Response to The Questions from The Journal News

Ifay F. Chang, Ph.D. Candidate for Somers School Board

1. Why are you running and what qualifies you to be a school board trustee?
There are three reasons for me to run for the school board trustee position:
(1). I made a personal mandate of dedicating my retirement career to education after having had two satisfying careers.
(2). Offering my over 30 years of experience as a research scientist and professor to assist the school district in dealing with the crux of the matter, that is, how to inspire our children to pursue academic excellence.
(3). I have lived in Somers for 18 years and still have 4 children in Somers schools. I want the Somers schools to maintain and improve its quality for all of Somers children.

I volunteer for schools and Somers PTA organization. I work with libraries to offer workshops on creative educational games for children. I work with Town parks to offer fun games as after school program. I produce public TV shows for children interested in developing word and math skills. I serve on the policy board of Northern Westchester and Putnam Teacher Center helping teacher development. I think serving the school board is a significant contribution to our community. It is a challenging but very satisfying endeavor.
With the above activities and having an open mind, a long time experience in dealing with academics and students; being a fast learner and a creative thinker; a conservative in fiscal matter and a liberal in educational initiatives and having a family of 4 school children, I think I am qualified and capable of serving our school board.

2. What do you see as the top three challenges facing your school district?
(1). Safe and enticing environment for learning: Our schools should be free of alcohol, drug and violence. We must focus on roots of the problems, develop preventive measures, and implement incentives so that problems will be avoided rather than merely contained and remedied. (Virginia Tech is a vivid example, finding messaging technology is a remedial measure, a little too late for the victims; it is not a solution dealing with the root of the problem. We need to prevent violence and get to its roots, why children are not directing their attention and energy to learning)
(2). Continuous improvement of the quality of our school’s teaching faculty: We have to provide more freedom and free time for teachers to take on initiatives to stimulate students to develop good learning habit and to cultivate their desire for achieving academic excellence, to introduce technology into curriculum so students will be better prepared for the future and to raise the level of literacy so they will have a solid foundation to build a good career. We must realize that good working environment and job satisfaction induce good teachers to join our school system and stay.
(3). Managing growth prudently: We must anticipate the growth of Somers community and our student population and perform rigorous long-term planning beyond yearly school budget. We must secure steady state funding consistent with validated long-term projection.
Education is an important issue for local communities and it is a long-term affair. We need to view education in a broader perspective along with other issues such as population growth, town planning, tax roll, general economy, etc. We need to be creative in finding and using resources and prudent in cutting waste and reducing cost at the same time.

3. With respect to school finances, are there any specific initiatives you would pursue to save money or reduce costs?
I keep an open mind towards school budget, on the one hand, I am retired I understand the views of our retirement community; on the other hand, I have 4 young school children and I understand many parents’ views and wishes. I am fiscally conservative but liberal in education. I believe in establishing a common goal – Effectively do the best for our children. This goal should be shared by all our community constituents. We can not afford to short change the future of our children. When our children do not have a good future, we all don’t have a future at all. I think the most effective way of finding cost reduction is to conduct a broad survey on potential reductions and cost-saving initiatives from all constituents in the school district. Validate and prioritize them and then execute them effectively.

4. What changes would you make on the academic front?
I think the schools should
1. focus on causes and roots of the learning issue: how to better motivate our children to learn and how to better stimulate their minds into study rather than wasteful and destructive activities. Our benchmark should be those schools and children who excel better than schools and children with more resources and living a more affluent environment.
2. improve children’s learning environment: Closely integrate and coordinate school, family and public (library and town) learning environments and learning activities in recognition of the social changes in families and communities as well as the availability of advanced but inexpensive technologies for children’s benefits.
3. seek out community majority’s views in formulating school academic programs and extra-curriculum activities.
In addition to fulfilling mandates by state law, the school board must bear in mind it is serving the local community. It should value the community’s views, whether conservative or liberal, far higher than ‘politically correct’ views from outside activists. The school board must be able to define what is correct for our schools according to its community constituents’ wishes.

Ifaychang's bio

Supplemental Teaching Material Prepared for SIS 4th Grade Science

Teaching Web Site for Northern Westchester Chinese Language School

Ifay Chang's Work at TLC Information Services and Its Public Web Sites

Press Release Public Forum Related to School Board