By KATIE HOOS
With school board elections around the corner, incumbent Jeffrey Hastie has announced his intention to run for one of the district’s two available seats.
Out of the nine-person board, two seats—currently filled by Hastie and past Board of Education president and current vice president Deirdre Polow—are up for election.
Hastie is finishing up his first five-year term on the Board of Education and, according to the district clerk’s office, no other candidates have announced their intention to run.
As of press time, Deirdre Polow could not be reached for comment on her plans to seek re-election.
Hastie, a 16-year New Rochelle resident, grew up in New Jersey and received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Case Western Reserve University and an MBA from Columbia University. Having previously worked for the Associated Press, J.P. Morgan Chase and Sony Music, Hastie now owns Arkgem Holdings—a consulting firm—and a local soccer store.
Crediting his parents for inspiring his love of education, Hastie said he plans to seek re-election to pass on the same spirit to students in New Rochelle.
“I’ve got a real passion for education…it was something that was instilled in our family growing up,” he said. “It was never a question of whether we’re going to college, it was a question of where, so that’s something I want to instill in our kids in the school district. That’s why I decided to run.”
Besides spreading his love for education, Hastie said he is hoping to improve several issues within the City School District of New Rochelle if he is re-elected, including standardizing the curriculum across the district. Hastie said he plans to bridge the gap in educational equity between schools in northern New Rochelle and schools in southern parts of the city, something many parents and residents believe is a result of New Rochelle’s differing demographics.
“Right now, we have each building determining their approach for teaching the material and we need to have a set standard,” he said. “If you were to transfer from [Columbus Elementary School] to [George M. Davis Elementary School], they need to be on par to be able to go from one classroom to the next across the district.”
Along the lines of educational equity, Hastie said, while he understands the general perspective of Common Core—a highly contentious education initiative across the country that details what students from kindergarten through 12th grade should know in English and mathematics by the end of each grade—he doesn’t agree with how New York state implemented the standards.
“We rolled it out here in New York and were testing kids before we gave the curriculum to teachers to teach the kids,” Hastie said. “I also think we need more freedom for individual boards and districts. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t make sense.”
In addition to improving educational standards across the district, if re-elected, Hastie plans to create standing committees including members of the community and the board to provide additional input on different aspects within the district such as finances.
Hastie said he would make sure the board monitored how it spent money more efficiently by creating an inventory management system to properly track supply ordering and tighten up the budget.
“We buy supplies, but don’t have a system to keep track or know how much we have or need for budgeting purposes. We need it but, right now, we don’t have that capability,” he said.
Additionally, Hastie intends to look into setting term limits on how many years someone can serve on the Board of Education.
“Twenty to 30 years don’t make the most sense for the district,” he said.
Board president David Lacher has been on the school board for 22 years.
While Hastie said he is proud of the strong language and performing arts programs within the district, as well as the improved transparency and openness that have occurred during his time on the board, he is looking forward to continuing to strengthen the engagement between the district and the community with a new superintendent.
New Rochelle began looking for a new superintendent after former superintendent Richard Organisciak went into early retirement last October for health-related issues. Since the beginning of the calendar year, the district has conducted a nationwide search with the goal of hiring a new superintendent by May.
In the interim, Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff, who had previously served as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, has been the acting superintendent for the district.
When asked what kind of qualities Hastie would like to see in the new superintendent, he said the district needs “someone that can engage the community—parents, residents who don’t have kids, administration, teachers—and someone folks can feel engaged with and build a level of trust with.”
Anyone interested in running for one of the two open school board seats must file a petition with at least 100 signatures from registered voters by April 30 at 5 p.m. with the school district clerk’s office.
Voting on the Board of Education elections and the 2014-2015 budget will take place
on May 20.