School board candidate Yolanda Thompson speaking at the May 11 board of education meeting. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Why are you seeking election to the board of education?

I have been involved in education as a special education advocate and consultant for about 15 years. I’ve followed the changes in education through the years while participating in forums with our legislators and Regents on issues like the Common Core Learning Standards, the related high stakes testing, the inequitable foundation aid formula calculations that determine how much state aid our district receives, graduation requirements and pathways, diploma options, school safety and discipline issues just to name a few. I’ve also been an active participant in our local Board of Education meetings for 10+ years. Serving on our board of education is a natural step for me. I’m also a problem solver and solution driven person that doesn’t just talk the talk but walks the walk bringing solutions to the table.

If elected, what will be your top three goals as a board member?

To work with our new superintendent to raise our scores and graduation rate which has not improved as much particularly for our boys and students of color.
To improve communication between school and home, increasing and welcoming parental involvement.
Improving transparency and respect between the Board of Education and the public. Restoring the public’s trust and confidence in the Board of Education is a must for moving our District in a forward and positive direction.

What’s the best thing about Riverhead schools?

Our diversity and the commitment of our teachers who work with our diverse student body. We also have a nice array of course offerings particularly at high school level.

What needs the most improvement in Riverhead schools?

Communication between school and home. Keeping parents informed of incidents that occur in our buildings, school closures, changes to scheduling, etc. We have so much technology now to help better communicate with parents in real time. We should also be utilizing a text messaging system in addition to sending out robocalls and emails. We would be able to reach and inform parents more easily whether they are at home or working outside of the home.

Do you favor the district asking voters to approve a revised capital construction plan to increase classroom capacity? If not, how should the district deal with overcrowded classrooms?

No I don’t believe at this time the voters would be favorable to approving a revised capital construction plan. We need for things to get back to normal first, with the economy and schools opening back up fully. Even though there is no substitute for in person learning, in the meantime we should keep the hybrid learning model option available as a possible way to deal with the overcrowding concerns. We should also look into flexible scheduling and/or staggered start times. The board should put out a quarterly straw poll to get the pulse of the community and gauge how the community feels about any construction plans before spending valuable resources and money putting forth another construction bond to the public for vote. This would also help to rebuild the trust and confidence from the community the Board needs to move forward with any future construction plans.

Do you favor expanding foreign language offerings in Riverhead by adding one or more new languages to students?

I am in favor of an immersion/bilingualism program that begins in elementary school. We should take advantage of the cultural and language diversity that already exists in our schools. This would benefit all of our students including our ELL students. Many studies have shown that children tend to more easily acquire second languages in the younger years as opposed to waiting until puberty or middle school to introduce a second language. An elementary bilingual program would also help prime our students’ brains to be ready to learn Latin or any other second language we offer. I also believe it would help improve our literacy, reading, and writing skills for all students as well.

What skills or abilities would you bring to the school board and how would you put these to work to improve how the board functions?

I have over twenty years of experience in the banking and financial field. This would enable me to understand important financial documents as well as understand how a budget is crafted, budget appropriations, financial transactions, and transfers for example. My experience and training as a special education advocate has enabled me to learn and understand education and municipal law which is what governs how a school district must operate. I also have training in how to mediate during contentious meetings and how to reach consensus which is a necessary skill to operating as a trustee on a school board which is a governing body that must be able to reach consensus and resolve conflicts in a professional manner.

Do you favor continuing live-streaming school board meetings? Do you favor continuing remote comments/questions from residents?

I have been a longtime advocate of our school board meetings being video recorded and broadcast on Ch 22 once again as our town board meetings are. I have also spoken up at our board meetings on a few occasions that the school board meetings are to be live streamed as this is required under the Open Meetings Law. (www.opengovernment.ny.gov) This is not an option it’s a requirement. I also believe remote comments and questions from residents should continue to be allowed. We should be striving to encourage public involvement in as many forms or mediums as possible. The live stream meetings should also be closed captioned so that hard of hearing individuals and our seniors are able to watch and participate as well. We need to be in compliance with the ADA laws as well.

Have you accepted contributions, either financial or in-kind (such as accepting the donation of literature, signs, phone bank staffing, social media services, advertising, etc.) from any source? If so please identify source, type and amount.

I have received small voluntary donations ($225) from friends and community members who support my campaign run for signs, fliers, t-shirts etc. I am financing the larger part of my campaign from my own personal funds.

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