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Mamaroneck School Board Candidate: Roger Martin

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – The Daily Mamaroneck and The Daily Larchmont will run candidate profiles on all four candidates running for three seats on the seven-member Mamaroneck School Board of Education before the May 15 election. Each candidate was asked the same questions.

Roger Martin is in a four-way race with Victor Gatti, Melany Gray and Robin Nichinsky to fill the two seats left vacant by outgoing board members Linnet Tse and Anant Nambiar, and the seat for which Nichinksy is seeking is her third three-year term.  Martin, Gray and Nichinksy have been endorsed by the Committee for the Selection of School Board Nominees, while Gatti is running as an Independent.

Martin, 68, is a former graduate of Mamaroneck Avenue School and Mamaroneck High School.  He returned to his childhood home in Mamaroneck in 2006 upon retiring from a career in higher education, including at Harvard University.

Tell us about yourself and your family.

I grew up in Mamaroneck and am a product of the excellent school system here. I have been married to my wife, Susan, for 44 years. She is in early childhood development as the director of the parish school at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Darien, Conn. I have two adult daughters who live in New York City; one is a public school teacher, and the other works for the International Rescue Committee.

I also volunteer with the counseling department at Mamaroneck High School, assisting students with college admissions, as I have been on the other side in my career at different colleges and universities. I have also written books on education, including on the transition from high school to college in "Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again."

Why are you running for the Mamaroneck School Board?

I am a product of this school system, which was very good back in the day and remains so, even now. I want to give back. Also, because education is so important; it has been my whole life’s work. I have been an assistant dean at Harvard and president of Moravian College. I have taught and dealt with current issues, whether they are union related or that of infrastructure.  It is important to have people on the school board who are informed about education, and on financial issues.

What qualifies you to be a school board member?

As I said, education has been my whole life.  I bring three things to the table. First, I don’t have an agenda and come to the board bringing a lot of outside ideas and experience. Secondly, I actually will be the only person on the board who went through this public school system. And finally, I bring experience of higher education and finance and dealing with budgets to the table.

What are the three biggest issues facing the schools today?

The issues we face in Mamaroneck are national issues, not just here. We have a tight budget with budget caps and not much additional money coming in. If we want to have the finest school system, we need to find ways to support it. We already have very good teachers, but we need to hire and support the best teachers we can get, treat them as professionals and rely on their expertise. In conjunction with that, we need to focus on building a strong curriculum and include in the needs of special education and any under-served population. And we have to pay attention to the infrastructure needs in all of our schools, from aging, clogged pipes to upkeep of the buildings.

If elected, what would you do to address them?

The tight budget requires we think creatively and efficiently on the effective use of funds. Cutting at the core of the product is not a good solution. It’s a national and state issue -- where we need to put education first and more resources toward it as a good education is not cheap. It will be hard, but we can and will have to think outside the box. We also need to make teachers a part of the decision on what they teach and how to each, while figuring out a fair way to evaluate them.

If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax cap, what would you cut?

I’m the only one without a child in the school system. I’ve gone through budget-cutting issues for more than 30 years at various colleges and universities. I want to take a fresh look at it as a participant on the board. I imagine cuts will be necessary, and we’ll have to think creatively.

Is there anything else you would like to accomplish if elected?

I don’t have an agenda, and I think that is a strength. I’ve returned here with a fresh perspective and would like to help the school through this challenging time. The school system in Mamaroneck is a very fine one, and I believe it can be a leader in the conversation of what public education should be.

Does the endorsement from the Committee for the Selection of School Board Nominees help your candidacy?

The process is a very democratic one that brings forward people with the background and experience for the position. The three of us, the nominees endorsed by the committee, have been vetted thoroughly. But anyone who gets the necessary votes to be in the election should be able to run, and the one who gets the most votes wins the position.

Related Experience:

-  Martin holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University (U.K.), a Bachelor of Divinity from Yale University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Drew University.

-  He is currently the president of Academic Collaborations Inc., a consulting firm that advises colleges and universities on financial and structural matters.

-  He is also currently the vice-chair of the British Schools and Universities Foundation.

-  He is a former Board member of Moravian Academy and of the Commission of Women in Higher Education.

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