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Q&A: Greenburgh School Board Candidate Eric Bitterman

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — School board elections are less than a week away, and we're preparing by asking the candidates questions about the issues, what they hope to accomplish and why residents should vote for them.

Here is what Greenburgh Central School District 7 candidate Eric Bitterman had to say.

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Eric Bitterman. I am 43 years old. I have been married to my wife, Amy, for close to 14 years. We have three amazing boys: Jacob, who is 10 years old, and our twins, Matthew and Sam, who are 7 years old. We have lived in Greenburgh since 2003. Growing up, I attended the New Rochelle public schools. After graduation I attended Boston University, where I received a bachelor of arts degree in history and a master’s degree in secondary education. In 1991, I returned to New Rochelle and began my teaching career at the Albert Leonard Middle School. In 2002, I accepted a teaching position in the Scarsdale Union Free School District, a position I hold to this day. Presently, I am working toward an Advanced Certificate in Educational Leadership from Long Island University. For the past nine years, I have lived at The Colony At Hartsdale, serving on the condominium’s Board of Managers since 2006 and as president of the Board of Managers since 2008.

What qualifies you to be a school board member?

I am parent. I have been a teacher and advocate for public school education for over 20 years. I have served on the Board of Managers of a 15-building, 11-acre, condominium complex since 2006 and as its president since 2008. In that capacity, I have had to work with board members to create and work within established budgets, to create and follow through on long-term capital improvement projects and insure they are completed on time and within projected budgets. I have served as a strong advocate on behalf of our community with the town and have been recognized for these efforts. In my capacity as president of the Board of Managers, I have also served the role of consensus-builder, often bringing divergent groups together with an insistence on an atmosphere of mutual respect for the opinions of others.

Beyond my professional and managerial experiences, I believe I possess many qualities, skillsets and ideas that would serve me well on the board. I have the ability to work well within a team and support group decisions. I understand that the board sets a climate for the entire district and that how it conducts itself goes a long way to assuring the community that it is serving them in a manner worthy of their trust and support.

I believe to achieve excellence in education, it is vital to have an open and respectful dialogue between parents, teachers, administrators and community members. It is only by working together that we will help our children to reach their full potential. I am running because I believe I have the skillset necessary to help create respectful dialogue between the Board of Education and the community, reduce micromanaging of the day-to-day operations and manage a fiscally responsible budget.

As a teacher, I understand firsthand the importance of establishing a safe environment for our students, and as a board member, I will work hard to find ways to support this important effort. Finally, I am ready, willing and able to make the commitment of time and energy required to be an effective advocate for all the children of our district.

Have you held or run for office before?

I have not run for this office before.

What would you like to accomplish if elected?

I would like to work on issues of safety. The first responsibility of a Board of Education is to provide a safe environment for learning to take place. To this end, I would like to see a comprehensive bullying policy enacted. I believe this is required, as children will not reach their potential if they do not feel safe.

A revisiting of our transportation policy is required, as we have children who walk to school along West Hartsdale Avenue and Dalewood. Both streets lack sidewalks, crosswalks and adequate lighting. I think that lighting concerns within the Woodlands campus must also be addressed.

I would like to investigate the possibility of implementing a unified math program in the lower grades and encourage greater articulation between teachers from class to class, grade to grade and building to building. I would like to see the development of a forum (perhaps electronically) where staff can share “Best Practices” or model lessons and activities.

I would like to study the impact a consolidation of buildings might have — not just as a matter of reducing costs, but whether reducing the number of times students are transitioned from building to building would have a positive impact on student achievement.

I would like to see an integrated data collection and communication system in place.

I would like our Board of Education and our district leaders to become more active in the statewide debate concerning many of the unfunded mandates imposed by Albany. Our district should join with other districts to pressure our legislators to act in the best interests of our children. While standardized testing can, when applied thoughtfully, provide useful feedback, requiring students to answer questions involving “talking pineapples” is not enriching their educational experience, but instead is simply enriching the publishing companies that write the tests and create the practice booklets districts feel compelled to purchase.

If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax cap, what would you cut?

I was not in the room when decisions relating to the budget were argued and voted upon. I recognize that a large percentage of school budget items are not subject to the whims of board members. Meeting these required allocations as well as paying for the large and growing list of expenses we have come to call “unfunded mandates” (meaning the state is requiring actions but not paying the bills) is becoming more and more challenging year by year. For these reasons, I will not use this forum to criticize any one particular allocation.

What are the three biggest issues facing the school today? And, if elected, what would you do about them?

See previous responses.

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