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Home Schools Rye Schools Board of Ed Q&A with John Leonard, Board of Education Candidate

Q&A with John Leonard, Board of Education Candidate

Welcome to the MyRye.com Q&A series with your seven (7) board of education candidates. The seven candidates are running for two open seats. The seven candidates are James Culyer, Vivek Kamath, Pooja Kotecha, John Leonard, Petra Nemeth, Mia Schultz and Tom Stein.

Election ballots will be mailed to voters automatically. You do not need to submit an absentee ballot application for this election (you do need to submit an absentee ballot application for the June 23rd primary elections). Ballots must be received in the school district offices by 5pm on June 9, 2020.

You will be voting on the proposed school budget as well as the board of education candidates.

Today we are pleased to present the MyRye.com Q&A with board of education candidate John Leonard:

John Leonard, Rye, NY Board of Education Candidate 2020

Your Name: John Leonard

MyRye.com: Why are you running for school board?

First, we need a diverse and independent board to represent all community interests, not just those of current parents. Second, the Board needs financial expertise to set priorities correctly when revenues are strained. Third, to support a structure that guarantees properly independent governance for the future.

Why are you running for school board now?

Last year’s bond campaign failed to achieve the broad consensus support the schools have traditionally enjoyed – 51% yes after two high-pressure marketing campaigns simply isn’t broad consensus. We need independent community representation – I can provide this.

Yes or No: did you support and vote for the $80 million school bond that passed in 2019?

No – oversized and included many nonessential/luxury items as the details emerged. Many worked hard to improve it, but the then Board did not listen. The right $40-50m would have been a yes!

Yes or No: do you support and plan to vote in favor of the current as-proposed school budget of $92 million going to vote on June 9th?

A guarded yes – the starting point should have been lower, but recent discussions are headed the right way.

What are three ways Rye schools may need to adapt in the wake of COVID-19?

  1. Stay flexible to adapt to medical advances and political constraints – ‘the art of the possible’ isn’t defined yet.
  2. Absent a vaccine, define the health standards all school communities should respect, ideally on a self-governed ‘responsible adult’ basis, but backed by health security screening if necessary.
  3. Work towards central learning with group interaction under any new constraints imposed by COVID-19, and redirect both operating and capital expenditures as required to facilitate this.

What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the Rye schools over the next 3-5 years?

  1. Adapting to the financial strains facing the District, its taxpayers, and other governments, while continuing to seek educational progress, including experimentation with new learning concepts.
  2. Dealing with an uncertain enrollment picture – the current trend is down, but either economic pressures (as in 2009-10) or moves out of NYC could reverse this.
  3. Rebuilding community confidence that the District spends money wisely and carefully, with due consideration of all community perspectives, and avoidance of luxuries that should not be funded by compulsory taxation.

What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the Rye schools over the next 3-5 years?

  1. Implementing the capital bond only for essential items and only with the lowest-cost option that does the job right. Incremental debt service is an inflexible charge against future years’ budgets.
  2. Continuing to explore opportunities to replace outside consultants with capable in-house resources (as with special education this year).
  3. Coordination with neighboring governments and school districts on shared noneducational services, capacity planning, and provision of desirable but low-volume educational services.

What is your favorite book?

Orwell’s Animal Farm, from my high school English class, remains a favorite. Political and economic history are my favorite areas.

What are you watching these days?

With limited time, opera and classical music take priority.

How many years have you lived in Rye?

42 years homeowner and taxpayer, 25 years resident, with employment abroad 1994-2011.

Thanks, John!

John Leonard’s social media:

Twitter n/a
Facebook n/a

Official bio provided to MyRye.com:

John Leonard has been a Rye taxpayer and homeowner for 42 years, and resident 25 years, returning home in 2012 after London employment that began in 1994. John has 42 years of financial services experience with Brown Brothers Harriman, Salomon Brothers/Citigroup, and Merrill Lynch Investment Managers/BlackRock as a banking officer, senior equity analyst, and equity portfolio manager. His expertise includes financial governance and strategic evaluation. John serves as Treasurer of the Rye Historical Society, and on its Buildings and Grounds Committee. He also enjoys gardening, and choral roles in New York with the Blue Hill Troupe (volunteer musical theater productions to benefit charities). John received an AB from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard.

“I know and strongly support quality public education, both from my own education, and from what Rye gave our son and our tenants’ children. To continue this, particularly today, I’d like to strengthen and diversify the Board to fairly balance all relevant interests – taxpayers and community, as well as current parents and staff. Second, from six prior financial crises, I can help separate ‘essential’ spending from ‘desirable’ and ‘nice’ outlays. The first must continue, the second can wait, and the third shouldn’t be funded by compulsory taxation at all. With the right governance, we can restore the broad consensus support in the community that Rye schools have historically enjoyed.”


  1. Hi John, I’m district leader w/one of the major political parties here in Rye. My question for you has to do w/up coming school taxes in August. I’ll pay mine in full like I always do how ever if schools get closed for any length of time how does the school board justify charging me full price when in theory we won’t have a football, basketball track season, athletic dept, band practice, theater, school Librarys too name a few of many.
    Like everyone else I gave the school board a pass for mid March, April and May because it was on such short notice that nothing could be done about it and we were left to scramble together something
    How ever that wouldn’t be the case come Sept. Oct and Nov. We will have had the benefit of advanced planning.
    I for one would expect rebates on the unspent portion of my taxes. What say you

  2. David Hood – not a candidate, but the costs associated with the sports / extra curriculars are the real-world costs (ice time for hockey, buses for transportation, equipment, etc.) and staffing costs (coaching, event security, etc). In comparison to instructional costs, these extra-curricular costs are de minimis, but given that the BoE doesn’t yet know what will happen in the Fall, they must include these costs in the tax take. That said, if the events don’t happen in the Fall, the District and BoE would be remiss if they spent any of this funding.


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