Scott Walters says he has some remedies for what ails the school system
BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Scott Walters is running for a spot on the Nanuet School Board for the sixth time in nine years. That would mean he’s earned the dreaded designation of “perennial candidate.”
Will 2012 mark a turnaround for the father of three who’s got plenty of knowledge, passion and ideas, but has yet to win the confidence of Nanuet voters? Or will he continue to slide under the radar?
“People probably think I’m…like the crazy uncle. But that’s not always a bad thing, because I put forth concrete proposals,” Walters told the Rockland County Times in a recent interview.
A central issue of Walters’ candidacy is his idea to hire a director of development to work on a commission-only basis. The director’s job would be to bring in money from government grants and corporations, get the best deals on supplies and build programs for the district. The idea has not flown with other candidates and current board members.
Walters believes it’s a no-brainer.
“He would write grants, go to businesses of all sizes to obtain money and materials. Right now teachers and administrators have to do their own grants,” he said.
Walters noted that private schools often have such directors and so do other institutions. Edward Dingman, incumbent board member, however rebuffed Walters at a recent candidates meeting, saying the development director idea has “more cons than pros.”
Walters believes a good director of development can keep annual tax rates at a 1 percent increase for the next several years. The state average has been 3 percent since the implementation of the tax cap by Albany.
The staggering of school schedules is also on Walters’ mind and is something that needs to be fixed, the candidate said.
“Last year the district realized they could save money by staggering busses,” Walters said approvingly. However, he says they made a big snafu: The school board made the older kids go to school first and the younger kids go second.
Walters said according to studies it’s the older students that need the extra sleep, and in addition, older kids can get to school on their own, so their parents don’t have to wait around for them and be late to work, as is the case with younger kids.
Asked if the school board should consider a round of layoffs, Walters credited Nanuet Central School District for running a “pretty lean administration” overall, and said there are only a few positions he’d target if given the opportunity
Walters is a music teacher, but is unemployed since being laid off in 2010 by the Belleville district for budget reasons, he said.
He noted that the union structure of employment actually works against people in his situation. Because he has seven years experience, the union requires his wage to be higher than a teacher with no experience.
Because his wage his higher, however, it is harder for him to find work!
Though he may not be in a position to do anything about it as a board member, Walters noted he is not a fan of “Last in, first out” and has said he’s seen better teachers lose their job during cutbacks in recent years.
“I think teachers should be more like the baseball union; free agents,” he said.
The Belgium model for education is one that Walters and some other Americans have been touting in recent months. In Belgium the state attaches money to the backs of the kids and the parents choose where they attend.
They have many options to choose from, thus increasing competition. Achievement rates have gone up since the model took effect. Walters said in 16 years Belgium has gone from second worst to second best education system in Europe.
Walters said the “true qualifications” for a school board member are “passion for education,” “knowing what to do and when to do it,” the ability to communicate, and understanding that the goal is “education for all the best it can be at the best value possible.”