Candidate Statement

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

I have dedicated my energy, time and wisdom to education in the past dozen years including serving as Somers school board trustee for the last six years. (I am also serving on the executive board of Westchester and Putnam School Board Association and Northern Westchester and Putnam Teacher Center Policy Board) I wish to continue to serve on the Somers Central School District Board with the support of Somers residents.

Children are the future of our Nation, I care for all the children not just my own in the Somers schools. My wife, Teresa and I have four children, two graduated and two currently in Somers Public schools. If elected, I will continue to demand our school system to raise the bar to meet all the challenges that our children must have in order to become a productive citizen from learning ready to college ready to career ready to success ready. I will bring my experience as a scientist, a professor, an entrepreneur and a volunteer teacher into the trusteeship to work with the Board, a rather new board, and the young administration to make our schools the best schools they deserve to be - high expectation and high achievement with every dollar smartly spent for education!

Response to Anticipated Questions from the Media

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 satisfying careers with IBM Research, University Professor/Administrator and Technology Entrepreneur.
(2). Offering my over 30 years of experience as a research scientist and an educator to assist the school district in dealing with the crux of the matter, that is, how to inspire our children to pursue academic excellence and character development.
(3). My family has lived in Somers for 24 years witnessing the gradual improvements made in Somers schools and the ever challenging environment the schools have to operate in. Our four children have benefitted from Somers schools, one graduated from Cornell last Fall, one a sophomore at Duke and one entering either Brown or CMU this Fall and one a freshman in SHS. I want the Somers schools to continue to improve its quality in academics, arts and physical education for all of Somers children.

I volunteer for schools and Somers volunteer organizations. I offer workshops and after school classes sharing creative educational games with children. I produce public TV shows for children interested in developing word and math as well as public speaking skills. I serve on the policy board of Northern Westchester and Putnam Teacher Center helping teacher development.

Having served on the board, I have shown to our district that I bring to the board with a positive attitude, an open mind, constructive ideas and transparent and outspoken manner dealing with issues. I am a fast learner and creative thinker in education matter. I am a conservative in fiscal matter and a liberal in educational initiatives. I am confident that I am qualified and capable of serving our school board. I believe serving the school board is the most rewarding contribution to our community. 

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. (Sandy Hook is a lesson for us to ponder: What is the solution for dealing with the root of the problem? We need to prevent violence and face its roots in social issues. We need to direct our children’s 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. We need to introduce technology into teacher skills and curriculum so students will be better prepared for the future and have adequate level of technology literacy so they will have a solid foundation to build a good career. We must provide good working environment to school faculty and staff so they will be motivated and have job satisfaction, an environment inducing good teachers to join our school system and stay.
(3). Managing school budget prudently: We must anticipate the economic changes in our state and in our country. We must be prudent in providing education products and services under the do more for less challenge.  Our student population is reducing; we need to 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 global changes and competition, industry and job market transformation, fluctuation in economy effecting state funding and local tax roll, etc. Under the current tax cap law, 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?
As a board member, I keep an open mind towards school budge. Philosophically, I don’t believe money is the only solution to education. On the one hand, we know the annual per student cost of American public school is much higher than many developed and developing countries in the world yet American students are not ranked higher in basic skills assessments. On the other hand, we know United States is still the most innovative country where creativity flourishes mostly due to the fact that our children are exposed to leading edge technologies. In terms of school financing, I am fiscally conservative but liberal in education initiatives. 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. We have to spend every dollar smartly; prudently prepare every program and evaluate them for effectiveness. The savings and spending must be correlated with results of achievements. I think the most effective way of finding cost reduction is to examine the effectiveness of a program or a department under causality principle (cause and consequence in producing goodness or badness)to find potential reductions, cost-saving initiatives and deserving additional funding. Validate, prioritize and then execute effectively across all areas, academic curriculum, arts and athletic programs.

4. What changes would you make on the academic front?
I fully understand and support the whole child development concept, but we must be effective in implementing new initiatives. We need to develop meaningful teacher and student assessment measures to guide our progress. Three important areas we need to focus on: 
1. How to motivate our children to become a keen learner - Develop and provide right incentives for teachers and  students to accomplish this goal..
2. What is the children’s effective 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. Where our community can participate and enhance our school academic programs and extra-curriculum activities for the benefit of our children - We should value the community’s views far higher than the so called ‘politically correct’ views from outside activists. We should also value the community’s resources applicable to student learning such as community services, business intern training and professional mentor relationship such as science research mentors.

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