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Q&A: Greenburgh School Board Hopeful Sonja Brown

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – School board elections are Tuesday, 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 7 School District candidate Sonja Brown had to say.

Tell us about yourself:

I am announcing my candidacy for the Greenburgh School District No. 7 Board of Education. A number of Greenburgh residents and Greenburgh Central School District residents, students and faculty have encouraged me to seek this office because they believe, as I do, that I can make a positive and important contribution to our school system.

I am a lifelong Greenburgh resident and a graduate of the Greenburgh school system. My two daughters have had the opportunity to attend the Greenburgh school district. As a parent, it was important to me that my children receive the excellent education I had the privilege of receiving as a student here in Greenburgh. After graduating from Woodlands High School, I received my bachelor’s degree in social work from Virginia State University and a master’s degree in school administration and supervision from Mercy College. My oldest daughter (2009 WHS graduate) just completed her junior year at Howard University, and my youngest will soon complete her middle school experience at WMS. She will begin her WHS experience in September 2012.

Age and years lived in community: I am 44 years old and a 44-year resident of Greenburgh.

Occupation: I am the founder of Westchester RISE Inc. (Westchester Referral, Information, Services and Education), an organization dedicated to developing effective ways to connect people with necessary services help them live healthier, easier and more productive lifestyles.

“I CHOOSE BOLD. I CHOOSE ACTION. I CHOOSE WHAT’S RIGHT FOR THE PEOPLE. I CHOOSE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” (Bill Richardson)

What qualifies you to be a school board member?

I have spent my entire adult life working to better the quality of life in Westchester County. Advancing the quality of life for the residents of Greenburgh through public service has been the focus of my work. I will continue this focus and will work exceptionally hard to ensure that the residents and students of the Greenburgh Central School District No. 7 are aware of the excellent educational services and programs that we offer our students.

Greenburgh School District No. 7 is a wonderful district full of hard-working students, top-notch teachers and staff, caring families and great community partnerships. Its diversity is its strength. In recent years, instability, personal agendas and staff turnovers have interfered with the continuity of education that our students deserve. These issues have lead to misconceptions about our district and have caused some of our residents to enroll their children in other schools. I believe that I will be able to dispel the negative beliefs that many hold to be true and will work in partnership with the school board, schools, teachers, staff, community and, most importantly, the students, to move forward to discuss, assess, plan and implement effective change. Should I have the honor of being elected to the school board, I will also work steadfastly to increase our public relations in the community by focusing on all of the wonderful people and activities in our school and by dispelling myths through active involvement with outside agencies and with our local Realtors.

I’ve had the opportunity to serve as the former Greenburgh School District No. 7 family/community outreach and homeless liaison, bringing in over $6 million in state funds. Through this position, I was able to increase family involvement, deal with family issues by connecting families to outside resources and services (employment, mental/health issues, housing, etc.), advocate for the rights of students, families and faculty, offer free workshops to the GC7 community, find funding to support school building needs (summer school programs, student transportation, student trips, emergency funds for clothing, food, etc.). I am the founder of the GC7 Father-Daughter and Mother-Son Social, created a Family and Information Family Room in GC7 at the Highview School which strived to build stronger partnerships with local community organizations (FACT Breakfast, Father-Daughter/Mother-Son Social, Key Club Coat Drive, Parent Child Home Program Westchester Jewish Community Services, African American Men of Westchester fourth annual Environment Youth Conference, Key Club and TDYCC holiday celebration, etc.).

Professional Experience

  • Councilwoman, Town of Greenburgh
  • Greenburgh Central School District No. 7, Family & Community Outreach Worker & Homeless Liaison
  • Family Information and Referral Service Teams (FIRST Inc.), Director of Educational Projects
  • Westchester County American Cancer Society, Director of Patient Services
  • Urban League of Westchester, Technical Assistant for the Homeless
  • St. Christopher-Jennie Clarkson Child Care, Social Worker
  • Union Child Day Care Center, Assistant Teacher

Professional and Community Memberships

  • Greenburgh School District No. 7 PTA Council, Vice President
  • Greenburgh School District No. 7 PTA Highview, President
  • Founder, Greenburgh Central No. 7 Caring for the Children We Share Committee
  • Greenburgh Central No. 7 Community Engagement Committee
  • Lois Bronz Children’s Center, Board of Directors, Policy Committee, Social Service Committee, Education Committee, Parents Association-Vice President, Parents Association Member
  • Union Baptist Church, Union Cares Committee
  • Westchester County Youth Bureau Integrated Services Planning Committee
  • Greenburgh Drug Court Advisory Committee
  • Greenburgh Parks and Recreation Volunteer Outreach Worker
  • Greenburgh Democratic Town Committee, Fairview District Leader
  • NAACP White Plains/Greenburgh Chapter – 1st Vice President, Civil Engagement Chair
  • Ryan White II Lower Hudson Region HIV Care Network – Social Service Committee, chemical Dependence committee
  • Westchester Black Democratic Committee
  • Westchester People of Color HIV Committee
  • Greenburgh Girl Scout Leader

Accomplishments

  • Westchester RISE Inc., Founder
  • Westchester Referral, Information, Services and Education: Organization dedicated to developing effective ways to connect people with necessary services help them live healthier, easier and more productive lifestyles

Skills

  • Strong interpersonal, management, organizational and leadership skills
  • Exceptionally loyal and committed to my work and community
  • Exceedingly professional: Capable of working independently as well as within groups of people and large societies; able to skillfully build strong relationships
  • Risk taker – Not afraid to do what’s right
  • I am a professional who is capable of working independently, but who also values and practices teamwork at every opportunity.
  • Federal, State, and Local Government Grants

What would you like to accomplish if elected?

STUDENT EDUCATION & SAFETY FIRST

  • Modernized Facilities & Equipment
  • Teacher Accountability & Professional Development
  • Afterschool Busing (To Allow For Additional Instructional Support & Extracurricular Activities)

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & ACCOUNTABILITY

  • Your Tax Dollars Utilized For ‘Smart’ Educational Decision-Making
  • Fiscal Transparency & Community Input

INCREASED PROPERTY VALUES

  • Better Schools = Higher Property Values

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

I would not suggest cuts to the budget without first creating a budget committee to include students, families, faculty, community members and the Town of Greenburgh government as we work together in the best interest of the Greenburgh 7 community.

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

a. School taxes (form a budget committee to include students, families, faculty, community members and the Town of Greenburgh government as we work together in the best interest of the Greenburgh 7 community.

b. Inconsistencies in administration. Just within the last 10 years we've had several superintendents, assistant superintendents, superintendent of business, district technology directors, district facilities director, high school principals, district director of pupil personnel, district director special education, etc. To hire within Greenburgh 7. We have a lot of wonderful group of GC7 who are more than capable to fill opened administrative positions. The problem is many of these same said staff members are afraid to leave their union positions for fear of being terminated as an administrator. Unfortunately many administrators hired outside the district have come and gone. GC7 will need to lift staff morale and encourage them to apply for opened administrative positions.

c. Community relations and positive PR. GC7 is a model district, however, the public only hears of the negative. We need to invite all stakeholders in as well as to create a plan which will allow better community outreach. We need to go out to every community within GC7 and form better partnership.

IT’S  TIME !!!

·     It’s time to reclaim our District

·     It’s time to reclaim our Schools

·     It’s time to make Greenburgh Central School District #7 the model district it used   to be

·     It’s time to stop bringing in administrators/staff who have no vested interest in or knowledge of our children, our community or our needs

IT’S  TIME !!!

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