James Scudder, 49, of Aquebogue, is seeking his first term on the board. He has been a district resident for 18 years and is the father of three children: one 7th grader who attends Riverhead Middle School and two 4th graders who attend Aquebogue Elementary School. He has both a bachelor’s degree and masters degree in music education from Five Towns College, and currently works teaching elementary music and orchestral music in the Bayport-Blue Point School District. He previously worked as a music teacher and the music department chairperson at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip.

Why are you seeking election for the Board of Education?

I am seeking a seat on the board because I believe that my many years of teaching at various grade levels gives me a unique insight into how a school operates and what our children at each level need to be successful.

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

My top 3 goals if elected are to help develop a yearly budget and long term financial goals that keeps all programs and stays under the tax cap. Transparency with the community on district policies, the development of a budget and district goals. Security has been a big concern with residents. I believe in making sure that our security protocols are in place up to date and clear and concise. 

What needs the most improvement in Riverhead schools? How would you work as a board member to improve it? 

I think we need to look at the special education department. We need to make sure that we are meeting the needs of these students. As a board member I would look into making sure that each building is uniform in how these students are taught. We also need to have consistency in the administration so that a plan can be implemented and not constantly changing with different administrations. We need to have transparency with parents so they know what programs and support the district can offer their children and what they are entitled to. Also making sure that we have enough special education children in the district.

Do you think there is a district policy that should change? If so, what is it, why should it be changed, and how would you work on the board to change it?

I don’t have a specific policy that I believe should change. I believe that education is always evolving and we need to constantly keep updating and making sure that our district is evolving to keep up with those changes. I mentioned how important transparency is in not only fiscal but also in special education, security and implementing all the district goals.

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

One of the things that has always bothered me are bonds. So often districts, not just Riverhead, put up bonds and when they get passed when those bonds come due the district is so often forced to make cuts to programs for kids. I would love to see more of a commitment from state and federal government to give public schools, public monies to fix and improve school infrastructure. Absent that, we need to develop a concise plan for overcrowding in the high school. Step 1 is to make sure that the overcrowding in the high school does not put it out of compliance with fire codes. Overcrowding also affects the security in the school. Also we need to make sure that scheduling is optimized so as to not have too many students in one section of the building and empty classrooms in another section. After looking at all of that we need a plan that best fixes the overcrowding situation while being fiscally responsible and transparent with the community.

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?

As I stated I have many years of experience in education at many different grade levels. I am also a good communicator as that is a skill that all educators need to have. I am willing to listen and give feedback to the administration, teachers, other board members and community members. I work well with others, I listen and do not demean anyone’s opinion or thoughts but also I clearly communicate where I stand on issues.

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 been endorsed by the RCFA. Which I am proud of as many of our teachers are also residents and have children that attend Riverhead schools so they are heavily invested in our schools. I know that they are sending out fliers and making phone calls on behalf of whichever board candidates that they have endorsed.

Correction: This article has been amended after originally publication to correct a misstatement about the number of children BOE candidate James Scudder has.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com