I sent the following questions to Paul Black, candidate for the Albany School Board. Here are his responses:
– What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your School District and how would you tackle it?
The biggest challenge is finances. Every other challenge: curriculum reform, facilities needs, the achievement gap, and so on, can be addressed only with sufficient financial resources. The governor’s new funding formula means that Albany will not receive as much funding in future years as we would have under the old funding formula, and the State is a long way from fully funding the schools under either formula. There is very little we can do locally. We have a parcel tax on the November ballot, but that will only keep us from falling farther behind. The school board has to make difficult decisions about where to economize in order to hold on to our programs and staff—a process we’ve been going through every year since the Great Recession began.
– Do you believe there are systemic problems with racial/sexual/gender-based or other discrimination in your district’s schools? How would you tackle them?
Albany is a diverse, high-performing district. I do not believe we have any systemic problems with discrimination. When we learn of individual incidents that involve discrimination, we deal with them quickly and firmly. We do have the same problem that districts have nation-wide with an achievement gap between white and Asian students on one hand and students of color, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, and English-language learners on the other. I do not believe this gap is caused by discrimination in Albany, but I do believe we need to do everything we can to address and eliminate it.
– Do you support school dress codes? Specify.
We have dress codes in Albany that specify the minimum amount of skin that must be covered. These codes are pretty loose and are enforced only when a student’s dress is disruptive to our educational mission. I do support these codes. We have had no gang problems in Albany, but if we did, I would support dress codes that forbade the wearing of gang colors in order to avoid potential conflict.
– Do you believe religious texts, practices or songs should be part of the school’s curricula? If yes, please specify how.