Statement: School board candidate Burke seeks to contribute to strategic and facilities plans, focus on all students achieving excellence

Sid Burke with his family.

Editor’s note: This candidate statement was provided by school board candidate Sid Burke. The Pelham Examiner publishes statements in the form received as a service to the community.

Dear Pelham neighbors:

My name is Sid Burke and I am excited to announce my candidacy for the Pelham Board of Education. I’m running because I care deeply about our excellent school system, and I want to help shape its strategic direction.

I’ve lived in Pelham with my wife, Kristen, since 2010. Like many people, the quality of local schools was a key reason we moved to town, and our two children attend Colonial and the Middle School. Some of you may know me as a former den leader for Pelham Pack 1 Cub Scouts, or have seen me cheering for Pelham hockey at the Ice Hutch, as an emergency referee/linesman at my kids’ soccer games on Franklin Field, or on my long walks around town while on conference calls. In my day job, I’m a corporate partner at a global law firm, where I spend most of my time advising clients on strategic transactions.

My experience

My job as a transactional lawyer is to provide strategic advice. That requires listening to parties’ often deeply-held, conflicting views, identifying creative solutions, and finding common ground to reach genuine consensus on difficult issues. We don’t currently have an attorney serving on our school board, and I believe my legal experience would add a valuable perspective.

I was one of the founding board members of the Amani Public Charter School in Mount Vernon. I served on their board for over a decade, was board chair for most of that time, and was active on a number of committees (including finance and facilities). This experience will enable me to hit the ground running as a board member.

I’ve been a member of the Planning Board for the Village of Pelham for the past four years, reviewing proposed development projects. In that role, I’ve taken the lead on analyzing and addressing the potential impacts of development on our schools, which is another area that evokes strong feelings, and I’ve learned valuable lessons in the dynamics of volunteer community organizations and the power of open communication.

A Few Areas of Focus

  • Strategic Planning: This is an important moment for the district. Next year the district will embark on a new strategic planning process, and it will begin work on a new facilities plan. The district also will be negotiating a new contract with the teachers’ union, which has a significant budgetary impact since salaries and benefits represent 75% of the current budgeted expenditures. This is a moment for people across our community to come together to think about how we can continue, and improve on, the amazing strides that we have made in our schools. I’m excited to contribute to shaping the school district’s strategic direction through these processes.
  • Academic Success: The district’s motto is “Inspiring a Standard of Excellence for All Students.” I’d like to focus on achieving that standard for all students, and on how we define and measure success.
  • Facilities: Pelham’s athletic facilities have not kept pace with the growing needs of our student athletes. I’d like to explore what can be done to improve the condition of Franklin Field, which is already beat up even as the spring season is just starting, and the scheduling of field use. I’d also like to explore the installation of solar panels on our buildings. With recent legislation and incentives, solar panels could provide meaningful savings (the upcoming budget anticipates a $600,000 increase in utility costs compared to this year’s budget), as well as environmental and educational benefits.

I’m excited by the opportunity to work with the Pelham community to serve all of the children in our schools. I look forward to speaking with many of you in the coming weeks, and I will post dates and times for organized meetings soon.