Interview with school board candidate Lisa Choat

lisachoatLisa Choat has worked closely with the public through her positions in customer service, telecommunications, and health care. She has advocated for family and friends in a variety of areas such as education, healthcare, financial situations, and civil rights issues. Now she hopes to expand her advocacy efforts in her bid for a seat on the Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education.

Choat was born in Amsterdam and raised in Broadalbin. She has been an Amsterdam resident for 21 years and has four children who currently attend school in the GASD.

She is an active community member, co-founding the Neighborhood Watch Program in the Colonial Square Apartments in 2012, joining the Amsterdam Ethics Board in 2014, and becoming a board member of the Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency in 2015.

Choat said that she started considering running for the board as, “A lot of parents wanted somebody that connects more with them when it comes to different topics…somebody that they could go to and feel comfortable speaking with, to have speak on their behalf.”

According to Choat, a number of parents feel that they are unable to approach school administrators and she hopes to remedy this. “I would like to see people get together, the parents be able to feel comfortable, the teachers to have a better relationship with parents and students.”

She notes that not all parents and students are experiencing these difficulties, but she says, “there is a large number out there that really needs to feel more comfortable.”

One area where Choat feels that students and parents are receiving inadequate support is in instances of bullying. She said, “I think there’s two sides to the bullying. Of course, some kids are victims, but a lot of times the bully is having issues of their own that need to be addressed.”

In order to decrease bullying, Choat feels that there must be a greater emphasis on building relationships between students who are bullying and teachers and administrators. She said a trusting relationship is important for a student to be able to open up and find the root of their problem.

As she seeks to improve relationships between parents and staff, Choat would like the district to provide additional support for families by hosting resource nights at the schools. She would like to see “different organizations come in, have a table, and explain what services they offer to help students and parents when it comes to Individualized Education Programs, 504 [plans for children with special health care needs], regular education and tutoring.”

Choat has already begun reaching out to local groups to gauge interest in participating, such as the Parent Network of the Capital Region, that focus on IEPs and bullying.

Overall, Choat feels that the level of education that students receive in the district varies from student to student and has a negative view of the Common Core standards.

She said, “I think some of the [Common Core] questions are ridiculous. I don’t think that teachers should be solely evaluated on what a kid’s test grade is, because all kids learn differently.”

Choat is against the proposed 2 percent tax levy increase as part of the GASD budget. While she would have opposed cuts to programs or staff, she would have liked to see cuts to other areas or savings achieved through grants.

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.

(Photo provided)

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.