SOMERS, N.Y. - There are three candidates running for two three-year terms on the Somers Board of Education

They are incumbents Dr. Lindsay Portnoy and MaryRose Joseph and newcomer Dr. Rodric Rabbah.

Here are their answers to three questions posed by The Somers Record.

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Who are you?
Like many community members, our family moved to Somers for the blue ribbon schools and the strong family values. The friends and neighbors we’ve met along the way and exceptional educators our children have had in three of the four schools reaffirms our choice to make Somers our home each day. As a career educator and cognitive scientist, I understand the needs of classrooms. But as cofounder of New York State’s 2018 Small Business of the Year, I also understand the need for fiscal responsibility. (She has served on the board since 2017.)

Why do you want to be a school board trustee?
This year has been particularly difficult for the school board. Significant events both locally and globally have challenged us to think deeply and respond flexibly to the world around us. We’ve also had an unprecedented opportunity to connect with members of the community. I began my role on the board serving on the Audit Committee. I am proud that as president of the board this year I supported trustees in establishing two additional and essential committees: Policy and Communication. The establishment of these committees reflects my core values of clear communication and continuous improvement in service of our Somers community.

What is a top priority for the school board as Somers adjusts to academic life during and/or after the coronavirus pandemic?
Given the current pandemic, it’s more essential than ever to ensure our board maintains a measured but flexible approach in meeting the academic, social-emotional, and physical needs of each of our children while remaining fiscally responsible. As associate professor at Northeastern University, I’m in regular communication with business and education leaders globally. As everyone struggles to define a new normal, my goal is continued support of our district in the most thoughtful, compassionate, and fiscally responsible way possible, especially in current economic conditions. It has been an honor to volunteer on our school board and while much work has been done to maintain our high level of excellence, there is still more we must do together.


Who are you?
My name is MaryRose Joseph. I am a career educator who is currently director of science research at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua. I have served on the board since July 2017. The leadership experience I have in a high achieving school district has allowed me to help ask the right questions around programs and communications. Understanding educational programs and evaluating them for their efficacy is my strength. My older daughter recently graduated from SHS and my younger daughter is currently in the 10th grade. Seeing the district from the lens of a parent and an educator has allowed me to advocate for all students with the requisite knowledge about educational programs.

Why do you want to be a school board trustee?
My reasons for being a school board trustee have not changed since 2017. I wanted more consistent, clear, honest communication from the district and the larger community. I am still striving for more of that. The role of the school board is to make decisions that are responsive to the community. I want us to be able to hear from teachers, parents, students more often so we make the most thoughtful decisions. I want to be able to be a part of the work that leads to high performing schools and a community that feels empowered and engaged.

What is a top priority for the school board as Somers adjusts to academic life during and/or after the coronavirus pandemic?
At the end of all this, we have to be better than we were before the pandemic started. We have had to rely more on technology. More than ever, we must leverage the power of technology in ways that benefit our students. A top priority would be to evaluate existing technologies and how they are being utilized to support students, teachers, and parents as they partner in the learning. We must evaluate the program to ensure we are being fiscally responsible but also providing students with the best possible experience.


Who are you? 
I’m a Somers parent with one child in kindergarten and another in the third grade. My wife works in a local hospital. Like many parents during this pandemic, we are doing our best as makeshift teachers by day. The circumstances are unfortunate but I am cherishing this unique time with my children.
I will bring a fresh perspective to the board, especially around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education. I hold a doctorate in computer science from Georgia Tech. I taught courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which helped to connect students with real-world technology. One of these courses was translated into other languages by MIT and offered online to a global audience. I was a principal scientist at IBM Research where I spent 11 years of my career. Two years ago I left IBM to start my own technology company.

Why do you want to be a school board trustee?
I’m keenly interested in how our district is approaching STEAM readiness and the curriculum changes that are being considered by the superintendent. I am aware of how Somers is ranked academically in Westchester and national rankings and believe we should be better ranked. I speak often with other parents who are educators for their perspectives, and this was especially eye-opening during the rollout of the distance learning program by our district. I like our district’s approach around the whole child and believe we can also be more tactical in how we prepare our students for the future.
I understand changes take time, training, and investment and I am in this for the long journey. Earlier this year I became involved in several committees organized by the superintendent to raise awareness about the need for better communication with parents.

What is a top priority for the school board as Somers adjusts to academic life during and/or after the coronavirus pandemic?
The pandemic has brought about new challenges and realities around distance learning for which I have unique expertise. It was shocking to me that during one of the recent board meetings, members of the board did not realize how frustratingly slow the rollout of the distance learning program was for a lot of parents in our district.
Establishing distance learning programs requires unique technologies and integrations. I know the technologies being used and evaluated by the district, and can speak firsthand about their pros and cons (including privacy implications) based on my experience running a well-funded start-up that was fully-remote before the pandemic. I understand that distance learning for younger children is not the same as distance learning for older children. A comprehensive plan must also include individualized education programs for children with special needs. I will bring my unique perspectives and experience to bear on addressing these challenges.


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