Chasity McGivern, BKW School Board candidate

Chasity McGivern

KNOX — One year after she was elected to the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board, Chasity McGivern is running for a full three-year term.

The BKW alumna filled the term left unfinished when board member Maureen Sikule resigned.

For the next three years, McGivern said, she would like to develop a grant application for the district to obtain funding from the United States Department of Agriculture. The Farm to School initiative would bring food from local farms into the BKW cafeteria, she said, and enhance the school’s curriculum.

McGivern, 44, grew up in Berne and now lives in Knox. She works as a real-estate agent for Prudential Manor Homes. She has an associate’s degree in business from the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at at Cobleskill, a paralegal certificate from Mildred Elley, and she completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Russell Sage College while she began her year on the board.

In studying for her recent degree, McGivern said, she learned about the need for businesses to adapt as times change. She gave the revision of BKW’s bus runs this year as an example of that principle in the district.

“They’ve been able to purposely shorten the bus runs for some of the Westerlo kids who are on there sometimes for over an hour,” said McGivern. The reduction also created savings that were put toward new programs in the schools.

With a year on the board behind her, McGivern said the interests of the students in the district always guide her decisions. Her son goes to the high school.

“We are there first and foremost to educate our children,” she said. “I know it’s not always doable, but at the end of the day you have to figure out what is in the best interests of the kids.”

Asked if this meant tax increases, McGivern said thoughtful plans, not more money alone, fix problems.

“I would consider it if it was needed by the district,” McGivern said of future tax-levy increases in the next three years. McGivern voted to approve the proposed 2014-15 budget, which raises the same amount of money from property taxes as this year’s.

“It was very hard to alter the cafeteria staff,” she said of the board’s decision to consolidate food services into one cafeteria and reduce staff hours. “I would have loved to have been able to and I am still working on a way to help the cafeteria,” she said of developing the USDA grant with others in the district.

McGivern said the process of financial planning this year was done well, where budget advisory committee members, the board, and residents were presented with options from the superintendent. This helped people understand the process, she said, and should be continued into the future.

“I think that’s one of the angsts of any community; they don’t feel like, in times of need, at times like this, that they have a say in the quality of education or the budget,” said McGivern.

The budget advisory committee’s members were assembled two months before the plan was approved, months later than in previous years.

“The budget advisory committee has been the same for a couple of years,” McGivern said of its members. “I think we should open that up to allow other people to participate, if they so choose and want to.”

McGivern hopes an interim rather than a permanent superintendent would be better able to manage the district with its many changes coming in the next year.

“We’re not the highest-paid district as far as our administrators, and then you factor in the weather and the snow…” said McGivern. “In my opinion, we may not get the best possible candidate that we want for this year, to be sort of like we had last year.”

On the district’s academic performance, McGivern said she expects BKW will benefit from recent board actions to invest in new teaching positions and academic support for students. Ideas for the future, she said, are difficult to determine at this point, because pressures on the district, like new learning standards, could change in the next three years.

“Putting all that money into something, you want to make sure it sustains and it’s doing what you want it to do,” McGivern said of changes in the 2014-15 budget. “I think, once everything is in place, by the end of this next coming year, everything in this district, or my wish would be, that we’re at a point where we can grow our education and our student body and our staff, because all of the hard work will have been done, kind of like starting at ground zero.”

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