Interview with school board candidate Katherine Hans

Katherine Hans has taken an active role as a parent in the Greater Amsterdam School District. For six years, she served on the Parent-Teacher Organization for the Marie Curie Institute of Engineering and Communication, five of those years as President. She is involved in her son’s activities, especially his hockey team. Now she would like to expand her role in the GASD as she runs for a seat on the Board of Education.

Hans is an Amsterdam native, having spent her whole life in the area. She has two sons, both attending school in the district. She has a 13-year-old in seventh grade and a 10-year-old in fourth grade. She works in the marketing department for New York State United Teachers Member Benefits.

Like many parents, Hans takes an active role in the education of her children and maintains good relationships with their teachers. She feels that the level of education in the district is good, noting that her sons have performed well academically. She says that they have had phenomenal teachers, and the school district offers a supportive environment.

She knows that not everyone in the community feels this way, saying “I know that sometimes Amsterdam gets a bad rap in the general community and the capital district, but I think that, overall, our children perform very well.” To Hans, one obstacle to the district’s success is the Common Core Curriculum.

She said, “I think it’s implementation was done very poorly by the state. They rushed to implement it without any text books or tools available. And while I did not choose to opt my children out of the testing, I really don’t feel that it’s an adequate way of measuring the children or the district’s success.”

Hans thinks that the district handled the curriculum change as well as it could under the circumstances, but that both teachers and students needed more time to prepare. She also pointed out that the Common Care fails to account for students with special needs or language barriers.

In order to offer additional assistance to struggling students and parents with limited time or resources, Hans would like to see after school programs expanded. She explained, “I know that very often after school can be a problem for parents [in terms of] affordability and access, and I think sometimes students could benefit from some additional after school help.” She would also like to expand the extracurricular arts and music programs, which she said seem to be more restricted each year.

One area that Hans feels could be improved is the handling of disciplinary problems. She said,  “I know that discipline can sometimes be an issue in the district, and I would like to see if we could come up with some better ways of handling some of those issues.” But she notes, “until you’re actually in the job, it’s hard to see some of the details that would need to be improved.”

Living in the Town of Amsterdam, Hans will see her taxes rise with the 2 percent tax levy increase that is called for under the $65 million proposed budget for the 2015-16 school year. Although she would rather not face an increase in taxes, she feels that the current Board of Education and administration put a great deal of effort into coming up with the best possible budget.

As a board member, Hans hopes that she could aid the budget process by seeking creative solutions to the funding issues faced by the district. Overall, Hans thinks that the board could benefit from a fresh perspective and feels that she could help to guide the board through its decision-making process.

Hans feels that voters should elect her to the Board of Education, because “I try to pay careful attention to what’s going on in the district. I do, whenever possible, try to attend meetings. As a parent, I pay attention to what my children are doing and the issues they face in class and in school on a day-to-day basis, and I would try and bring some of that perspective to my role as a member of the board.”

GASD election day for 2015 is on May 19. In addition to voting on the budget, voters will elect two candidates to the Board of Education. Each seat is for a three-year term to begin on July 1, 2015. Incumbent Gavin Murdoch will be joined on the ballot by newcomers Katherine Hans, Lisa A. Choat, and Jackie Marciniak. Incumbent Leon Gray is not seeking reelection.

Ashley Onyon

Ashley Onyon is a graduate of the journalism program at SUNY Albany. She has contributed articles to The Mohawk Valley Independent and the annual journal Upstream.