Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Two candidates seek two seats in Peekskill school district election

Annual Budget Vote and elections on May 21

Peekskill residents will go to the polls on Tuesday, May 21 to vote on the school district’s budget and elect two trustees to the Board of Education. There are two candidates running for the two positions. 

Trustee Alan Jenkins is seeking a third three-year term, and Trustee Pamela Hallman- Johnson is stepping aside to ‘hand the baton’ to someone else after fulfilling her two terms. Running for the seat vacated by Johnson is Christina Sparling Washington, a Peekskill High School graduate (class of 1995) and mom of three children in grades 3, 6, and 8. 

Johnson supported special education and inclusion policies on school board

Outgoing Trustee Pamela Hallman- Johnson

Johnson told the Herald she is not running for re-election because she feels the mission she set out to accomplish when she ran in 2018 has been fulfilled. What motivated her to run is her daughter Chelsea who was a student in high school at the time, and needed special education services. Herself a special education teacher in the New Rochelle school district, Johnson said she had a unique perspective as the parent of, and teacher to, a special education student. “Your greatest voice is when you run for election and get the buy-in of other trustees to change programs.” She applauded the efforts of Director of Special Services Ellen Gerace and referenced the increased number of special education classes along with the “Best Buddies and Special Olympics” efforts. 

The second area that motivated her to run for office was the district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy and her belief that the staff of the district needed to reflect the student population. “Since I’ve been on the board we’ve set policies and procedures around diversity, equity and inclusion. She pointed to the hiring of Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Jamal Lewis (former Middle School principal) as a continuation to the fidelity of integrating those qualities into the district.  “From looking at our trajectory you will see that the assignments have been accomplished,” said Johnson. 

She referenced other areas that she is concentrating on, including receiving a master’s of divinity degree in Bibical Study from Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity. She’s expected to graduate in May 2026. In addition, she is the founder and owner of Lily of the Valley Floral Design which is primarily an online business but also has a brick and mortar presence on South Street. 

Candidate Washington wants more communication and data from the district

Christina Washington is running for one of two vacancies on the school board.

Candidate Christina Washington is currently employed by the district in the grants, data and accountability department as well as the technology department. If elected to the school board, she will relinquish her position with the district. 

In written response to the Herald questions, Washington cites the following areas as motivating her to run for a seat on the Board of Education: 

“I feel there needs to be better communication between the district and the community. As a parent, we receive a weekly Superintendent’s letter that gives us information about upcoming events to note, and some highlights of past events. The #PeekskillPride slides at the Board of Education meetings also give us a glimpse of events that happened throughout the district in the past couple weeks. But I would love more real-time updates. There is so much to be proud of and I feel that the community would love to be more informed and involved.  

Although my children attend two of the six  schools, I have no idea what is going on in them unless my children are involved in it. I follow the district on Facebook and one account on Instagram. But I feel that the main Facebook account only informs the community of main events. The Instagram account is strictly high school sports. The staff post happenings on their X feed. But I feel that is geared towards more of their professional network than the community. We have so many other great things going on in the district that I would love to share with the community.

The Peekskill Promise mentions Enrichment for All. I believe that if our children get the opportunity to visit someplace and get out of the classroom, it opens up the world for them. Many years ago, the middle school would take the 7th graders to Washington DC and Williamsburg, VA. I don’t know when that stopped, but it was an opportunity that many students at that time would never have had the chance to go and see. Even in the surrounding area, we have so many opportunities that I don’t think that we take advantage of — the Peekskill Museum, The Lincoln Depot, Van Cortlandt Manor, Home of FDR, etc.

I don’t think that we get full transparency on everything. If you visit the NYSED [New York State Education Department] site for Peekskill, we are listed as a Target District and it says that we have not made progress. The latest data is from the 2022-23 school year. Our ELA and Math proficiency standards are at low levels. What are we doing for these children to make them perform at a proficient standard? Are these programs working? What percentage of the population is it working for and not? The beginning of the year, middle of the year and end of year we do see some positive results. But how are we helping those that are not making any progress?

One of the issues that I see confronting the district is the population growth of Peekskill. I don’t think we are as prepared as they think we are in terms of classroom space, size and employment of new teachers. One of my daughters is currently a 6th grader. I know that the Middle School had issues in the beginning of the year with the 6th grade class. This is one of the biggest classes. There were not enough lockers for everyone. There was not enough class space, so they had to change it from an 8 period day to a 9 period day.  

Another issue that I see confronting the district is turnover. I feel confident that we may finally be over our high turnover rate for school principals. My son is currently in third grade. Every year that he has attended Peekskill Schools, he has had a new principal. We now have veteran principals in place, who I believe will continue to stay with the district and bring positive leadership to their respective buildings. All of the schools have new assistant principals. We already have one that turned in his resignation after one year.  Hopefully the pattern doesn’t continue on this level.

I am working in the district now and see what I think are improvements that can be made. I am committed to the community and the students. I have a passion for learning, as I am always taking classes to learn something new. I have over 25 years of marketing experience working in corporate America. I started at Barnes & Noble and managed over 500 music and DVD departments. At Panasonic, I was the marketing manager  for North America in the display (television) division. And more recently, I oversaw the marketing program for the largest network of fertility clinics in North America.”

