Four Pleasantville residents are running for two vacant seats on the Pleasantville School Board in the upcoming election. This year, current board President Angela Vella is looking to retain her seat and faces a contested election against challengers Jill Grossman, Carmel Promisel and John Vamossy.
Vice President Louis Conte decided against running for another three-year term.
Voting this year will be done exclusively with paper ballots that have been sent by the school district to all registered voters. Ballots must be received by the district clerk’s office no later than Tuesday, June 9 at 5 p.m.
If elected, Grossman envisions sharing her professional experience in educational policy with the school board.
Grossman has worked for the last three years at the nonprofit New York City Leadership Academy that trains school and district leaders, and for the last three years she has been the academy’s senior director of strategic communications and policy.
Grossman served as co-chair on the Pleasantville School District’s five-year Strategic Planning Committee on curriculum and instruction.
“I would love to continue the work that we did in the strategic planning process, to be a voice on the board and to offer my knowledge of education,” she said.
A three-year Pleasantville resident, her two children are students in the district and will enter sixth and ninth grades in the fall.
Grossman is concerned with developing varied learning experiences that could offer students problem-solving skills and the ability to think critically.
“I want us to think about how students learn effectively and work collaboratively in groups with people different from themselves, with people of another culture, another race or have different beliefs or points of view – and knowing how to navigate that,” she said.
Assessing student’s knowledge and their skills is another issue Grossman wants to examine.
“I question New York State’s requirements for students and how they are assessed,” Grossman said. “What are they really measuring and are there other ways to assess student’s knowledge and skills in a way that would be more productive?”
With the use of remote and e-learning since mid-March, Grossman is concerned with what students have actually learned.
“We need to determine what students did not learn, what they need to learn to be ready for the next level and what would that look like?” Grossman said.
She added that there is room for enhancing student education via e-learning.
“Having an ongoing, larger and interesting project for a small group of students working together can benefit independent learning,” Grossman said. “They can work together and the teacher can help facilitate it.”
Having had triplets who went through the Pleasantville School District, Promisel said she has always appreciated the exceptional education her two sons and one daughter received. (All three are off to college next fall.)
Promisel has lived in Pleasantville for 22 years. She recently retired from her career in financial services.
“I would love to give back to the community,” she said about her run for the Board of Education.
Her prediction for the current generation of students is that they will require a broader skillset that goes beyond compiling strong grades.
“Education is about becoming a whole person and a citizen who explores different and creative skills,” Promisel said. “The future roles of this younger generation will change at least three times; they are expected to have three different careers, which means they will have to be inspired and flexible.”
For Promisel and her three children, the school district offered several good base programs.
“I love the board and I’m very supportive of them because they offer great arts and athletic programs,” she said. “But we can flesh those out more, encourage and entice students to become more civics-minded and involved with the Pleasantville community.”
Transparency is also important to Promisel.
“The board has e-mail blasts now and then on important matters. We can reinforce that on a more frequent and regular basis,” Promisel mentioned. “It would be helpful to put out a simplistic understanding of the budget and tax levy calculation so more people could understand, get engaged and jump on board through advocacy.”
Promisel said the priority when schools reopen is safety.
“We need to consider how to establish socialization as well as education,” she said. “We might have split weeks with one week using Zoom where students can see the teacher and the rest of the class and another week actually at school.”
Vamossy was born and raised in Westchester and has lived in Pleasantville with his wife and three daughters for 17 years. His children are currently in fifth, eighth and 10th grades.
For the last 10 years, he has coached a variety of sports and has been board president for Pleasantville FC, a nonprofit youth soccer organization in the village, managing programs for more than 600 children.
Vamossy, a former CPA, currently works at Pfizer and leads the Emerging Markets Medical Excellence team.
Vamossy served on the district’s Principal Selection Committee and the superintendent’s Growth and Enrollment Committee.
“I’m running for the school board because I believe I could make a difference,” Vamossy said. “I have a lot of experience in the community and I’m well positioned to put my experience to good use.”
In light of the altered school year because of the coronavirus pandemic, a main priority for Vamossy is getting students safely back to school in September.
“Students need the connection with teachers and their peers,” he said. “It may look like a blended learning model with a staggered approach of every other day to start, and we may have to put kids in large spaces like the cafeteria to spread them out.”
For Vamossy, the coronavirus has offered the academic world a silver lining in the form of technology for remote learning.
“We’ve jumped in the technology pool with both feet and we are still figuring it out,” he said. “We have to take what we’ve learned and implement it so it enhances, engages and augments learning with teachers, administrators and the community.”
The 2026 Strategic Plan is also critical.
“We have to prioritize and balance the resources available from the community and the state with what is required for the children,” Vamossy said. “These are challenging economic times and we can be innovative and find great ideas to move forward.”
Angela Vella was first elected to the board in 2014, was vice president in 2015-16 and has served as president for the past four years. Vella said she wants certain initiatives to move forward such as Pleasantville Schools 2026, the district’s five-year strategic plan.
“I’d like to see some of the second phase get done,” said Vella, an engineer and 23-year Pleasantville resident. “Work is starting this summer on the buildings and I’d like to be around for that part of the project.”
Vella said more effort has been expended by the board in its role as advocates, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. The board’s website has an advocacy tab with a sample letter parents can e-mail to representatives stressing the importance of avoiding major aid cuts from the pandemic’s impact.
“Our advocacy work is front and center,” said Vella. “We have to fight just to maintain state aid and not have it taken away, especially in a high-performing district like ours. We are trying to get to the next level but regulations limit us or add costs to what we are already doing.”
Vella, who also served on the Technology Committee, said if schools reopen in the fall, there are many variables to consider, including the continuation of remote and e-learning. Ongoing professional development to improve remote learning and presenting an effective blended model with classroom teaching may be necessary. Staggered schedules are being researched as well.
“We may have half the students attend school in the morning and the other half in the afternoon,” Vella said. “We also have to look at cleaning the buildings, perhaps having thermometers on site and looking at what spaces can accommodate students to maintain social distancing. We are relying on guidelines from the county’s Department of Health.”