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Board of Education Candidates

WTBQ Radio (1110 am & 93.5 fm):  Meet the BOE Candidates Forum

Tuesday, May 11  |  1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Re-airing Monday, May 17 at 8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.



Seven Warwick citizens have filed their candidacy for three positions on the Warwick Valley Central School District Board of Education.

The Board candidates, in order as they will appear on the ballot, are:

  • Joe Melder
  • Sharon Davis (i)
  • Tiffany Howell
  • Bob Larsen
  • Lynn Lillian (i)
  • Bill Fanos
  • David Eaton (i)

An hour-and-a-half-long forum to meet the candidates will take place on WTBQ Radio on Tuesday, May 11, from 1:00 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. Five of the seven candidates will be participating in the forum. WTBQ will write the questions and moderate, and all responses will be timed

For anyone unable to tune in on May 11, the forum will re-air in its entirety on Monday, May 17 at 8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.



Get to know the WVCSD Board of Education candidates… in their own words!

JOE MELDER

I have lived in the Warwick community for 58 years. I am a former school teacher of 40-plus years. I taught and was athletic director at Sugar Loaf Free School as well as taught and retired from the Middletown City schools. I coached and counseled many students.

I earned the following degrees – Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, Master of Science in Physical Education, Master of Science in School Administration and Supervision. After my 40-plus career in teaching I chose to retire in Warwick, a community I love.

I live in Warwick with my wife, Frances (Tomaselli) Melder, a long-time resident of Warwick. I have two children and three step children who all attended the Warwick Valley School system. I have eight grandchildren – four of whom live in the Warwick School district, three currently attend the Warwick school system.

I am dedicating my time to helping the community in any way I can. With my background I will be an asset to the Warwick Valley School System.

 

SHARON DAVIS (i)

Twenty-two years ago, my husband, Jeff, and I decided to move back to Orange County where I grew up, and chose Warwick to raise our family. We are grateful for the educational opportunities that have been given to our daughters, Hannah, a 2019 graduate pursuing biology at Cornell, and Sarah, a student-athlete preparing to make her impact in her next college years. The teachers, staff, athletic coaches, and music instructors who supported their development from those early Kindergarten days at Sanfordville all the way through their final high school years not only prepared them to be college and career ready but also imparted those characteristics we hold dear in Warwick like community, service, and inclusiveness.

As a college counselor co-owning a small business with Lynn Lillian here in Warwick, my work supporting young people through the college admissions process has informed my perspective as a Board member. My awareness of what colleges seek from today’s students coupled with nine years of Board service has given me a strong foundation.

I understand the mandates and funding issues that distract us from our local mission, while at the same time I am gratified that we continue to meet the needs of our students while keeping our tax increases close to zero percent every year. In fact, over the past eight years, we have presented an average tax levy increase of just over 1.65%. At April’s Board meeting we voted to present a budget that continues our trend of providing near-zero tax levy increases.

When I began serving back in 2012, I relied on my business degree and finance background as a scaffold, but now I see more clearly that the experiences of nine budget and audit seasons, numerous capital campaigns, legal and human resource policy decisions, and continued professional development, have developed and improved my School Board service.

Warwick’s School Board leadership and decision-making have been an essential strength during this pandemic crisis, allowing the district to offer a robust remote education plan as well as more in-person instruction than most NYS schools – while not raising taxes. Auditors continue to be impressed by Warwick’s fiscal policies including the management of district reserves.

As stewards of taxpayer money, the district continues to improve education at Warwick. Meaningful professional development and new-teacher training have enhanced student learning. Harnessing the expertise of the District’s 300 teachers to author curriculum allows Warwick to build a sustainable, student-focused process that is always looking to better serve our students.

I am proud of the collegiality, focus, and motivation of the Board which has led to an improved “strength of school” and a robust menu of extracurricular athletics, clubs, and opportunities. Collaborative, student-focused Board members who understand that every student who walks through the doors at each of our schools should feel like they belong, understand that they are valued, and know that their teachers and staff support them, are vital if we are committed to ensuring that extraordinary learning continues to take place in the Warwick Valley School District.

 

TIFFANY HOWELL

  

I moved here to beautiful Warwick ten years ago.  My husband and I are raising two children who are currently enrolled at Park Avenue Elementary and the Middle School. For over thirteen years, I have been employed as a police officer. I currently work in Youth Strategies which aims to keep young people out of criminal justice system by referring them to resources and services. I have earned degrees in Criminal Justice (AS), Government (BA) and Criminology and Justice (MA).  I have also been a Rotarian since 2007 and a member of the Holy Name since 2010.

I am seeking election to the board because I witnessed my own children and other Warwick children struggle immensely over the last year. I want to be a part of the solution. Although I understand how difficult the pandemic has been on the district, it doesn’t change the fact that other schools and towns found ways to get their children back to in-person learning, full-time, from September, or well before the spring. 

Our kids are competing against other children for admission into college while being nearly a year behind them academically. There’s a lot of finger pointing towards the O.C. Health Department and Albany but other schools also answer to the same authorities. I understand that physical space was a major obstacle in regards to bringing all students back full-time but what about activating all existing space in the buildings? 

