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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 5, 2011
By Zach Simeone
A teacher at Bethlehem with deep roots in the Hilltowns, David Lendrum has long thought about running for the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board, he said. After seeing the list of candidates on the ballot this year, he decided to run as a write-in candidate.
“My wife and I had already talked about being on the school board, because we’re both educated,” Lendrum said Tuesday. “We have two young kids, and I always wanted to be involved in the disciplinary process that will affect my kids. I have a daughter that will be in kindergarten in a year and a half. I wanted to run in four or five years; I was kind of holding out. But now, it seems like the timing’s right, and there aren’t enough candidates to really vote for.”
Lendrum, 31, has lived in Westerlo for seven years, but spent much of his childhood on the farm of his grandmother, the late Arlene Lendrum, a former school board president; his aunt, Jill Norray, is currently on the school board.
“I have an extensive family in the district,” said Lendrum, “and I feel like I could voice some of their opinions as well, and directly affect programs that affect my kids and other people’s kids.”
After teaching at Mohonasen briefly, Lendrum began working in the Bethlehem Central School District about three years ago. He teaches seventh-grade life science this year, and will teach eighth grade physical science next year, he said.
Lendrum thinks that his experience as a teacher will make him a valuable asset to the school board.
“I think the experience that I’ve had in education, being in a high-school and middle-school environment, I understand how school boards function,” he said. “I think I have a pretty good insight into how a school district runs, and I think that would be beneficial.”
Lendrum’s allegiance lies with the students.
“It’s difficult to make these decisions, but whatever works out best for the students, I think that’s where I stand,” he said. “Whether it’s consolidating, moving or shifting things one way or another. I’d obviously try to take everyone’s opinions into account, but I’d have to side with the students.”
Lendrum, like BKW’s teachers, works on a 30-step system of raises. His position was one of several in Bethlehem that was to be eliminated this year.
“My district took a 70-percent pay freeze, so they’d give up 70 percent of their increase in order to save half of the jobs that were slated to be cut,” Lendrum said. “So, I totally understand how the pay scale works. There are taxpayers out there, and I think everyone has to give a little bit. And that’s from all sides. You’re going to have to lose programming; you’re going to have to consolidate teacher positions. Unfortunately, there’s no way to keep the tax levy from increasing every year. You have to figure out how to do it as modestly as possible.”
He went on, “It looks like the budget for 2012-13 is going to be a lot better than 2011-12. So the concern is, you don’t want to change too many things and lose the consistency that you have in your schools. Changing consistency is one of the biggest problems that you have. I’d say do what you could to keep as many teachers on as possible, but at the level they’re looking at right now, I don’t think the cuts are significantly deep compared to other districts in the state.”
Further, Lendrum thinks it is in the district’s best interest to re-open negotiations with the teachers’ union.
“They have a pretty healthy contract, for the size of school they have,” he said. “You have to do what you can to keep the teachers you have. There are a lot of good teachers at Berne. I did some college work with teachers at BKW, and there are some really good teachers there. The last thing you want to do is drive them away from the district.”
Of reforming the Triborough Amendment, Lendrum went on, “The idea is obviously that you’d get the teachers back in contract as quickly as possible…I’m not sure that I’d want to expedite the process too quickly. That’s not a make-or-break deal for your budget. Based on the faculty members I work with, I don’t think anyone enjoys being out of contract. I think teachers like to have a contract so they know what they’re expected to do...But I don’t know enough of the details.”
Lendrum also supports the district’s $21 million budget proposal.
“It’s too bad some positions are downsized, but, in terms of the sheer number of positions cut, when you look statewide and regionally, I think that Berne has made out pretty well, and I think that 3.5 percent’s a pretty decent number,” he said of the tax-levy increase. “Obviously, it’d be cooler if it was closer to 2 [percent]. I know that some of the positions and sports positions were cut because of a lack of interest. That’s unfortunate, but at the same time, there’s no reason to fund a team that doesn’t need to exist.”
However, should the budget get voted down, Lendrum thinks it should be put up for a second vote.
“There are a lot of people in the district who sit back the first time and see how everyone’s going to vote,” he said. “If you put it up a second time, you will draw out more people than the first time.”
Lendrum was asked whether or not he thought being on the board with his aunt would affect his decision-making, to which he replied, “I know that I wouldn’t always agree with Jill. We have different opinions, but it would be nice in a way that we could share information. But other than that, the decision I’d make would come from my own house, and the town I represent.”