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Get to Know Ossining Schools Candidate Levenberg

OSSINING, N.Y. – Three candidates are running for two spots on the Ossining Union Free School District Board of Education in the May 15 election.

Newcomer Sharon Abreau and incumbents Dana Levenberg and Kimberly Case recently took questions at Ossining High School in a session that served to introduce the candidates prior to the election . Voters also will be asked to approve the school district's 2012-13 budget.

The Daily Ossining asked each candidate to fill out a questionnaire and some basic information. Below are Levenberg's unedited answers.

Name: Dana Levenberg Age: 47 Occupation: Chief of Staff, NYS Assemblywoman Sandy Galef Family status: Married Years lived in Ossining: 16 years

1. What qualifies you to be a school board member?

Levenberg: Ossining Micro Fund 2005-present Co-Founder and President, New York State School Boards Association Leadership Training Board Achievement Award, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress Regional Think Tank Fellows Program Fellow October 2011-present, Hudson Valley Region STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Hub Steering Committee Member, Westchester East Putnam Region PTA Executive Board Member, Ossining Council of PTAs Past President, Brookside School PTA Past President, Ossining Communities that Care-Founding Board Member, Village of Ossining Comprehensive Plan Committee, Ossining 1st and 2nd Annual Walk-Day Co-Chair, Temple Israel of Northern Westchester Sisterhood Member.

2. What do you feel you have accomplished as a school board member? (for incumbents only)

Levenberg: Over the last 6 years, I have been honored to serve the Ossining School District as a responsible steward of education and our community’s resources. The school boards on which I have served have offered the lowest percentage budget increases in two to three decades. Our average increase has declined drastically as a percentage of spending. We have downsized our staff, our administrators, and redeployed our workforce so we could continue to offer the most critical programs in tough economic times. We have managed to do this while continuing to offer equitable opportunities for all. During my time on the board, we: Have been recognized by Intel as having one of the top three high school science programs in the country, including our award-winning science research students; Have been recognized as having one of the best music programs in the country for the second year; Have nationally recognized athletes who win good sportsmanship awards as well as scholar-athletes; Have been recognized for our educational leaders, our curriculum, and our communications.  Introduced Earth Science Regents for all in the 8th grade; Introduced a new literacy initiative throughout our schools; Passed 5 reasonable budgets with some of the lowest percentage budget increases in decades; Passed an Excel bond which allowed the schools to use state-allocated money for building repairs; Passed a major facilities bond with no additional impact on property taxes; Improved our communications and went paperless; Brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants, including for 0-3 year old education, and parent literacy with the help of a half-time grant writer;

We have advocated for mandate relief at the state level, and for funding from the state and federal governments. We significantly cut expenses for the proposed budget looking outside of the classroom by finding an alternative Health Plan for our employees and a new transportation plan for our busing.

3. What would you like to accomplish if re-elected?

Levenberg: I would like to continue our quest to make sure every child graduates with 21st century skills that prepare him or her for the world and to be lifelong learners, and on that path, make sure every child makes at least a year's worth of progress and has his or her needs met so they may reach his or her potential.

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

Levenberg: I would continue our practice of trying to cut a little from all areas so as not to decimate any one area. We have worked hard to support the whole child and ensure our students are able to establish meaningful and positive connections with school through academics, cultural arts, and athletics. We must continue to hold strong to our values and beliefs as we have seen them pay off year after year. Outside recognitions validate our good work and our incredible community in Ossining does as well.

5. What are the three biggest issues facing the school today?

Levenberg: The top three challenges we face are: 1-Shrinking expenditures with our continuing economic downturn 2-Growing enrollments/shifting demographics and addressing the achievement gap within that context 3-New state mandates and implementation guidelines regarding evaluation processes for teachers and principals 6. If re-elected, what would you do about those issues?

We should continue some of our current practices, which include: Make sure our transition to the state mandated Common Core State Standards is as seamless as possible across all grade levels and find opportunities to improve our practices as we make this shift.

Maintain our focus on our recently adopted long-range plan in the context of our multi-year financial planning. Utilize our newly implemented dashboard, a business model that helps us look at how we are doing on local and state measures, to help us make sure we are allocating resources effectively and equitably to programs that are successful, and reallocate or cut where necessary Collaborate with all interest groups to identify areas of waste. Apply, through Putnam Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES), for a State shared services grant to see if we can utilize BOCES to share back-office services in our business office with other school districts, as has been done in other BOCES in New York State. Continue to monitor our transportation to see if additional savings could be realized with efficiencies. Continue to work closely with all bargaining units to make sure we compensate our biggest asset—our staff--appropriately while ensuring responsible stewardship of dwindling resources and a tax levy cap. We cut $2.3 million from our health care costs this year from changing out of our self-insured plan to the state’s NYSHIP healthcare plan. If there are additional opportunities to realize savings in this area, we should do so. Communicate effectively with our community through our multi-level outreach, electronic, print, television, and meeting with various organizations and interest groups to explain our accomplishments, our mission, and our challenges and seek input from all.

Continue to utilize our grant writer and continue to partner with our Education Foundation, Ossining MATTERS, to identify opportunities for outside funding.

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