Joan Tiburzi, 49, is running unopposed for a fourth term on the Harrison Board of Education. A trustee since 2003, Tiburzi has served as both president and vice president of the Harrison Board of Education.
There are two available seats in this year's board of education election. Dennis Di Lorenzo is running for the other seat and is also unopposed.
The following is a question and answer session with answers from Tiburzi posted in their entirety.
Patch: What do you bring to the Harrison Board of Education, what specific skills do you offer that will be an asset to the board?
Joan Tiburzi: As a member of the school board for the past nine years and an involved parent of three students in the school system, I believe that public education is the cornerstone of our society and that it is the responsibility of a public school to educate and challenge each child that it serves. This belief is what motivated me to first run for the school board and continues to guide my decisions as a school board trustee as we build the foundation for educating the future of our community.
Patch: The tax levy cap has been a much talked about issue across the state this year. How did the board handle the tax levy cap this year and what are your thoughts regarding future budgets during your next term on the Harrison Board of Education?
Tiburzi: This year the board chose to develop a budget that remained within the tax levy cap and presented a budget that was only a 1.07 percent increase and preserved our educational program. However going forward, the greatest challenge to our school district is how to protect and enhance educational opportunities for the children of Harrison in the face of reduced funding and growing unfunded mandates. It is essential to remember that providing the highest quality education for children is the most important thing we do. As we develop future budgets we must remain mindful of that responsibility. The tax levy cap makes sustaining our philosophy of long term financial planning difficult. Reducing costs and creating efficiencies has always been an important component to our strategy. However, it is difficult to realize the benefits of those reductions when the costs of state mandates take up nearly all of the allowable increase.
Patch: What are your thoughts on the school district’s overall budgeting practices over the last few years? What are you proud of and what are some areas that might need improvement?
Tiburzi: The district’s budgeting philosophy and practice has been one of long term planning, efficiency and fiscal stability, along with containing costs and minimizing impact on taxpayers. I am proud that during my tenure on the school board the district has sustained a fiscally sound long term financial plan that has resulted in a AAA rating from Standard and Poor’s for the past five years and a Certificate of Excellence from the Government Finance Officers Association for four straight years.
Patch: What are your thoughts on the IB program now that it is officially a part of the curriculum at the Harrison Central School District? Are you confident in the success of the program moving forward?
Tiburzi: The philosophy of the IB program is closely aligned with the district’s philosophy on instruction and learning. The IB curriculum is probative, designed to develop a deeper understanding of subject matter and critical thinking skills. The IB also exposes students to a wide range of subject matter, teaches about the learning process, and helps students to gain a better understanding of not only themselves but the world around them. The skills students will develop as IB learners will best prepare them for success in college and in life.
Patch: Another current issue is the state’s new teacher evaluation system. Some call it an unfunded mandate that interferes with internal systems already in place; others view it as a way to hold teachers more accountable, where do you stand?
Tiburzi: I believe that accountability is necessary for the success of any organization. For evaluation to be effective it must be meaningful, and based on clearly defined standards. Several years ago we adopted an evaluation system to support and develop good teaching. Much of what is in the news recently talks about rating teachers based on test scores. To base teacher effectiveness on test scores is not effective and puts public education at risk. Policies and mandates coming from Albany and Washington will force school systems to teach to the tests. That is not accountability. We must work to preserve an evaluation system and public school district that ensures we educate Harrison's students to be critical thinkers—not just test takers.
Patch: As an incumbent who has previously served as Board of Education president, what is your greatest achievement during your time on the board?
Tiburzi: I am proud that we have built a school community that values a high quality education for each child that learns in our schools. Opportunities for students to explore and excel have increased, and we have adopted systems of evaluation and accountability designed to support and develop good teaching.