Mount Morris CSD
Three candidates run for two school board seats
Three candidates will appear on the May 15 Mount Morris Central School District ballot seeking two open, three year term seats on the seven-member Board of Education. Profiles follow:
Monica Brill, of the three candidates seeking election to the MMCS board, is the only incumbent, now completing her first three year term. During her time on the school board, Monica has worked with three superintendents: Rene Garrett, interim Ed Orman and now Dawn Mirand.
Monica is a Mount Morris native, a member of the MMCS graduating class of 1981. She holds a marketing degree from SUNY Oswego, where her children are and will also be attending. She and husband Bob have a son in college and a daughter who is a senior at MMCS. Monica is employed full time as a digital marketer for a firm in Rochester.
“Although we did have to look at our spending and make some cuts, we did not have the budget deficits which some neighboring school districts have had,” Monica reflects.
Monica subscribes to Superintendent Mirand’s mantra which is. “Do whatever we have to do to keep the students first.”
“That means, when making cuts, we do whatever we can to not affect the students,” Monica said, adding, “and I think we have done a pretty good job of that this year — even though some jobs were inevitably lost. Student achievement is the district priority.”
“It’s no secret that our scores are low,” Monica continued. “We have brought that out to the public and have let people know there are changes that need be made.”
“Many things are affecting how the board needs to move forward,” Monica has observed. “We have a lot of hills to climb, but this board works very well together. We all know we need to go up.”
Erinn Brickwood is a Mount Morris native seeking a first term on the MMCS board. She and husband Guy have children attending MMCS in kindergarten and sixth grade.
Erinn holds a masters degree in teaching English from SUNY Geneseo and teaches fifth grade at Keshequa. She is inspired by MMCS Superintendent Dawn Mirand and the new optimism she has brought to the district. As a member of the school board, Erinn hopes to work with Mirand to improve student achievement, “the number one goal.”
As members of the school board, “We have to think about the education of our children as our number one focus,” Erinn said. “I believe that Dawn Mirand, who has come from an outside background, has that in mind. She has done some very fresh things already.”
“Rural schools have been getting treated differently than our neighbors,” Erinn noted, speaking of fiscal disparity in the state aid formula. “I don’t have any answer, but I’m willing to look at creative things to make sure we can still improve. We have to be able to keep up with technology and other areas, so that we produce children who, when they leave school, are ready to go out into this world.”
Pamela Martin is a newcomer seeking a first term on the MMCS Board. She is the mother of five sons, one in college and four at MMCS: one a high school senior and three in elementary school.
Pam and husband Don have lived in Mount Morris for 18 years. She works as substitute teacher at MMCS — a position Pam would have to relinquish if elected to the board.
Pam notes that budget cuts are, of course, a major issue facing the board: “We are losing valuable programs and teachers due to lack of state funding,” she said. “Our school boards have to be creative to try to keep programs in place without them costing the taxpayers a fortune.”
The school, Pam believes, needs to “build upon what we have.”
Ideas, such as sharing services with other schools, must be investigated. For example, York and Mount Morris can share the teacher of an AP course using the distance learning lab.
Having worked in the school for 11 years, substituting “almost every day,” teaching at all grade levels K through 12, Pam has a thorough overview and understanding of the internal workings at MMCS and a good rapport with fellow teachers.
That experience also makes Pam cautious about certain experimental programs which the district should perhaps not be anxious to adopt. For example, one such plan would confine children within a classroom with one teacher for hours at a time, without the release of gym time or other out-of-the-room activity. There is also the Connected Mathematics curriculum, which teaches kids a different way of working with fractions from how they were initially taught.
“When you are going to make more demands from kids in their core curriculums, and then you also take things away that the kids really look forward to, they’re going to have a more difficult time trying to focus,” Pam advises. “Let’s think these things through before we start them, then have to turn around and change them back.”
For the past 18 years Pam has coached summer recreation and elementary level youth soccer, basketball and T-ball. She has also been involved in Boy Scouts and she coaches a third and fourth grade (fourth and fifth grade this year) soccer travel team in the fall.
“I believe a school is as strong as its community and a community is as strong as its school — and Mount Morris is a strong community,” Pam said. “It’s important that it all ties together. The more people — parents and taxpayers — that are involved asking questions and offering solutions, the better we can be. It might be just attending a board meeting and offering some insight, or calling the administration to ask why we are doing a particular something.”
Nor does Pam discount teacher participation in these discussions: “Some bad exchanges that happened in the past set an unfortunate precedent. Teachers don’t feel comfortable questioning anymore, but we need to create a cohesive atmosphere where someone can say, ‘Hey. I’ve got a great idea! Could we consider this…’”
“Teachers and administrators in the past have had some great ideas. We want to bring it all back to where everybody works together and we can find the best possible outcomes by including and encouraging everybody to get involved.”
Besides her aspirations to become a school board member, with her youngest child now in school, Pam has plans to return to college and obtain certification for teaching history. She had previously returned to take business administration and finance courses, but realizes now her true passion is teaching.