Race dominates Newburgh school board forum

Five candidates for three Newburgh school board seats broadly agreed with the goals of boosting black and Latino student achievement, reducing suspensions and diversifying the district’s teaching staff during a forum Thursday evening.

Two incumbents – board President Carole Mineo and Darren Stridiron – will compete Tuesday for new three-year terms against one-time board member Mark Levinstein, former teacher William Walker and Sylvia Santiago, who unsuccessfully ran for a board seat last year.

Mineo and Stridiron cited the district’s rising graduation rates for black and Latino students, the opening of a third high school campus to reduce dropouts and the approval of an in-school suspension program that is scheduled to start next week.

Newburgh has also received $150,000 from the state’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which funds programs created to help minority males.

“The last three years, we’ve made big progress,” Stridiron said.

The Newburgh-Highland Falls NAACP, Latinos Unidos and Community Voices Heard were among a quintet of community organizations sponsoring the forum at Calvary Presbyterian Church in the City of Newburgh.

Sponsors also included Black Lives Matter, the Civic Engagement Table, N.U. Voters Movement and the Restorative Center.

One of their concerns – the lack of black of Latino teachers in a district where those students account for roughly 75 percent of the enrollment – is being partly addressed by a grant Mount Saint Mary College received to help recruit minority teachers, Mineo said.

“And then it’s incumbent upon us to keep these teachers here,” she said.

Levinstein, who lost a bid to regain a board seat in 2016 after finishing fifth in a race for four spots, named among his priorities improving graduation rates and ensuring graduates are ready to successfully move on to a career or college.

Santiago also ran unsuccessfully last year, finishing sixth. She is a member of the school district’s Education Advisory Team and the recently formed Equity Team, which was set up to examine how the district allocates resources for minority, poor and disabled students.

Walker, a former English language arts teacher whose 41-year career included 30 with the Newburgh school district, said teachers were integral to addressing many of the problems reflected in the questions, including high suspension rates for black and Latino students.

“Maybe, out of 41 years, I threw out 10 kids,” he said. “We have to understand that some of our kids are victimized.”

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    Leonard Sparks

    Leonard Sparks covers the City of Newburgh as a reporter for the Times Herald-Record newspaper. Read Full
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