Clementina Duron is a retired principal.
1 – What are the biggest challenges facing your School District and how will you tackle them?
Right now the biggest challenge facing Albany School District is the new construction project. It is a huge undertaking, which will cost a lot of money and take much time to complete. Although taxpayers approved the measures (B and E) this past June by 69%, those who voted were just 59% of the total registered voters. When taxpayers get their property tax bill, this may become an issue. The Board will need to devote an extraordinary amount of time to the project because we will be held accountable to Albany taxpayers.
I would like to see an on-going forum for public concerns rather than official board meetings where decisions seem to be predetermined. In a legal public forum, ideas and issues can be addressed in a setting where there can be a give-and-take by all those concerned. In this way we can incorporate, or at a minimum, hear the perspective of all stakeholders which might give the Board a better understanding of public concerns. It can also serve to provide a better spirit of inclusion for all stakeholders.
Another challenge facing Albany School District is an on-going one – that of addressing the needs of all students. The graduation rates for Latino and black students are 8 and 9 percentage points below that of white students. Closer attention and more concerted effort need to be paid to this fact. The same can also be said for students who are not interested in college or who have other special needs.
2 – 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 Schools are a microcosm of society, so of course there are on-going issues of discrimination. My interaction with teachers shows that teachers in general keep on top of any specific problems, such as bullying, that come up on a day to day basis but there are times when these issues can be missed. As a policy maker, I would advocate for an on-going awareness policy that is front and center in the everyday lives of the students and teachers. Tolerance of discrimination in all its forms is zero and there would be active and daily emphasis in the classroom and the curriculum to student interactions in the playground/courtyard/cafeteria.
3 – Do you believe the school-to-prison pipeline is operational in your School District and what will you do to close it down?
No. I think what is operational in Albany District is a strong school-to-college pipeline. I think there are other pipelines that could be more developed. For example a school-to-career pipeline – for those students not inclined to continue their education after high school – should be a strong component of Albany and Macgregor High Schools.
4 – Do you support having police officers on campus? If so, in what capacity?
Yes. Police officers are an integral and important part of the larger community and I believe they should be viewed as a positive and additional resource to the school community. In Albany such a relationship already exists. A.P.D. works with a freshman class at Albany High. There is also a desire to have officers drop in occasionally on elementary school campuses during recesses. In this way students can become familiar with officers and should there be an emergency someday students will feel protected by those very same officers. While there are so many divisive issues in the general society regarding police and violence, a school community is a perfect place to provide a scenario where all elements of society can work together in a positive manner to ensure the best experiences for all students. A sense of good will amongst students, staff and police can have positive consequences for the larger community.
5 – What limits to students’ freedom of expression and privacy do you think are appropriate for public schools?
There is a delicate and difficult balance between students’ First Amendment Rights and the educational concerns of a school district. The limits come when a student’s freedom of expression and expression causes a disruption to a safe learning environment. Since these can be nuanced situations, a case-by-case decision is probably the best and also provides a forum for a learning experience.
6 – What do you think the School District should do to offer support to homeless, foster and impoverished children and children coming from violent homes?
While the district cannot solve all society’s problems, it can provide a safe haven whereby city-wide resources can be extended to those in need. The District is responsible to provide as much support as possible to these children with the aim of focusing on a positive learning experience. In order for that to happen, the District can provide free meals, support services such as counseling and advocacy, and family support referrals to local and state agencies and resources.
7 – Given the explosion of autism diagnoses, what is your plan to make sure children and their parents are getting the proper support?
As part of Special Education, there are already very specific legal guidelines for the identification and educational support of special needs students. Annually, the Board needs to be updated on the progress of the Special Education Department. While teachers have been well-trained to identify any potential students, at some point there could be a case that is not adequately addressed. If it is brought to the attention of the Board, it is our responsibility to act swiftly to remedy the situation. All students deserve our attention and the Board’s ability to turn to all possible resources for resolution.
8 – What should the District do to tackle problems of truancy?
The District needs to look at each case of truancy in order to find out the specific reasons for truancy in order to better address the issue. Reasons vary. For example, if it is a time management problem for a family, counselor/social worker can work with the family to address the issue. If it is related to a family taking a holiday (e.g. a family trip to Hawaii), then a homework enrichment packet can be developed for the students. Addressing individual causes can result in improved attendance and money for the District.
9 – Are you running as a Berniecrat?
I am running as an Independent.