On Tuesday, May 18th, the community will vote on the Rye City school district’s annual budget for the 2021-22 school year and will vote to elect three Board of Education members. The vote is in the RMS Gym; polling hours are 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (used to be 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.). The District is not mailing out ballots as it did last year during COVID. Voters can still request an absentee ballot.
There will be a candidates forum moderated by the League of Women Voters on Thursday, May 6, at 7:00 p.m. (zoom link).
Current Board members Callie Erickson and Chris Repetto have announced they will seek reelection; Kelly Smith-Powers will not. Eight candidates are on the ballot – we have shared their bios and now we will be introducing you to each candidate in a Q&A style interview: Callie Erickson, Megan Escherich Evans, Kelsey Johnson, Bozidar Jovanovic, Laura Labriola, John D. Leonard, John Moschetti, and Chris Repetto.
Today we introduce you to Bozidar Jovanovic:
MyRye.com: Why are you running for school board?
Jovanovic: My family and I hold education and public service in high esteem. My teaching at Manhattanville and finance work gives me a unique perspective to serve our community. Being on the Board and stewarding our schools is a way for me to further my commitment to education, our children and our community
Why are you running for school board now?
Jovanovic: More than ever, social and cultural trends are negatively impacting the quality of our schools and education of our children. There is much at stake: transparency, public trust, genuine inclusion that builds community, and education free of ideologies, all of which must be valued, maintained and promoted so we can prioritize critical thinking and assure high quality curriculum and academic excellence for all our students.
Yes or No: did you support and vote for the $80 million school bond that passed in 2019?
Jovanovic: I absolutely support capital improvements for needed changes at our schools to support our students. However, we need to do more to evaluate proposed projects to ascertain whether the cost will be a net benefit to our students and further their education. The Board has an obligation to not only support our students, the staff and administration but also administer all monies from taxpayers and bond issues with the utmost care.
Yes or No: do you support and plan to vote in favor of the current as-proposed Superintendent’s Recommended Budget presented February 23rd of $94,237,421 million going to vote on vote on Tuesday, May 18th? [Note: This question was asked prior to the budget hearing on Tuesday, May 4th due to time constraints.]
Jovanovic: I will vote for the budget. Based on what I have seen so far it seems reasonable and addressing district’s current needs.
Please Answer the following questions Yes or No:
|Question||Jovanovic: Yes or No|
|Does the quality of Rye schools contribute materially to the value of homes in Rye?||Yes|
|Do you, have you or will you have children in the Rye City School District?||Yes|
|Have you been, or will you be in the next six weeks, fully vaccinated against COVID-19?||**|
|Do you believe the school district has done a responsible and an effective job of navigating the Coronavirus pandemic?||No|
**I do not believe that private medical information should be discussed in public. In medical matters I follow advice of the doctors in whom I entrust my health and well-being.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year concerning stories about bias in our schools and community came out. Do you acknowledge these stories and believe we should actively address issues of bias? Yes, or No?
Jovanovic: Yes. I believe there is no room for racism or any other form of discrimination or intolerance in our schools or communities.
Are you supportive of school district’s Race, Community and Inclusivity Task Force, Yes, or No?
Jovanovic: I am supportive of a task force that is transparent and comprised of a majority of parents, community members and a smaller number of teachers and administration. Our City Police Task Force gave us a great example of including all stakeholders and having transparency with numerous open sessions for both task force deliberation and community input. The choice of the Steinhardt Center, that promotes and espouses Critical Race Theory with a strong ideological bent was not the right choice to run the task force.
What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the Rye schools over the next 3-5 years?
- Maintain the excellence of Rye schools in the face of negative trends and forced ideological approaches from the State and Federal Governments.
- In spite of (1) finding the way to provide true inclusion working from within our community as opposed to outside dictates
- Addressing the issues facing our children with disabilities and finding the just solutions for this population within our community
What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the Rye schools over the next 3-5 years?
- We have witnessed the explosion of administrative positions within the district in the last 5+ years. We need to review these positions and see if they are providing a net benefit to our students.
