BEDFORD, N.Y. – The Bedford Central School Board interviewed three candidates simultaneously for its vacant seat — previously held by Lee Goldstein, who moved out of the district — during a Wednesday night special meeting.
Mount Kisco resident Edward Reder, Bedford resident Brian Sheerin and Pound Ridge resident Joe Malichio took turns answering questions from the board, which were asked by a moderator. This process, unlike an election, leaves the decision up to the board to pick the candidate. Board President Susan Wollin said this method has been used twice in the past.
Malichio grew up in Lewisboro and has three children in district schools and said his trait for being outspoken would be an asset to the board, as it would offer “better communication to the community.” He also noted the fact that there are no Pound Ridge residents on the board, and it would be beneficial to have one from that area to “get a better look under the hood.”
“Public education is the reason people move to areas like this,” Malichio said. “Healthy communication and transparency leads to a healthy school system, which leads to a healthy community.”
Reder, a father of two children in Mount Kisco Elementary School, said his knowledge of technology would bring the most value to the board. He has 20 years of corporate experience in both private and public sectors. He has served as a legislative aide in the state assembly and senate, and was also a general manger of a start-up company and chief technology officer for another company. Reder believes there are “untapped technology resources” currently available that would enhance students’ experiences in Bedford.
Sheerin, a Fox Lane Middle School father, said he would like to see the district improve on its national school rankings. He said has vast volunteer experience, including a fund-raiser for Mount Kisco Elementary School’s parent group and serving on a recruitment committee for foster parents. He said he would like the district to do a better job of reaching all of its citizens.
“[The Bedford Central School District] does a good job in a lot of areas, but can also do better in others,” he said.
Some of the tougher questions asked related to the district’s financial situation, including the proposed capital plan bond of about $31.8 million. The bond is up for a referendum on Oct. 22.
The three candidates had different opinions.
“I think at this point, I don’t know that I would take on such a large bond,” Sheerin said. “I don’t think I would move forward with a bond that large so quickly.”
Reder, however, was in favor of the bond, calling it “an important initiative.” He added that it was the right time for the bond, as the district has not passed a bond in 10 years.
Malichio said his opinion on the bond fell “somewhere in between the two sitting next to me.”
Another question that yielded different responses was how candidates would go about handling the state-mandated cap on the property tax levy, which has led to the district making tough financial decisions, such as teacher and program cuts.
“I have an idea of a more long-term plan,” Malichio said. “A 15- to 20-year plan, even if it’s painful medicine. This way the residents can plan accordingly.”
Reder said the district has done a good with its budget, given the economic climate.
“I applaud the work the board has done in the last four to five years with the budget management,” he said. “Going forward, I think it’s all about looking for efficiencies and streamlining. The amount of teachers cut is alarming.”
Sheerin said “throwing money at problems” isn’t always the best answer and the district needs to closely examine the best programs, and cut the ones that don’t bring enough value to the table.
Wollin concluded the interviews by praising the candidates' courage for doing a group interview in a public setting, not to mention one that airs on television. She also applauded them for being sincere, even at the risk of coming off as an insult to the board.
“I know my colleagues appreciate honest answers, so have no fear,” she said.
The board expects to select a candidate at its Sept. 25 meeting. They will be chosen based on their application, interview and public input.
Those interested in giving public input can do so by emailing the district at email@example.com.