Kron, Schwartz tout experience in race for Great Neck school board

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Great Neck Board of Education candidate Nikolas Kron said he wants to bring his business and entrepreneurial experience to the board, while one of his opponents, Lori Beth Schwartz, said she wants to bring her experience of serving the schools in various capacities.
Kron and Schwartz are two of eight candidates running for an open school board seat, which could see more candidates step forward before the Nov. 28 deadline,
Both said it was positive that eight candidates are vying for an open board seat as it shows a strong interest in community involvement.
The eight candidates also include Donald Panetta, Josh Ratner, Nicholas Toumbekis, Donna Peirez, Michael Darvish and Grant Toch. They are running to fill a seat that was held by Monique Bloom, who resigned in September because of corporate travel commitments.
Kron, who was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and moved to Great Neck with his wife in 1999, worked as a strategy consultant for Ernst & Young and Cap Gemini S.A., advising health-care, pharmaceutical, energy and consumer clients on how to best take advantage of new technologies.
He said in 2004 he set up a real estate investment company and founded a real estate finance company.
Kron said he and his wife, Vivian, have been very active in the community.  
His wife served on various boards and committees of the schools their four children attend and he served on various committees and boards of the Great Neck Synagogue, of which he is a member.
He decided to run for the Great Neck Board of Education, he said, because he felt it was time to “bring new blood to the board.”
Kron said he wanted to bring his business and entrepreneurial experience to the school board.
“I have a strong experience in understanding new technologies and techniques from the business world and academic research world and wanted to share that with the board,” he said. “It is already an amazing school district but it needs the newest ideas to continue to grow into the 21st century needs of our children.”
Kron said that higher education is one way for students to progress after high school, but it is not the “only path.”
He added that getting students prepared for the next level of their lives is important and that he would work to make them aware of all the options available to them.
Kron said he wants to “modernize the flow of information” between the board and the community through social media and ensure that the board hears all of the concerns from the community.
When it comes to the district’s budget, he said, he wants to make sure the community understands what is being voted on and that everyone’s voice is heard.
“What I think happens is parents trust in the district and therefore feel that they don’t have to worry about these sorts of things,” Kron said. “It becomes a problem when parents are not showing up for votes or important decisions and then stand back and say ‘that’s not what I wanted.’”
“The district has to listen to community and the community has to work with the district,” he added.
Kron said that through attending programs and events his children are involved with, he has gotten to meet a number of people from different backgrounds, which he said is a “unique opportunity” to get feedback and hear what the community wants.
He said voters should vote for him because of his business experiences and the fact that he has children attending schools in the district.
“What I want people to do is to think carefully about the election, about the right mix of skills and experience on the board,” Kron said. “I think that I fit nicely in the middle of the right age demographic with a vested interest because of my children in the school system and a strong understanding of how the real world works and keeping abreast with the latest technologies and techniques.”
Schwartz, a former United Parent-Teacher Council president, also said that it was important to have a member on the board with children in the district.
She said she moved to Great Neck in 1996 shortly before getting married.
Schwartz said she had her own jacket manufacturing company, went on to sell it, but continued to work for the company as the vice president of business development.
She said she decided to retire after starting a family, which led to the beginning of her involvement with the Great Neck school system.
Starting with volunteering at the Great Neck Community School, Schwartz said, she went on to serve on various boards and committees on the schools her children attended: Saddle Rock Elementary School, John F. Kennedy Elementary School, Great Neck North Middle School and Great Neck North High School.
She said she was elected to be a delegate to the UPTC and served as co-chair of the Health Education Committee.
From 2012 to 2014, Schwartz served as UPTC president and served for a year on the board after her presidency as a member-at-large.
She currently serves as chair of the Total Community Involvement Committee and PTO co-president at North Middle School.
Schwartz said that her “motivating factor” to get involved in the school system was for more parental input and that one of her goals is to get more involvement from parents in the district.
“There is a lot of data that shows that strong parental involvement really does affect the efficacy of the schools and the achievement of, not only your particular children, but the children of the community,” she said. “I did feel very strongly that helping out to whatever capacity I could to achieve the goals of the administration and the teachers in all the schools would help not only my child, but all the children in the district.”
Schwartz said that through her community involvement, she has been able to meet people of different cultures and ethnicities and worked to “build bridges” connecting different groups.
“I think it’s really important for a board of education to be able to align their vision to what the real vision is of the community,” she said. “Sometimes you assume that people feel a certain way, but unless you really build those bridges of friendship where they feel comfortable coming forward and really telling you what they feel, sometimes you get a surprise when you reach out in a meaningful way.”
Schwartz said one thing she would like to pursue if elected is finding a way to fully assess a student’s success beyond the use of standardized test scores.
“I would love to see all the stakeholders work on some sort of accurate assessment of the intangibles,” she said. “We have data that gives us the academic results, but our students come away with so much more.”
“We have so many programs that build 21st century skills like collaboration, the ability to build consensus, perseverance, things that are hard to assess,” Schwartz added.
She said the district should consider recording and archiving board meetings, as it is difficult for parents to find time to come to all the meetings that go in both in the district and in the various schools.
“If you’re a very active parent, to be able to consistently come to Board of Education meetings is practically impossible,” Schwartz said. “I think that would be enormously helpful to so many parents who just find it impossible to spend one more night away from home.”
She said voters should vote for her because of her understanding of the inner workings of the district and the process of getting things done.
“I think I have a depth and breadth of understanding of the programs that the schools offer and the understanding of love for your teachers, love for your schools, wanting to support them in the deepest of ways,” Schwartz said. “And also trying to look to the future to make sure you protect that for the future.”
The election will take place on Dec. 6 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the E.M. Baker School and Great Neck South High School.
Nikolas Kron

By Joe Nikic

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