On Tuesday May 16 at RSS between 7 am and 9 pm Blind Brook residents will hopefully come to the polls and vote for two individuals to fill the soon to be open seats on the Blind Brook school board. The candidates running are Jennifer Schlactus, Steven Kaplan and Jeff Diamond. I have reached out to all three individuals running, with a series of questions aimed at helping you, the reader, get to know them better. Jennifer Schlactus' and Steven Kaplan's responses have been posted and can be found on Rye Brook HamletHub. Today, let's get to know the remaining candidate, Jeff Diamond:
HH: Tell us a little bit about you?
JD: I have lived in Rye Brook for 27 years. Like many residents, my wife and I chose Rye Brook for its excellent school system. Our three children (Ken, Erika, and Mari) attended Blind Brook Schools from kindergarten through high school graduation covering a 20 year span from 1992 to 2012. I grew up in California, and moved to New York City when I started college at Columbia in 1980. The most difficult part of the transition from West Coast to East Coast was changing my allegiances from Dodgers/Lakers/Rams to Mets/Knicks/Jets (I hope that doesn’t cost me any votes with Yankees & Giants fans!)
HH: Why are you running for school board?
JD: This is a very exciting time to be on the Blind Brook School Board, and a good time to be a student in our schools. After many years of turnover in the administrative team (the high school actually had 4 different principals in 4 years during 2008-12), we now have a stable and experienced set of leaders who complement each other well. The Superintendent has been at Blind Brook for 17 years, and is now starting his third year as superintendent of schools. The elementary school principal has been in the district for 11 years, and 6 years as principal. The middle and high school principals have both been in the district for 6 years, and have served in their current positions for 4 years.
When I came onto the Board of Ed in 2011, this was nearly impossible to imagine. Now with this team in place and with the proper administrative structure, many positive changes are happening at each building. For example, the STEAM curriculum which is a project-based, interdisciplinary approach to learning, is being introduced (primarily at the elementary and middle schools right now.)
HH: What skills do you think you bring to the board?
JD: I think that I am a good listener, and a good communicator. I can’t tell you how important that is for a school board member. During my six years on the BOE, I have often been the leader of discussions. I have shown a willingness to speak frankly and honestly even when the topic is a sensitive one. I have diligently learned my role as a board member, and studied how our schools operate. Most of us do not realize how complex the operations of a school district are – even a small district like Blind Brook.
My professional background is in finance, and I have used that on many occasions to help save the district money, particularly on two large bond refinancings, but also on contract negotiations, the annual district budget, and other high stakes issues like the proposed capital project. Allocating resources efficiently and creatively is the key to providing an outstanding educational program for students while holding school taxes down.
HH: What sets you apart from the other candidates?
JD: Nothing is a replacement for experience! As the longest serving member on a relatively young board of education, I feel that I play a vital role in board discussions and decision-making. The institutional knowledge that I have gained from my 27 years as a parent and resident along with my 6 years of board experience, and 3 years as board president is invaluable. I believe that my fellow board members like and respect me, and they appreciate the role that I play as Board President and “senior statesman.” It’s safe to say that all of the district employees know me, and I try my best to get to know them, and to attend as many Blind Brook functions and events as possible. Many teachers have told me that they appreciate that I am a “feet on the ground” guy who is present and easily accessible to them.
HH: And lastly, can you tell me something most people don't know about you?
JD: Most people do not know that I lived in Japan for six years, and that I speak Japanese fluently. A funny story was when the 4th grade class at BMP Ridge Street School was hosting the 4th grade class from the Greenwich Japanese School, and I came to greet the students. Mrs. Blumstein and Mrs. Taylor had spoken first to welcome the Japanese students to our schools, and then after I was introduced, I welcomed them in Japanese. I don’t know who was more surprised, the Japanese students or the Blind Brook students, but it was a great way to get the day started, and to make our visitors feel welcome.
Don't Miss the CANDIDATES’ FORUM Featuring the Candidates for Blind Brook School Board Trustee (Jeff Diamond, Jen Schlactus, Steve Kaplan.) This is an opportunity to Come and Hear the Candidates Discuss the Issues & Answer Questions and will take place on Tuesday, May 2nd, at 7:30 pm in the Blind Brook High School – Auditorium (840 King Street, Rye Brook.)
Editor's note: While the same questions were provided to all the candidates, I did offer them the opportunity to tweak, delete or add their own questions so some may differ.