Other schools utilized cafeterias, gyms, libraries and other areas as classrooms. Could temporary structures have been used? How about renting space in other locations or using existing town owned buildings?  Hindsight is always 20/20 but opportunities were clearly missed by this administration and our kids have suffered as a result. 

Another change I would like to bring to the district is transparency. Too many decisions are made behind closed doors before they are even mentioned at the public board meetings.  The most recent example of this is bringing in Dr. Gess LeBlanc from Hunter College in Manhattan, as an advisor to roll-out the “Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework.”  Why are we bringing in a person from New York City to roll out a frame work that was clearly designed for a big city, to Warwick?  

The fact that Dr. LeBlanc is working with two other districts in the area is supposed to convince us that he is the right person for us? With all of the years of experience and talent, are we supposed to believe that our Warwick teachers and administrators aren’t capable of rolling out a framework for our district?  People move here to get away from the New York City schools.  Let’s not bring the city schools to Warwick. 

I am concerned about fiscal responsibility. I will look for ways to cut waste while maintaining the high standard of education we expect for our children. As a person who serves youth every day as my career, I hope that you will allow me the opportunity to serve the youth of the town I love so much.

 

BOB LARSEN

My family and I reside in Warwick. I own an IT Services Consulting business and have my NY State Realtors license. I am an active volunteer in local soccer and softball rec. leagues as a coach. My wife is a fifth-grade teacher in the Port Jervis City School District. My oldest daughter is currently a Sophomore at Mount Saint Mary College enrolled in their five-year teaching program where she will earn her master’s degree in education. Our two youngest daughters are currently enrolled in the PIE Program at Sanfordville Elementary School. 

PIE (Partners in Education Program) is an excellent program in the Warwick School District as it provides for multi-age grouping which encourages and supports a learning continuum pertaining to the individual child. One of the cornerstones of this program is active family involvement so learning at home is consistent with integrated curriculum at school. Additionally, the PIE Program extends outside the classroom into natural outdoor environments which fosters more powerful hands-on and interactive learning.  

Our family is grateful to have found our home in Warwick. We have enjoyed planting our roots in this community and love all the great things this town has to offer for our children to learn and grow. We are life-long learners, so education is essential in the process of raising our family. We put just as much emphasis into our children’s formal education as we do teaching them how to be good human beings. We encourage our children to ask questions, to exhibit a pure interest in understanding how things work, to exhaust all options while problem solving, reinforce why failing is an important step in achieving success and encouraging them to dream big because with honest effort and hard work, their wildest imaginations could ultimately become a reality one day.  

If you stop and ask our girls what I say to them every morning before they get on the bus their answer will be; Learn a lot, be kind, help people and have fun. In my opinion, if they follow those four steps, they will live an extremely fulfilling life. As involved as I am with my own children’s education, I feel a sense of responsibility to be a voice in this district to ensure all children in our community are provided with the instruction and resources to thrive in their own educational pursuit.   

The children in our community are coming off an inconsistent year with many interruptions and obstacles. Many students have fallen behind, but we do have the ability, facilities and resources to get EVERY student back on the course to success. It is time for leadership in the district to exhaust every option to get all students back into the classroom full time.     

I am running for the school board to be a voice for families in Warwick who want to give their children the opportunity to achieve all their education goals just as we do with our own children. 

 

LYNN LILLIAN (i)

My husband and I moved to Warwick 30 years ago when we decided to start a family. It turned out to be a great decision. Our three children are all proud Warwick graduates who have been well-served by the opportunities they have had here. The time spent volunteering in their classrooms, at the track and the pool, at concerts and art shows allowed me to see how those opportunities enriched their learning and their lives.

I could also see the world changing fast, and expectations for our students changing right along with it. I originally ran for the Board because I wanted to be part of ensuring that our students not only thrive in school but also after they graduate, with the skills they will need to adapt, innovate and succeed in a global economy.

My board service and professional life have been defined by a fundamental belief in the transformative power of education. I am an Independent Educational Consultant, and co-own College Mode Consulting with Sharon Davis. We help students navigate the college admissions process, empowering them to find their best college fit while developing self- awareness and decision-making skills that will be the foundation of their success in college and beyond. 

Serving on the Board for the past 12 years, four as President, has given me an in-depth understanding of what is needed to best prepare our students for their future, and working to help them get into college has given me a concrete view of what that future looks like. I am a better Board member because of my work and a better consultant because of my Board service.

During my tenure on the Board, strategic planning initiatives and community feedback have helped craft a vision for the district that assures our students graduate with the skills to thrive in an innovation driven-economy. The result has expanded academic opportunities, increased access to technology, developed robust community partnerships, continued environmental stewardship, and assured development of non-tax revenue while crafting yearly budgets well below the tax levy limit. I am proud of the district’s progress in service to our students, but there is still much to do.

