GUILDERLAND — Christopher McManus is making his first run for the school board because he believes “new blood” is needed.
“At budget meetings, I didn’t agree with the way it was structured,” he said. “Cuts to the district office were never even discussed. I felt that was a false start. I want to look at everything and not just a select slice of pie.”
McManus feels well versed in finance. He has worked for New York State for a decade, first on the Senate Finance Committee and now with the Division of Budget.
He and his wife, Ann-Marie McManus, a Guilderland High School social studies teacher, have two children — Jack, 6, a first-grader at Lynnwood Elementary School, and Nicholas, 3.
McManus outlined three goals he would like to accomplish on the board.
“The first thing is Guilderland is stagnant in rankings,” he said. “We’re always sixth or seventh. We focus on cuts and cuts and cuts. We need to focus on how to improve the schools overall.”
Second, he said, “I want an open budget process in which we discuss all options.”
Third, he concluded, “The board discusses so much of important details in executive session. We need to discuss issues out in the open, not always behind closed doors.”
Asked about the role of a school board member, McManus focused on students, saying, “I think you should make classroom cuts last.”
He also said the taxpayers can’t be ignored. “Taxpayers have the final say,” McManus asserted.
McManus said he will vote “yes” on the $92 million budget, although he said he was disappointed in some aspects of it.
On the budget process, he reiterated that, at the start, “All of the options weren’t on the table.”
He stressed, “I would put all the options on the table.”
McManus also said, “The past way, looking at different lines, is more of an open process.”
“If it’s voted down,” McManus said of the budget, “you’d have to figure out what the taxpayers didn’t like and try to alleviate those concerns.”
He added that he believes the budget will pass in May as he has heard no “public outcry.”
Asked about raising the levy over the state-set limit in order to preserve the curriculum, McManus said, “I think you can preserve the curriculum without going over the cap.”
On state tests, he said, “This is a bigger issue than just Guilderland.”
As the parent of a first-grader, McManus said, he was aware that Common Core assignments are “convoluted with boxes and more numbers.”
He went on, “Other parents say they are having trouble doing first-graders’ homework.”
McManus also said, “It’s a complete mess. Hopefully, the state will look at it....We need more community meetings to bring this thing to the public, not keep it behind closed doors.”
On what should be done with facilities in light of declining enrollment, McManus said, “I’d have to first look at the study and see the recommendations. I hope they include pre-K in the report,” he said of pre-kindergarten classes. “The state is giving money to school districts moving in that direction.”
He also said, “Districts that close schools regret it later on.”
McManus concluded, “I hope there’s openness...I’d like to see the hard numbers.”
On contracts, he said, “I think, to attract the best and brightest teachers, you don’t want to have a salary below other school districts. You want to have a competitive salary.”
Asked if he would recuse himself from voting on the teachers’ contract because his wife is a teacher, McManus said, “There is a board member whose spouse is a TA.”
He was referring to Allan Simpson, who recused himself from the vote on the teaching assistants’ contract. (See Simpson profile.)
McManus also noted that he has a son attending Lynnwood Elementary School and asked, “Does that mean there’s a conflict about Lynnwood because my son goes there?”