|[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]
Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 23, 2009
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND Denise Eisele, seeking her second term on the board, wants to work on improving communication.
She chairs the board’s communications committee and said, “I feel strongly about facilitating communication across the board.”
The committee, she said, has just started looking at how parents and teachers at the elementary schools communicate. Backpack mail that is, sending notices home with students in their backpacks is becoming “obsolete and expensive,” she said.
“A lot will depend on the ability of our technology to support communication,” she said.
Being on the school board has been “a wonderful experience,” Eisele said. “I’ve enjoyed the whole collaboration part,” she said. “You have to research and compromise and look at all sides of the issues.”
Eisele, a registered nurse, is a graduate of Glens Falls High School and the Albany Medical Center School of Nursing.
She lives on Stafford’s Crossing in North Bethlehem, with her husband, George, who is a physician. The couple has adopted six children.
“Unfortunately, people assume you’ll come on the board and revolutionize it,” she said. “We’re a group of nine who respect each other. No one has a hidden agenda.”
Eisele is proud of the way the budget has been developed, she said. “I’ve seen this huge effort on the part of the teachers, the administration, and the board to see what is the best thing that can be done in this situation,” she said of the recession. “Hours and hours and hours were spent by the board really wrestling with this,” she said.
Eisele is also proud of the way the board has worked together. “We’ve tried very hard to show our respect for each other and the administration,” she said, modeling behavior for students who are taught not to bully others. That can mean treating someone you may not like or may not understand with respect, she said.
Eisele is running on her own, she said. She and Hy Dubowsky campaigned together three years ago. Dubowsky died in March. “Hy was a mentor to me,” Eisele said. “I’m convinced he got me elected because he knew what needed to be done.
Eisele said that the role of a school board member is to serve the students. “Anything we do as a board will impact students,” she said.
She gave personnel decisions and budget decisions as examples of changes that affect students.
Eisele said that the board handled last summer’s situation with the protests over teacher transfers appropriately.
She said of the board’s decision to meet in executive session, “I would not want anything discussed about my job in public. It’s private to me...It’s important to maintain the confidentiality of every single person. The decision was considered and made in the best interest of the students at the high school.”
Eisele went on, “I did not have a problem with students supporting their teachers...I thought it was wonderful.”
She also said, “The protests were an emotional reaction based on the assumption it was a punitive action against these teachers when it wasn’t. I maintain the board behaved appropriately.”
When the board walked out of the meeting room to talk in an executive session, she said, “People were screaming at the top of their lungs.” In the executive session, she said, anyone could talk “in a non-confrontational way.” She concluded, “We listened as long as anyone wanted to talk.”
About tolerance, Eisele said, “The district has had an anti-bullying policy for quite a while. It’s been tightened up, to zero tolerance. The difficulty is proving it. I know for a fact, when there’s been any bullying or harassment, it’s been immediately dealt with. The problem is, how do you prove it?”
Eisele went on, “I have two sons who are black.“ If one came home and said, “Someone called me the ’N’ word,” Eisele said, “the principal would immediately investigate.”
Eisele also said, “I’m a realist. I know there’s bullying and bigotry. We need to find a way to stop it...We have a number of homosexuals, gay and lesbian students...On our board, there is support for these students.” She said of harassment, “We need to bring it out, not hide it or say it’s not happening....
“There needs to be more awareness of words you’re using because words can hurt very, very much,” Eisele said.
Sometimes, she said, the people using the hurtful words don’t realize their effect and need to be educated.
Eisele concluded, “I absolutely stand against any form of harassment.
Eisele supports the $85 million budget.
She would like the board, though, to further study the role of teaching assistants.
“Because there was so much controversy over the TA situation,” she said, “I would like to see a breakdown of the TAs and where they are being used....I would like to see what is the best way to use them.
“I see two sides here. I do trust our administration to look at the needs of our students and make the right decision. As a board member, I would like more information.”
Asked what course the board should take if the budget were voted down, Eisele said, “I would hope the budget isn’t voted down. If it is, we would have to come back and discuss what should be done and trim.”
On full-day kindergarten, Eisele said of the board, “Everyone was in favor of it. The issue was, could we afford it. I don’t think anybody wanted to put more money on the back of the taxpayers.”
Eisele, who initially served on the early childhood learning committee that recommended the full-day program, said she sees full-day kindergarten as “a definite asset.”
“We have the space,” Eisele said. “The only deterrent would be money....Right now, New York State would pay for the transition...It might not next year.”
On contracts, Eisele said, “As a nurse who works very hard for her money, I wouldn’t want to give any money back. Maybe a CEO would. I know how hard the teachers work.”
Differentiating between re-opening current contracts and negotiating new ones, Eisele said, “When contracts come up again, I hope all parties come to the table with an open mind. The unions have a responsibility to their members. The board has a responsibility to the students and the taxpayers. But we also have a responsibility for our teachers....It’s too easy for employers to say, ‘Take cuts to keep your jobs’...There has to be an awareness, not a lot of open hands out.”
Asked about correcting inequities in student performance, Eisele said, “I really, really don’t believe in stereotypes...I don’t do stereotypes. What I do do is I listen to what the school report card says and ask questions.”
Referring to the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction, Demian Singleton, Eisele said, “Demian is starting to bring some good break-out numbers.” She noted that he brought “a recent increase in school drop-outs” to the board’s attention.
“A lot of students move in whose parents are professionals; a lot of these kids are Asian. There’s a huge emphasis on education in the home,” Eisele said. “A lot are moving out from Albany, renting apartments. They’re transient and may come in with some deficits in educational needs.“
She concluded, “We are a diverse community.”