What You Need to Know for May 17!

Dear SEEN Community,

This Tuesday, May 17, registered voters in the Saratoga Springs City School District may vote in the 2022 Board of Education Election and Budget Vote. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the elementary schools. Visit sscsdvotes.com to find your polling place. Absentee ballots may be acquired through May 16 by going to the Administration Building. You may complete the application and the ballot at the same time. Save time and download your application at sscsdvotes.com

There are six candidates running for three positions. You may vote for up to 3 candidates.

Also on the ballot are the annual operating budget, the Bus Bond Proposition, and the Facilities Bond Proposition.

First and foremost, we’re encouraging you to VOTE! But before and after, REACH OUT! School board elections in Saratoga typically attract less than 10% of the electorate. In such a small election, every vote counts; last year, the third place candidate won by 18 votes. Talk to friends, family, and neighbors, and encourage them to get informed and VOTE! The results of this election will determine the direction of our district for many years to come!

On Educational Equity

SEEN highlights issues related to educational equity. For a more complete view of candidates, please review their websites and social media, as well as the League of Women Voters (LWV) Meet the Candidates Forum, and SEEN’s notes from the event. In addition, SEEN reached out to all candidates this year with a Candidate Questionnaire. Our comprehensive Voter Guide is online.

  • John Brueggemann completed the SEEN Questionnaire. In response to the League of Women Voters’ question on DEI, John noted that this is an important topic, has been one of the most contentious issues, and that because of the data from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)  in terms of racial and class disparities, it has his “full-throated” support: “Equity has to be a part of what we do every single day….[it needs to be] woven into the district.” John referenced a number of examples where the Board can see the gaps that exist and the interventions that work to close those gaps, including wifi access, social-emotional learning, access to healthy food, reduction of fees, and open registration for AP courses. John is endorsed by both the Saratoga Springs Teachers Association and the CSEA.
  • Martha Devaney completed the SEEN Questionnaire. Even before the LWV question about DEI, Martha had mentioned she was thrilled there was a DEI policy in place. In response to the question, she was looking forward to assisting on implementation, and that through her work, she is intimately aware of ways to measure progress and results. For Martha, DEI is an “opportunity for everyone to feel they are part of a community–who is here and who will be.” The issue is about access to resources, and being sure that each and every student is a part of the community. When asked about alleged increases in violence at the high school, Martha noted that the U.S. Department of Education states the solution is more investment in mental health services and counseling.
  • Dean Kolligian did not respond to the SEEN Questionnaire or emails from SEEN. Asked about DEI during the LWV forum, Dean noted it was a “hot topic” and that each person benefits from learning what DEI means. Dean has repeatedly voted in favor of expanded Board decision-making rather than trusting the professional expertise of teachers and curriculum staff. Dean’s work as a Trustee was marred last year by his concern that “anti-racist” is too harsh a word, which initiated a contentious discussion about the proposed DEI policy and regulation. At the same time Adirondack Trust was subject to an investigation for discriminatory lending processes, which they settled in June 2021. In April 2022, his McGregor Village Development Corp. was tied to the elimination of the special education programs at Abilities Saratoga. Dean is endorsed by the SSTA. Despite multiple attempts to contact him, he has not responded, and we cannot confirm any other possible endorsements. He is supported by several anti-equity groups.*
  • Natalya Lakhtakia completed the SEEN Questionnaire. She chairs the Board Policy Committee, serves on the DEI Committee, and leads its policy subcommittee. As the only current person of color on the SSCSD Board of Education, Natalya has led the District’s efforts on equity. Natalya has changed policy language to be gender-inclusive and to include adult learners with special needs. At the LWV forum, Natalya noted she was proud of her DEI work, and that each and every student should feel welcomed and affirmed at school. Equity, she said, is when each and every student is served. She used the example of special education, appliances, and other disability interventions. If one student needs glasses, not every student needs to be given glasses. This should be understood as the way to implement equity, to identify what is needed and to provide it. Natalya is endorsed by both the Saratoga Springs Teachers Association and the CSEA.
  • Billie McCann declined to complete the SEEN Questionnaire. A “meet the candidates” event in support of Billie, Dean, and Ed declared it was “time to take back our school board.” Asked what that meant, Billie deleted comments and blocked commenters. She shared in the LWV forum that she wants to review the efficacy of restorative justice. She also insisted that though the VADIR report does not show any increase in violence, she knows there is “in what violence actually means.” She would like to see more school resource officers and “floor monitors” hired, and has proposed that these new hires be “diverse.” At the LWV forum, Billie asserted that the DEI Committee is “not diverse, equitable, or inclusive,” an argument favored by Moving Saratoga Forward. She also stated that “culturally-responsive teaching” is really just “critical race theory.” Billie is supported by several anti-equity groups.*
  • Edwin Spickler refused to answer any questions in the SEEN Questionnaire, claiming SEEN had already endorsed candidates. SEEN has expressly not endorsed candidates. On his website, Ed states that the only identity should be “student,” and he supports “equality of opportunity.” This is in direct opposition to the district pathway of “equity of opportunity.” Taken literally, it would eliminate special education programs, for example, and be illegal. At the LWV Forum, Ed professed a desire to see the school district be so popular that it has an “overflow” of students (Note: because public schools can’t not deny students enrollment, this would likely reduce educational opportunity and outcomes). His statements implicated a limited understanding of public education. Describing DEI, Ed asserted that committees needed to include parents (they already do), and to be representative of everyone, but in context, Ed’s answer was understood as favoring political diversity, only. Ed is supported by several anti-equity groups and is fundraising through Excellence in Education.*

*An overview of these anti-equity groups: Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools formed in October 2019 to increase the number of school resources officers employed by the district and allow non-police to carry guns, despite evidence that shows the presence of police in schools leads to greater number of arrests and suspensions for BIPOC students. Excellence in Education registered its website by proxy in February 2022. Its organizers and members attend board meetings to speak publicly against equity. Moving Saratoga Forward and Saratoga Conservative Chicks have also directly endorsed these candidates through their Facebook pages. Finally, the People’s School Board is one of many local Facebook pages promoting candidates aligned with or supported by NY Informed, a group that supports “medical freedom” and “parents rights,” and is “anti-CRT.”

Most importantly, we urge each and every one of you to VOTE on Tuesday. See you at the polls!

~ The SEEN Team

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