- Fund only building projects that will enhance the education of our students and hold off on extraneous “nice to haves”. Manage each project carefully from a time and financial standpoint.
- Proactive and timely maintenance of buildings and grounds so that expensive maintenance due to breakdowns can be avoided – that’s good stewardship.
Where did you go to grade school?
Jovanovic: I went to school in Belgrade, Serbia
Who was your favorite teacher in grade school and why?
Jovanovic: My grade school experience was different than what most people are used to – I was with the same group of students and had same two teachers in grades 1 through 4. Mrs. Vogrin was my teacher and I liked her because she would push us to achieve the best we could regardless of where we came from.
What is your favorite book?
Jovanovic: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
What are you watching these days?
Jovanovic: Gordon Ramsay “Uncharted” and Lost Cities with Albert Lin on Disney+
How many years have you lived in Rye?
Jovanovic: I lived in Rye for 15 years.
Please provide links to:
Your LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bozidarjovanovic68/
Your Twitter: N/A
Your Facebook: N/A
Early Life Background
I was born in Serbia/former Yugoslavia in 1968 and spent the first 24 years of my life under the terrible oppression of totalitarian communism. My dad was a civil engineer; my mom was a credit officer in a bank. My dad spent about 16 years abroad, working in places such as Kenya, Peru and others for oftentimes 6-month periods. This was the only reason we could have a somewhat reasonable life and avoid some of the day-to-day hardships our neighbors had. I was a top student and went to a high school in Belgrade that is similar in concept to Bronx Science here. I also participated in several national and international Physics competitions. But the fact was that we were not free. The indoctrination at our schools was strong, and we could not question anything or disagree with the party line. I vowed at an early age that my children wouldn’t have that life. I was 15 at the time and it took me another 9 years to come here to attend graduate school at Boston University.
I recall an instance when I represented the old Yugoslavia in a Balkans Physics Olympiad. I was interviewed by a local newspaper and said: “Once I graduate I am off to the USA!” My mom almost lost her job because of that statement… but my yearning for freedom and possibility persisted.
Education and Work
I completed my undergraduate studies at Belgrade University. I was finally able to immigrate to America in 1992 to pursue my graduate studies at Boston University, where I earned a PhD in Physics. I have been a Chartered Financial Analyst since 2003 and I also received a Certificate in Quantitative Finance in 2009.
Until 2017 I split my work time between Finance and teaching a number of courses at Manhattanville College. I have always held education in the highest esteem, as it has always been everything to my family. I am also a proud educator: I taught and advised between 25-30 Masters in Finance, most of which were minority students. I have always inspired them to work hard and to achieve, and boy, did they achieve! I am incredibly proud of each and every one of them. Since 2017 I focused on my portfolio management work, culminating with founding my own investment advisory firm, Honey Badger Advisors, in February 2021.
I am a strong defender of merit-based excellence, and firmly believe in extending a helping hand to those who need in order to reach their full potential. I am running for BOE because I believe our schools should provide equal opportunity for all our students regardless of race, culture, sex or economic position, enabling each of them to reach his/her full potential. My goal—and my passion—is to ensure we maintain academic excellence and a just system of meritocracy.
After school I moved to Westchester; first to Harrison then Rye, drawn to the caliber of our schools. I met my present wife in 2016. She is Taiwanese by origin and grew up in Queens. I have three kids from my first marriage; my oldest–a boy RHS Class of 2013 is turning 26 is May, and my two girls are 15 and 12 years old. My wife Yer Ting had two children who are now 8 and 6 years old. We were married in 2019 at the Rye Golf Club Castle and were blessed with a new baby girl on July 1, 2020. Our large, merry band now counts on 6 children in addition to the two of us.
My large family and professional work keep me quite busy. I am not the golfing type. I need to feel like I am contributing and giving back to the society that gave me freedom and a life of possibilities. As a family we enjoy cooking together and spend a lot of time outdoors—hiking, sailing, skiing…The simple moments together are the best ones.