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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 22, 2010
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND An accountant, Allan Simpson says he would bring a needed perspective to the Guilderland School Board.
“The board is made up of predominantly of lawyers and others not involved predominantly in the business world,” he said. “I have 30-plus years of business experience.”
Simpson is making his second run for the school board as an independent. Last year, he came in a close fourth in a five-way race for three seats.
“To me, the most important thing is we’re going through unprecedented difficult economic times,” he said. “I would bring my knowledge of accounting and business and my analytic skills to the board.”
On the role of a school-board member, Simpson said, “As a member of a board, working for the community, it’s your job to serve the students and the community. You have to offer the best possible education to the students at a price the taxpayers can afford….For a successful program, everyone has to be in unison.”
The new superintendent, Simpson said, “should be an administrator and should know the New York State education system and understand the finances of the district. “
Simpson went on, “An administrator has many roles…Guilderland is a very diverse district with one of the best special-education programs in the Capital District.”
He noted that, as a member of the Citizens’ Budget Advisory Committee for the last two years, he heard many people say that they moved to Guilderland for the quality of education.
“The superintendent has to understand education and how to work with people, and make everybody feel they have a say in the process,” said Simpson. “It’s no different than running a business.”
Simpson said he didn’t think the length of term “is all that important.”
“Employment is a two-way street,” he said. “Both the employee and the employer have to be happy with the product.”
On the superintendent’s relation to the board, Simpson said, “He’s the primary voice between the teachers and the board. He’s the voice of the school. He needs to be very tight with the board to be their eyes and ears. He has to be somebody the board fully trusts. It’s a partnership.”
On the budget, Simpson responded, “Do I support the $87.4 million budget? Yes. Do I support every line item? No.”
He went on, “I think the deferral of debt was not a wise choice. You have to live within your means. By deferring the payment, you’ve already saddled next year’s budget with a deficit. It’s not a fiscally responsible choice.”
If the district were to get more state aid, Simpson said he would like to see it applied to the debt payment. “Economic conditions can get worse,” he said.
If the budget were voted down, he would advise getting feedback from the community to see why it was defeated and then revising the budget and putting it up for a second vote.
“I don’t think a contingency budget is ever good there are never any winners,” he said.
On the tax hike, Simpson said, “In economic times, when people are asked to do more with less money, I’d hate to put a budget out that would cause people to go into foreclosure.”
He said he has talked to people who believe the tax hike is too high.
Other ways to lessen the burden, he said, could be reducing options or plans for health benefits, or, for example, with people now complaining about football cheerleading being cut, money could be raised through booster clubs or with fees.
On not offering raises when contracts are negotiated next year, Simpson said, “Contracts need to be looked at in the light of what the district can afford. If the district can afford a raise, I say, ‘Let’s give them a raise.’”
He went on, “It’s not that simple. Everybody wants to get a raise that’s the American way…But it’s just like a business. You have to live within your means. It’s contingent upon what the community can afford…The vast majority of the budget is salary, health, and pension costs. We have to manage those costs.”
On full-day kindergarten, Simpson said, “Last year, I opposed full-day kindergarten…My opinion is, from an educational value, I don’t know what it adds or subtracts. In a time where money is short, I question if we should spend money we don’t have…A lot of people are out of work and struggling. There’s a lot of concern about the tax rate.”
On teaching assistants, Simpson said, “First of all, I am opposed to cuts to teaching assistants, last year and this year…Teaching assistants have been the primary target of cuts…
“Some school districts may not call the people teaching assistants. They may call them aids. We have to make sure we’re not comparing apples to oranges.”
He went on, “A good number of the people that came to the board expressed concern about the quality of education.” Simpson said he, too, cares about that quality, and that his own children have benefited from the teaching assistants. The use of teaching assistants, he said, “is part of why Guilderland has such high standards and is so successful.”
He concluded, “To single out teaching assistants when they really aren’t paid significant salaries, I don’t understand that….Teaching assistants help every kid in the classroom, not just those with disabilities.”