The Mamaroneck Community voted three new school board members into office last week: Incumbent Robin Nichinsky and newcomers Roger Martin and Melany Gray. Larchmont Patch will be running a series of Q & A articles this week to introduce the new board members to the community and present their views on district issues.
In this editon, we spoke with incumbent Robin Nichinsky, who has served on the Mamaroneck School Board for two terms. Nichinsky also serves on the school district Finance and Communications Committees and is a board liaison to . In the past, she has served as liaison to , as well as SEPTA and the Teacher’s Institute. A practicing attorney, Nichinsky has a law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and a MA in Guidance and Counseling from the College of New Rochelle. She has served as chair of the Mamaroneck-Larchmont Human Rights Commission, co-president of , a PTA vice-president at and MHS, and co-founded Central School's CORE Conflict Resolution Program. Nichinsky and her husband Seth Schafler have lived in our community for 24 years. Their daughters Eliza, Anna and Samantha all attended Mamaroneck District schools.
Larchmont Patch: What made you want to run for another term on the school board?
Robin Nichinsky: I love the job, find it meaningful and challenging and feel I still have a lot to contribute. I believe that my experience and knowledge will help ensure continuity as the district navigates through the rough economic times ahead.
In addition, we will have a school board with four out of seven members in their first or second year next year. While new trustees bring a fresh perspective, there is a learning curve due to the many complex issues, and a balance of experience on the board is crucial. I want to be there to ensure consistency and share my experience.
Larchmont Patch: What are some of the major issues facing the district this upcoming year?
Nichinsky: The biggest challenge facing the district is maintaining our excellent educational programs in an era of continuing fiscal challenge, including the new tax levy cap. This year we also need to reach three collective bargaining agreements that will help us meet these challenges.
In addition, in the next year we must implement the new state-mandated Common Core Standards (and prepare for new tests regarding it), the Response to Intervention Plan (RTI) and the new APPR teacher assessment tool. We must use our limited resources to provide the professional development necessary to successfully implement these new mandates, and keep the pressure on Albany to provide fiscal relief.
Larchmont Patch: Do you think the district has done a good job of representing minorities in decision making positions within the administration and/or on the school board? With a significant Hispanic population in the Mamaroneck district, what could be done to better serve their needs?
Nichinsky: I know the district has sought to increase minority representation at every level and will continue to do so. I think everyone would like to see an increase in this area, including on the school board (although the composition of the school board is not determined by the district, but in independent elections).
In terms of serving the needs of our Hispanic community, the district has come a long way since I served on the district Minority Achievement Gap Task Force a decade ago. The district now has regular translation services and bilingual psychologists, social workers, guidance counselors and other staff, a strong and growing parent-district network, an emphasis on transitions both between schools and after graduation, a stronger English as a Second Language (ESL) program, vibrant pre-school programs and a general focus on serving the needs of our growing Hispanic population.
Larchmont Patch: How will the district cope with the two percent tax cap law in future years?
Nichinsky: We must continue to find operating efficiencies, examine every program and think creatively about how to deliver instruction in a more cost-effective manner. We now have a financial projection tool, developed with the help of the Citizen's Finance Advisory Committee (CFAC), and will use that and also think about issues such as use of reserves, facilities use, long-term capital needs, etc... Reaching beneficial collective bargaining contracts must also play an important role in keeping costs down. And, of course, we cannot let up on keeping up the pressure on Albany for mandate relief, pension relief, etc...
Larchmont Patch: What do you think are the greatest strengths of the Mamaroneck School District?
Nichinsky: The excellent education we provide our students. While our students continue to perform well on standardized tests, they also excel in many other ways that reflect our emphasis on the "whole child"—in the arts, theatre, music, athletics, science research, and in the many and varied extracurricular and club opportunities we provide.
The great diversity of our community also enriches everyone's experience. The district is also fortunate to have a capable, committed and dedicated staff, who care deeply about our students. It is an honor and pleasure to serve in this district and community alongside them.