Statement: School board candidate Garrido-Carmody will prioritize academic rigor, strengthening engagement with parents

Connie Garrido-Carmody with her family.

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

Dear Pelham Community,

My name is Connie Garrido-Carmody and I am running for the Pelham Board of Education. Almost ten years ago, my husband Terry and I moved to Pelham with our two sons. Having already raised my older son in a top-rated Long Island public-school district, we understood the importance of living in an education-oriented community with high academic standards. After looking at a number of towns, we chose Pelham — because of its strong schools and commitment to community.

Brief background

I was born in Colombia, South America, and grew up in Woodside, Queens attending both public and parochial schools. I earned my B.S. and MBA degrees from St. John’s University. In my 30-year career I have led and launched multiple companies, serving as CEO and board member to both public and non-profit organizations. I’ve learned to effectively manage teams, design budgets, set clear objectives, and implement effective strategies to achieve success through measurable outcomes. Currently as an HR executive I spend my days improving work experiences through targeted training and performance-based management to promote learning, growth, and teamwork.

Since moving to Pelham, I have become integrally connected to the community. As a board member for the Pelham Education Foundation, I’ve spent 4 years supporting educational initiatives. Currently, I am proud to serve on the BOE Cultural Competence Committee, with the goal of using my expertise to help make sure that our schools are welcoming places for all students, regardless of background, personal characteristics, economic situation, or political viewpoint. I’m also an active parishioner at our local church, teaching religious instruction for 5 years and serving on the Special Events Committee.

My Focus

If elected, one of my core objectives will be to make sure that the district’s finite resources are focused on: (1) improving academic rigor and excellence, and (2) strengthening the district’s approach to communications and engagement with parents. To be sure, there are many other important functions that our district provides that I will no doubt support, but this will be my initial focus because I think our schools can make significant and rapid progress on both of these fronts.

Academic Rigor and Excellence: It is no secret that giving our children the tools to achieve academic excellence, in a rigorous environment, is a paramount ingredient for their future success. The district must prioritize student achievement, with the BOE actively overseeing this goal and holding the administration accountable against measurable standards. There has been progress on this front, but we can be even better.

Each child should be encouraged to achieve the very best outcomes that they are personally capable of reaching by making sure that the district: (1) offers high quality instruction, (2) measurably monitors individual student need and progress, and (3) provides active and impactful academic intervention to help our students stretch to the next level, regardless of whether they are high achievers, students with special needs or the majority of our children, who find themselves somewhere in between.

Of course, all of these academic objectives need to be undertaken while making sure that we support the development of each child’s social and emotional wellbeing – an area in which the district has made significant strides over the last couple of years.

Considerations: It is easy to talk about rigor and excellence in broad terms, but we need bold ideas and the mindset to make specific improvements actually happen. Such improvements could, for example, include: (1) expanding our elementary foreign language program (FLES) to five days a week so that our children can achieve greater language proficiency, (2) initiating  a “high-impact tutoring program” that offers real-time, in-class intervention for students who struggle with a particular topic regardless of whether or not  the students have special learning classifications – a new approach with encouraging results in a growing number of schools, (3) implementing a measurable dashboard that helps the Board monitor the academic progress of students in each building – the administration has talked “around” implementing such a mechanism for a couple of years, but this has not happened in any type of meaningful fashion despite repeated calls from multiple Board members – why is that?

Plainly said, the school taxes in Pelham are significant. We all willingly pay them but it is time for a systematic and measurable way to monitor the impact of the administration’s programs — to make sure our children are actually benefiting from the increased taxes we are all spending.

Parent Engagement: Despite the district’s recent laudable efforts, many parents I talk to still feel disconnected from the day-to-day aspects of their child’s education and want to know more about what is going on in our schools, both in and outside of class, particularly at the middle & high school levels. We need to continue to improve this communication to capitalize on what I see as one of Pelham’s potential core strengths – a meaningful partnership between schools and families.

If elected, I would like to see the district redouble its focus on this area and foster a formal “Year of the Parent” approach to our district – where all core educational programs are evaluated from the vantage point of the parent, as well as the child. Absent effective communication and engagement with parents, much of the district’s well-intentioned efforts risk getting lost in the shuffle of day-to-day life.

Considerations: This approach could include: (1) the posting of a full curriculum (listing specific books and assignments) for each class at the beginning of the year – permitting busy parents and families with special needs children to engage in advance planning, (2) a comprehensive series of in-depth tutorials for parents to make sure that they fully understand and can utilize  the technology that their children are using in and out of the classroom, and (3) expanding parent-teacher conferences at the middle and high school levels so that they occur more than once a year and so that the parents of high school children are not forced to have 7-minute “speed conferences” with teachers.  Obviously, no one Board member can implement change by themselves, but these are the types of specific improvements that I would like to focus on with my fellow trustees, if elected.

Opportunity For Change

This upcoming year, the BOE will be adopting a new five-year Strategic Plan. This presents a unique opportunity to build upon the successes of previous goals while making sure we address the above objectives – and to actively engage with the community to ensure that the Strategic Plan reflects views from all corners of our district.

I am committed to working with the community, the board, and the administration to achieve our common goal of providing the best education possible for our children and being good stewards of our community’s taxes. I humbly ask you to join me in this effort by voting for me on May 16, 2023.

Thank you for your consideration and support.

Connie Garrido-Carmody

[email protected]

Cell: (646) 318-7579