just finished serving her first term on the , the most recent year as its president, and now she’s seeking re-election.
“I want to reach out into the community with as many people as possible,” she said. “I am accessible, I am a hard worker and I love to attend different events in the schools to monitor how things are going.”
Lopez is one of three candidates for two open spots on the school board, along with fellow current board member and , a retired teacher who spent 40 years in the district. The school board and budget vote is on Tuesday.
Heading into the election, Lopez said she thinks one of the biggest issues the board faces moving forward is dealing with the 2 percent tax cap. Earlier this year, the board voted to not override the tax cap, which would’ve required a vote of 60 percent in favor to pass the budget. Lopez said she and the board felt it would’ve been “arrogant” of them to ask the community to support overriding the tax cap, especially in its first year.
“The board felt the community was expecting us to address things within our parameters,” she said. “Our board also felt strongly that it wouldn't be the right thing to ask for an override of the tax cap if we had not used all the resources available to us.”
She said in the future the board might have to ask for an override on a budget, but right now they’re concerned with making it work at two percent, even if it’s proving difficult.
“It’s frustrating when you have Governor [Andrew] Cuomo highlighting the cap’s success, but not mentioning it’s having a disastrous effect on school districts,” Lopez said. “We’ve been a casualty of the tax cap. In previous years, we didn’t have to cut as many positions as we did this year. It’s hurting the community.”
The biggest cuts in the proposed budget come in the reading program, where the district is letting go of 13.5 positions. The reading teachers help in the classroom as well as work with students in groups pulled out from the classroom. The program is non-mandated.
Mandated programs are another big issue heading into the election, mainly unfunded or under-funded mandates. Lopez said she doesn’t think mandates are a bad thing, but when they force the district to fund them using money that was slotted to go elsewhere, the mandates become an issue. She said recently there was a mandate passed down that said each building has to have a defibrillator.
“That’s fine, defibrillators save lives and we want to make sure our students are safe,” she said. “The problem is we need to buy them as a district and buy one for each school building. All of these mandates add up.”
She said if she’s elected back to the board, she wants to create a committee to look at the wide variety of mandated programs to see if any are out-of-date or no longer needed, and the district can get rid of them to save money.
Lopez added she thinks the board needs to represent the community, and as a parent with a child in the district and as someone who speaks Spanish, she thinks she does a good job reaching out to the community. She also said that as someone who’s been on the board for the past three years, she feels she would be ready to get right to work if re-elected.
“It does take time for a board member to learn how to be a board member and work with your peers, and also how school districts work,” she said. “I have a firm grip on what the school district has had to deal with in the past and where it is now. I can hit the ground running.”