The Newburgh Enlarged City School District has three seats up for grabs in this years Board of Education Elections on Tuesday, May 21 2019. There are six candidates on the ballot this year with three incumbent and three new candidates.
R. Andrew Johnston, Susan Prokosch, and Mark Levinstein are looking to keep their positions on the board. Carol Maida, Shoy Colbourne, and Shane Henderson are looking to take seats on the board for the first time bringing in some new energy to the Board of Education (BOE).
R. Andrew Johnston
Andrew Johnston has been on the board for two terms spending 45 years in the district as a student and as a parent. Johnston spent years following and documenting the work of the BOE before becoming a member, to understand the system of the district and how it works.
Johnston has served on the Finance, Buildings and Grounds, Personnel, Curriculum and Save committees and the policy and library committees recently. Johnston looks to restore confidence in the district after the release of the grand jury report in March.
“We are still in the process of doing the research to understand what the right things to do are,” said Johnston. “Policies need to be enforced and there needs to be some personnel changes. We need to have confidence that the district as a system and its policies are working properly.”
Johnston is also concerned with the reading rates in the district. He hopes to find ways through the board to raise literacy rates for young students. Johnston believes the key to higher literacy rates is finding a way for students to enjoy reading.
Johnston prides himself on his ability to stand up for what he believes in whether it is in agreement with the opinion of the majority of the board or in objection. He takes the time to research all decisions especially his most recent objection to end the funding of APEX, which was not sustained but the use of the program was brought to an end in the following BOE meeting.
Johnston has two children attending Newburgh Free Academy. He works as an IT Manager at Columbia University.
Prokosch has been with the district as a student, a teacher, parent, grandparent and a board member for the past 12 years. She continues to run for the board to give back to the district that not only gave her an education but a long career starting back in 1970.
“I am a native Newburgher, I went through all the school systems and taught here for 33 years, so my heart is here,” said Prokosch. “I still want to give back to the system that educated and employed me.”
Prokosch also looks to improve literacy rates from pre-k to 2nd grade. She believes that you need to focus on teaching children the importance of reading at a young age to have a larger impact on each child. She also would like to see a district that doesn’t depend on property taxes.
In the 12 years that Prokosch has been on the board her greatest achievement was being a part of the board that voted to open NFA West, expand CTE courses and develop college curriculums. She would like to see the CTE program continue to grow with a new CTE building. Prokosch would also like to focus on bringing back former students to teach in their own community.
She prides herself on following the book in everything she’s done while on the board, always keeping the students in mind regardless of what she does.
Mark Levinstein served on the board from 2011 to 2014 and the past year. He is looking to continue the work he started in the past year with a three year term. He has been living in the district for 27 years, with three graduates of NFA and one child in 11th grade.
“A concern of mine throughout the years of observing the board always has been that at times things were not always done with the best interest of the children at heart,” said Levinstein. “I always try to figure out who the ‘bad guy’ is and make my philosophy on that. There are things that need to be changed and I would like to make that happen.”
On Levinstein’s to do list is to raise the graduation rates and to ensure a safe and secure environment for children in the district, so that teachers can provide the best education possible for them. He wants to make sure that not only the students are safe but also the teachers.
Levinstein attended meetings for the past 12 years keeping a close eye on the works of the board before applying to become a member. His proudest moment as a board member was voting for the PTECH program giving 17 kids their college associates degree before receiving their high school diploma.
Levinstein makes sure to attend as many school functions as possible, whether it be the 3rd-grade recorder concert or an award ceremony at NFA. He likes to focus on finding the “bad guys” in the district but also highlighting the good things taking place in and outside the classroom.
Shoy Colbourne is fairly new to the district, with six years residing in the area, however, Colbourne believes his experience as a New York City Department of Education Officer would be useful on the board.
“One motto I live by is every student must be cared for every day,” said Colbourne. “We have to dedicate time to every student everyday. As educators we must care for the children to be able to support the student through the education process.”
Colbourne has taken part in education on a macro level in New York City changing policy to require all teachers in the city to have a K-12 certification to ensure employment of teachers that are best capable to support students.
“I consider myself a strategic disruptor of social and academic inequities. For me that means I may not be the physical body that changed the policy and the laws, but I will be the person that sparks the fire,” said Colbourne.
Colbourne looks to create programs to support students that are over-aged and under credited. He is also looking to create a sustainable pipeline to bring in diverse and culturally responsive teachers. He also would like to take a hard look at quick fixes used in the district in that rob students of a quality education.
His daughter will be enrolling in Horizons on the Hudson next school year, where his niece who he cares for is currently enrolled.
Shane Henderson has been a part of the district 31 years as a graduate of NFA and a parent. He currently works for the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs in the Hudson Valley. Shane received the endorsement of the Newburgh Teachers Association.
“I think obviously there’s changes that need to happen in the district not only from a parent perspective but from a taxpayer perspective,” said Henderson. “Having family and friends that work in the district there’s not a lot of confidence that the board will do the right thing. We need to restore credibility in the district. There has been a series of negative media that have a lot of truth to them. There’s so many issues that we need to improve.”
Henderson’s top two priorities include school safety, he wants to ensure that every student and teacher have a safe and positive learning environment. His second priority includes addressing chronic absenteeism from pre-k through high school. He sees the issue as bringing down the reputation of the district and hurting students chances in competing for college or careers down the line.
He looks to improve the communication and relationships with educators in the district and ensure that all students receive an equal education regardless of their background. He also would like to take a look at the fiscal responsibility of the budget and expand extracurricular activities to prepare students for college and careers.
Henderson has a daughter attending Balmville Elementary School.
Carol L. Maida
Carol Maida has spent her entire life in the district as a student, parent, teacher, and grandparent. She was a teacher for 35 years before retiring.
“I think it’s wonderful that we have so many diverse programs in Newburgh. I would like to see that expand and continue because we are very fortunate as a city school district and we apply for many programs and have done great with those and I would like to expand and get more for our diverse population,” said Maida.
Maida has watched the district through the years from all angles, and she is looking to give back to the community she spent her life in, and do good with other people on the board.
One of Maida’s priorities is restoring the trust level in the community, to open lines of communication for the district to become more in tune with the community.
Maida is looking to create an atmosphere where people can trust one another in the school system. She wants to ensure that the pure motives to do what’s best for students and teachers is not lost. She wants to enforce a high standard for students in the district.
One of Maida’s priorities is focusing on the literacy assistance to help children in need. She believes a focus on early literacy skills can take on the issue of lack of reading skills.
Maida has served on various committees on curriculum and reading district wide, she also taught in-service literacy and was a co-chair for instructional support.
Voting will take place on May 21, 2019. City of Newburgh’s wards will go to the following schools: First Ward will vote at Horizons-on-the-Hudson, Second Ward will go to South Middle School, Third and Fourth Ward will vote at NFA Main Campus.
Town of Newburgh districts will go to the following schools: Districts 1,2,14,15 will go to Balmville School; Districts 13, 16, 17, 18, 24, 25 will go to Fostertown; Districts 3-6, 8-12, 20, 22, 23, 27 will go to Meadow Hill School.
Town of New Windsor Polling places will go to the following schools: Districts 1-6 will go to New Windsor School; Districts 7-12, and 17 will go to Vails Gate School; Districts 13-15, 18, 19, 22, will go to Temple Hill School.