Welcome to the MyRye.com Q&A series with your seven (7) board of education candidates. 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 Pooja Kotecha:
Your Name: Pooja Kotecha
MyRye.com: Why are you running for school board?
I have always been passionate about quality public education. I believe that every child has the potential to be a great learner when we nurture his/her abilities and provide a variety of opportunities to develop skills and education to create responsible global citizens. As a technologist and someone who believes in the power of learning at every age, I can bring experience and expertise to the board of education that will be useful in contributing to further academic excellence.
Why are you running for school board now?
My interest in serving on the board isn’t new. I ran last year (2019) as well, unsuccessfully though, losing to Jane Anderson and incumbent Jenn Boyle for the 2 open seats. I have been a regular attendee at the board meetings for the past 2-3 years, actively engaged in school matters. This year, the challenges are even greater for the public school education system with coronavirus pandemic and we need trustees who are able to navigate these challenges in order to support our district.
Yes or No: did you support and vote for the $80 million school bond that passed in 2019?
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?
What are three ways Rye schools may need to adapt in the wake of COVID-19?
Dr. Byrne has already talked about how the administration is planning for this. If and when schools re-open in September, Rye schools may have to adapt to a different schedule than what we are accustomed to.
- Use a modified 6-day calendar with half the kids per classroom attending on alternate days with the remaining half attending on live stream sessions that are a lso recorded and posted online for later reference, so social distancing can be maximized.
- Regular breaks for hand washing and use of masks in common areas along with one-way use of corridors to minimize contact.
- Since about 1/3 of COVID-19 infections are asymptomatic and 40% of transmission occurs before people feel sick, perhaps having an online screening for even milder symptoms may be useful for families of children and staff to fill out periodically, perhaps even daily.
What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the Rye schools over the next 3-5 years?
- Budget and financing are typically an ongoing challenge with the tax cap and lack of mandate relief but there may be additional challenges in the coming years if NYS continues to have funding issues due to the coronavirus pandemic that is not rectified by the Federal Government.
- Increased support could be required for students’ mental health and social-emotional wellness needs during and post Covid-19 pandemic.
- We have an opportunity to invest more in innovative ideas related to using technology and establishing a vision that is developed by working with our teachers who on the front lines educating students.
What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the Rye schools over the next 3-5 years?
Large contributors to the school budget are salary and benefits for staff, debt service, and BOCES services, leaving fewer areas to contain costs.
- Optimize how we spend our resources and do trade-offs analysis.
- Advocate for more state aid wherever possible.
- Negotiate technology contracts that provide hardware refreshments.
What is your favorite book?
Most recently, Michelle Obama’s Becoming.
What are you watching these days?
Nothing too interesting these days, besides watching kid-friendly animation movies on Disney+ with my son and lots of nature shows on PBS. Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime and Chernobyl series on HBO are some of my recent favorites.
How many years have you lived in Rye?
~ 4 years.
Pooja Kotecha’s social media:
Official bio provided to MyRye.com:
Pooja Kotecha has lived in Rye for the last 4 years with her husband and a child attending Midland School. She has served on Midland’s Exec PTO Board as ‘Midland Express Editor’ and also served on the District’s Technology Committee. Pooja has about 20 years of software engineering experience. She is currently working at Medidata Solutions as Senior Director of Engineering leading a global team of engineers and testers to develop a cloud-based mobile platform for clinical trials. She has been an author on 8 patents on software algorithms. Pooja has a BE in Computer Engineering from L.D. College of Engineering (Gujarat, India) and an MS in Computer Science from New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“I have always been passionate about quality public education. I believe that every child has the potential to be a great learner when we nurture his/her abilities and provide a variety of opportunities to develop skills. With my technology background as well as leadership and management experience, I am confident I can be a strong advocate in addressing the Rye community’s educational needs both for the present and for the future. I can bring innovative ideas, help build consensus in decision making and work effectively as a team with other board members and the administration. In the midst of the worst public health crisis of a generation, and with talks at the state level for reimagining and revolutionizing education with technology at the forefront, I can be an asset to our district helping navigate these very important issues at a critical time.”