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 Laura Labriola:
MyRye.com: Why are you running for school board?
Labriola: I have been actively involved in the school district in many capacities since 2003. I love volunteering my time at the district – from being one of the founders and co-presidents of Rye All Inclusive Special Ed, serving on the special needs task force, famous artist program, class mom, to working with the PTOs, I feel very fortunate to have been able to collaborate and contribute, throughout the past 18 years and it feels like a natural progression to serve as a member of the Board of Education.
Why are you running for school board now?
Labriola: I have two children, a son TJ, who is a 7th grade special education student and a daughter, Ellie who is a senior at Rye High, currently bound for University of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!), and I want to continue my service in the Rye schools now that I will have more time.
Yes or No: did you support and vote for the $80 million school bond that passed in 2019?
Labriola: Yes, I supported the bond. Making the necessary capital improvements is important to our district to advance our schools and to enhance our community. The budget funds must be spent wisely and with my construction management background I hope to be of service in this area.
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.]
Labriola: Yes, I currently support the Superintendent’s Recommended Budget. I think the district is trying to focus on balancing enrollment, infrastructure and contractual obligations while continuing to provide a quality education in Rye.
Please Answer the following questions Yes or No:
|Question||Labriola: 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?||Yes|
|Do you believe the school district has done a responsible and an effective job of navigating the Coronavirus pandemic?||Yes|
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?
Labriola: Yes. Bias in our school district should be addressed. Many people in our community know our family story, but for those who don’t, in 2006 tragedy struck our family and my husband became permanently paralyzed in a wheelchair. Things we used to take for granted, like driving our car or entering our home were no longer accessible. I share this story to demonstrate that I understand, firsthand, what it means to lose access, albeit in a different form, and I unequivocally support addressing equity and inclusion for all.
Are you supportive of school district’s Race, Community and Inclusivity Task Force, Yes, or No?
Labriola: I support any Task Force that appropriately addresses inclusivity across the board and is transparent and accountable to parents and our community.
What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the Rye schools over the next 3-5 years?
- COVID Continued. While the numbers in NY seem to be looking up, I think over the next 3-5 years we will continue to deal with fallout from COVID. From continued safe practices, emotional and social well-being, educational regression to recouping expenses related to COVID, I think we will be facing the challenges of COVID for years to come.
- I believe we have a huge opportunity ahead of us with the partnership between RCSD and Effective School Solutions. I consider mental health as an integral part of a person’s well-being. We have several equine therapy programs at our barn and I understand how therapy can transform a person. Raising mental health awareness within the district has innumerable positive outcomes and can lead to better overall success.
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The NY State Board of Regents announced a few weeks ago a call to action for all schools to develop policies that advance diversity, equity and inclusion as a priority in their schools. I believe we have more work to do and need to examine our policy vs. practice more in-depth.
What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the Rye schools over the next 3-5 years?
- Bond Construction Budget Management. I am excited to see the build out of new facilities here in the Rye City School District, but there has been a rise in the cost of construction materials since COVID and we need to do our best to control these costs and remain within budget.
- Operating Budget. With the two percent tax cap, the district is limited on increases in it’s budget from year to year and it is important to continually review the budget and find cost savings where appropriate without compromising the quality of our education.
- Contract Management. The district retains contracts with numerous vendors and though it is necessary, identifying areas of cost savings could be beneficial to tax payers.
With my professional background, I can be of assistance to the district in all of these areas.
Where did you go to grade school?
Labriola: I went from Kindergarten to 12th grade at Byram Hills in Armonk, NY, I still have my cheerleading jacket in my closet but I’m not allowed to wear it around my Garnet-loving household.
Who was your favorite teacher in grade school and why?
Labriola: My favorite teacher in elementary school was my second-grade teacher Ms. Oseik, because she instilled in me the love and importance of math.
What is your favorite book?
Labriola: Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative by Edward R. Tufte. It is a fascinating book on the presentation of statistical graphics and charts for making important decisions and demonstrates how the data, if presented differently, would have affected the decision to launch the space shuttle Challenger.
What are you watching these days?
Labriola: Concrete Cowboy on Netflix, a work of fact-based fiction, inspired by an inner-city horse barn in Philadelphia. In our work at the barn we live this every day, the healing power of horses in nothing short of a miracle.
How many years have you lived in Rye?
I have lived in Rye 26 years, in five locations within Rye.
Please provide links to:
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Laura is a 26-year resident of Rye and has two children and a step-daughter all of whom attended RCSD from kindergarten on. Laura has over 20 years of construction management experience and currently works for Miller Pipeline, a major national construction firm. She has experience in budgeting, cost control, contract management, union negotiations, timely, quality project completion, and construction-related insurance, bonding and legal settlements. Laura served as Rye All Inclusive Special Ed’s (RAISE) co-President for two years and has collaborated with the past four superintendents. Laura also owns a horse farm, Sky Blue Stables, which offers horseback riding and equine therapy programs for special needs, at-risk youth and veterans. Sky Blue Stables is currently offering spring internships for RHS seniors.