Inevitably there are crises that distract us from our primary mission – whether it is chronic budget shortfalls passed on to local districts, or more recently the global pandemic. The district’s ability to meet these challenges depends on the leadership, planning, flexibility, professionalism, and hard work of our administration, teachers and staff. It also depends on a unified School Board, focused on our students and community, that empowers our staff to meet these significant challenges while continuing the work of preparing our students for their future.

School Boards are stewards of the public trust, providing oversight and ensuring fiscal responsibility while identifying and meeting the needs of our students. I understand the power of public education to shape lives and I remain committed to that work and to supporting the success and well-being of every one of our students.

 

BILL FANOS

I’ve been a Town of Warwick resident for the past 45 years. My wife, Jaclyn, is a Special Education teacher in Ridgewood, NJ. We are the proud parents of three beautiful girls, currently attending Warwick Valley Public Schools. I graduated Cum Laude, with a BA in History from St. Bonaventure University and am starting my 22nd year as a Lieutenant with the FDNY.

For the past seven years I’ve volunteered as a coach for the Warwick Soccer Club. Let me start by extending my gratitude and many thanks to the Warwick teachers who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, taking on the monumental challenge of keeping our children’s education and well-being their top priority.

They have demonstrated resilience, continuing to encourage our children to treat others the way they want to be treated. A virtue easily overlooked considering the circumstances. My mother, who was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, migrated to the Bronx, NY, at age 17. Miriam instilled in me the values of a strong work ethic and a desire to serve others, personified in her profession as a Nurse, while maintaining a positive attitude, regardless of any obstacles.

My father, Bill, taught me the values of honesty and patriotism, by his example. His grandchildren would often hear him proudly say, “God Bless America, the greatest country in the world and never forget it!” As a parent of school aged children, it’s important to have a stake in our education system, that ultimately produces the next generation of entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, teachers, firefighters and law enforcement professionals, etc.

A fresh perspective on the Board of Education is necessary to tackle the current challenges facing our school district and support strong, honest leadership. First, in-person instruction five days per week for all students, K-12, is a necessity not simply an option. I’m committed to being a voice for parents and educators alike who answered the climate survey last summer overwhelmingly in favor of in-person instruction.

The unintended consequences for students in terms of lost learning in the classroom as well as the mental and emotional hardships needs to be actively addressed. As parents and educators, we have a moral obligation to be honest about the science and data which offers little evidence that the reward for lockdowns out ways the risks to our children. Second, the BOE has a civic duty to provide parents with all the facts in order to make an informed decision regarding any future school curriculum shift in standards or protocols before they are introduced into the classroom.

Finally, school budget transparency is imperative, requiring leadership. Decisions made by the Superintendent ultimately affect your family’s personal finances. Therefore, Board members have a fiscal responsibility to ensure your hard-earned tax dollars are spent wisely and any proposed spending increases receives the scrutiny it deserves. With your support and vote, on May 18, I look forward to serving your family on the Warwick Valley Board of Education.

 

DAVID EATON (i)

My wife, Robyn, and I chose to settle in Warwick 33 years ago for its warm sense of community and for its excellent schools. Our two daughters graduated from the Warwick schools and went on to have successful college careers. We are also the proud grandparents of two curious and motivated young elementary students. My wife is a retired elementary teacher and I retired from a career in medical information. I am also a past President and active member of the Warwick Valley Rotary Club. 

I fully believe in the concept of lifelong learning and see it is a fundamental goal of public education. A good education includes a rigorous curriculum as well as an expansive extracurricular experience. Warwick offers robust extra-curricular opportunities with a high level of excellence in athletics, music, and drama to name a few. These activities together with a solid curriculum lead to a well-rounded educational experience for our students.

I have served on the Warwick BOE for 16 years, five as president, the Orange Ulster BOCES Board for six years, and represented both at the Orange County School Boards Association. My School Board service has been informed by the relationships with the varied educational leaders I have worked with on these boards and gives me an excellent perspective on the schools in our region. Warwick is highly regarded among our peers and respected for our curriculum, our school leadership, and our collegial school board. We truly have a winning team running our school district.

In spite of the challenges this past year has presented, Warwick has maintained high standards for our students keeping their safety in the forefront. The boards I have served on have never wavered from our responsibility to provide the best possible education for our children. 

Like all of us, I am very anxious to return our students to the classroom full time. However, this must be done carefully, safely and within established guidelines. This is fundamental to the health and safety of our schools and our community.

Our district remains both financially and educationally sound due to many prudent decisions and long-range planning. As a school board member, I remain committed to finding and supporting all measures that contain spending without compromising the high educational standards that the Warwick community expects, deserves and has steadfastly supported.

I believe that my perspective, passion, and experience will help us stay this course. If re-elected, I will continue to fight for fair school funding, promote efficient school district operation, evaluate fairly and critically the performance of our administration, seek ways to improve student achievement, stay up-to-date on education news and issues, serve as an ambassador for local school governance, maintain relationships with key policymakers, find cost savings and operational efficiencies, and, most importantly, listen to our community. Finally, I will support all efforts to make our schools safe and secure. These are all tasks expected of every board member and I pledge to continue to fulfill them.