Vernon McDermott is running for a first term on the Port Washington School Board. He spoke with Patch about why he is running, and what he hopes to accomplish. The polls are open on Tuesday from 6 a.m. - 10 p.m. Find your polling location.
Patch: Do you have children in the district? What grades are they in?
Vernon McDermott: Elizabeth, 5th Grade, Manorhaven Elementary; Trey, 3rd Grade, Manorhaven Elementary
Patch: What is your professional background?
VM: Harvard College, NYU Business School, non-practicing CPA, CFA, CMA.
I help manage a family business, and have had many years of experience in the capital markets.
Patch: Why are you running?
VM: I have attended most board of education meetings for the last two years, and the more I have learned, the more concerned I have become. I have learned most importantly that the financial framework of the system we have at present is unsustainable.
If we cannot stop the year over year increases in the cost structure of our education, we will either have much higher taxes than the already high taxes we have now, or we will have significantly less educational services which we have already seen cut. Unless something significant changes, we will all likely end up with both.
The board of education has a role to play in this area but I also recognize that it operates in conjunction with many others, and with many rules and constraints.
Nevertheless the board has a responsibility to try. I have met with present board members, former board members, the superintendent, administrators, individual teachers, elected representatives, former representatives, HSA and PTA volunteers and leaders, and I have slowly gotten to know many of the people in our community who I believe are largely responsible for making Port Washington one of the best places in the country to live and raise a family.
They are selfless and work tirelessly for the benefit of all of us, and they inspire me. The community needs some help for the challenges ahead, and I am running because I want to contribute to our community through the board.
Patch: What do you hope to accomplish during your term?
VM: I hope to introduce more technology into the classroom and curriculum that will help our kids take advantage of the recent advancement in educational tools.
For those in the community who have an interest in learning more about what is going on, and about how our community works, I would like to help develop efficient ways for them to get that information. We can broadcast BOE meetings on public access TV, or a webcast so you can watch it from home if you are so inclined, instead of hiring a babysitter to attend a four-hour BOE meeting in person. Questions could be fielded using social media so that the board could get answers to people who care enough to ask questions.
But, of course, the big hope is to hold onto and improve the outstanding educational program we have, in the face of a bad economy, and with an already overburdened tax base.
Patch: Do you support the budget?
VM: Yes I support the budget this year, primarily because the board was able to keep the increase under the new tax cap while at the same time reducing expenses responsibly.
Patch: What about the bond?
VM: I support the bond simply because the roofs need to be fixed. If you agree with that, you just want to make sure the money is used wisely. The amount on the proposal is an authorization amount. The actual amount borrowed is expected to be less. The roofs have been in need of repair for 10 years, and safety issues have emerged and will continue to emerge. It's never a good time to have to pay for a new roof, but unfortunately now is that time. Going forward we should build a capital fund from the annual budget to fix what will need fixing in the future. But now let's pass the bond, and focus on making sure we get good value for our money and make sure we only borrow what we need.