa Board of Education

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