So far, Kathleen Nolan-Kasal says her personal experience with the Malverne school district “has been nothing but positive.”
As the parent of a Kindergartener with special needs at Maurice W. Downing Primary School, Nolan-Kasal says she is “super thrilled” with her daughter’s teachers and the services the district is providing her.
“I have friends who wish their children were getting taught as well as my daughter,” she said. “The whole team … really works to meet the needs of her and her classmates.”
So why is this New York City teacher and mother of two - Amélie, 5, and Emil, 23 months - running for the school board in the May 15 election?
“I want to have some say in what’s going,” says Nolan-Kasal, who will be competing against for the seat currently held by long-time
Since she moved to Malverne with her husband in 2001, she has learned about the tumultuous history of the school district.
“There are old wounds that haven't quite healed,” she says, but thinks it’s time the great things happening in the school district right now be the focus.
“Malverne has this … unnecessary reputation for not being a great school district,” she said. “I hear it from people I know that their friends are considering not sending their kids here, but there are a lot of good things going on.”
Citing some of the recent national recognitions the district’s teachers and student groups have received, she added, “That's not happening everywhere.”
As a member of the “I Love Malverne … But Want More From Our Schools” Facebook page and now the parent of a student, Nolan-Kasal does have some concerns though.
“Are we putting our money and resources in the most important places so that our students are prepared for upper education?” she asks.
In her experience teaching elementary students in Bellerose, Queens, Nolan-Kasal has seen how important it is to address learning problems early.
“If the foundation isn't built by second grade, you're constantly playing catch-up. It’s like an avalanche,” she says.
She also wants to make sure that in this “testing mania culture” students are also being taught how to be “independent thinkers” and have all opportunities available to them.
Nolan-Kasal holds two Master’s degrees, one in early childhood elementary education and another in advanced literacy specialization, but before she became a teacher, she had a successful career in the theatre industry, and even worked seven years on Broadway.
When the district announced it wasinstruction in the district’s two elementary schools, she was very concerned.
“They weren't having music or library as much so that they can have more test prep, but that's the wrong way to be looking at education,” she said, adding that students need to be “well-rounded.”
Nolan-Kasal understands that money is tight these days, but says the district needs to "think outside the box" to find creative ways to save without compromising students’ education, something that the school she teaches at constantly does. There, parents pay a fee for some services, teachers take advantage of donations and students are asked not write inside testing workbooks, for instance. Nolan-Kasal was impressed with some of the cost-cutting suggestions members of the Malverne Teachers Association during a recent budget workshop, but says the district needs to tap into the knowledge of teachers “working in the trenches” more often.
If elected, Nolan-Kasal understands that she’d be just one of five board members, but she says she’s good at collaborating and compromising.
“I would hope to bring a fresh voice and a slightly different perspective being that I am an educator and I didn't grow up in Malverne,” she says. Not only is she not a native of the district, but she says she’s lived everywhere from Pennsylvania and Illinois to Europe. “I’m used to working with different people.”
She'd also like to improve the reputation of the board itself.
“There are people who have felt their voices weren't being heard, that they were being cut off by certain board members,” she said. “We are elected by the people to represent their points of view … they should be taken under consideration.”
The Malverne school board elections will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on May 15 at Howard T. Herber Middle School. To see who else is running,