A Peekskill native, Washington is the daughter of Roger and Kim Sparling. Washington remembers her family hosting foreign exchange students with the Rotary Club and Peekskill High School’s Exchange Club. “Every summer, we had a student, sometimes even two, stay with us and give them a taste of the ‘American’ experience. My mother came to the US as an exchange student and always wanted to open her home to give another student the same opportunity as she had. One even stayed with us for a year and attended Peekskill High School. We are still in contact with him.”

Married to another PHS graduate, Tygee, Washington is a small business owner. “I named my company Peekywood — for my love of Peekskill and my community.”

Incumbent Jenkins wants to keep graduation rates up and bring back enrichment programs

Incumbent Alan Jenkins is running for a third term.

Incumbent Alan Jenkins said he wants to continue serving on the board because of the work that he feels is not completed around legislative issues regarding student graduation rates. 

He referenced the New York State mandate that says when a child enters a school district from somewhere else, they are placed in the age appropriate grade. However, if children arrive from other countries without speaking much English, then they may struggle to keep up at grade level. (According to recent state data, 30 percent of Peekskill students are English language learners). Jenkins is concerned that this trend may impact the district’s high school graduation rate.

Jenkins wants to support students through enrichment programs. Jenkins, who is the director of academic services for the athletics department at Monroe College, pointed to the enrichment program called STEPS that he participated in when he was in Peekskill High School. He graduated in 1994 and said that without that program he doesn’t know if he would’ve taken the career route that he did. STEPS was an enrichment program that met on Saturdays and students took trips to area businesses and learned about careers from the people working in them. 

As a board member, he has a unique perspective on Peekskill’s education system from the lens of being in higher education. He sees the need for students to be prepared from an early stage about what is expected of them in college and in the workforce. “I see a direct correlation from happens when students come to us (at the college) and what they understand about what is required of them. They need to know what is required of them regarding turning work in when expected, about being on time and the sooner we can give kids this information, so it’s not the first time they are hearing it when they come to college, the better they’ll be.”  

The district budget of $123 million shows an average monthly increase of $5.76 for property owners or $69.08 annually and is the first proposition on the ballot.

The educational plan of the proposed budget includes the following at the Elementary Level : The Elementary Enrichment program provides project-based learning experiences for all students in research, science, technology and the arts embedded in content area instruction. The STEAM enrichment program is offered in grades Pre-K thru 5 as an additional weekly course offerings. The What I Need “WIN” period provides students grades Pre-K-5 with daily accelerated, as well as intervention instruction, specific to individual student needs. During the WIN period, literacy support is provided through a differentiated and tiered approach. In addition, accelerated students receive a daily opportunity to work in collaborative groups at a rigorous pace, with lessons focused around project based learning. All STEAM and enrichment opportunities align with the Peekskill Promise by providing differentiated learning opportunities at all levels.

Literacy, Special Education and Math Coaches have been added to the elementary team to support instruction and the use of best practices. Coaches will support teachers with growing their expertise in explicit direct and specially designed instruction. The coaches will support higher level vocabulary, language acquisition, problem solving, project based learning and differentiated learning opportunities for all students.

The Dual Language program is offered Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 5. This budget will continue to support the implementation of a Kindergarten to Grade 5 Dual Language literacy program. Our commitment to bilingualism, biliteracy, and the goal of the NYS Seal of Biliteracy for our graduates begins with our youngest learners. English as a New Language (ENL) staff in our elementary schools will continue to support English Language Learners in Grades K-5. These positions were previously funded through the ARP grant. The Elementary Strings program introduces violins, bass, and cellos, beginning at Grade 3. The Strings program will extend to Grade 12 this school year.

At the secondary level, Peekskill Middle School and Peekskill High School provide an enriched educational experience for every student through advanced academic programs, career readiness initiatives, and a commitment to fostering cultural competence. In the 2024-25 school year, our secondary schools aim to empower students with the knowledge and skills vital for success in college and beyond by: expanding opportunities for Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses at PHS nurturing career pathway programs at PHS that align with local workforce needs infusing PKMS and PHS curriculum with culturally responsive perspectives Starting in 2024-25, we will introduce our new Rethink Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, which empowers students with essential social-emotional skills. Grounded in research-based practices, Rethink fosters self-awareness, relationship-building, and responsible decision-making.

The second proposition is for the establishment of a $15 million 2024 Capital Reserve for district wide capital improvement including HVAC system and mechanical replacements, upgrades, reconstruction and renovations, including replacement of the HVAC equipment and dehumidifier at the Middle School pool; reconstruction and renovation to District athletic fields, including field and track resurfacing at the High School; sitework and drainage; roof resurfacing, renovations and replacements; removal and replacement of fuel storage tanks; installation of backflow preventers; plumbing upgrades; upgrades to auditorium lighting and sound systems; renovations and upgrades to bathroom facilities; and, hazardous material abatement, including lead and asbestos abatement all of the foregoing to include all labor, materials, equipment, apparatus and incidental cost related to the above projects. 

Voting takes place at Peekskill High School from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21. 

About the Contributor
Regina Clarkin
Regina Clarkin, Editor and Publisher
When the Peekskill Herald weekly newspaper ceased publishing in August 2000 it was the first time in the history of the city that there wasn’t a local newspaper.  The award-winning weekly was often referred to as the ‘glue’ of the community. Founded on January 9, 1986 by Regina Clarkin, Kathy Daley and Rich Zahradnik with a $7,000 credit card line, the paper filled the void created when the daily Evening Star was sold to Gannett and moved out of town. Founding publisher Regina Clarkin continued to live in the Peekskill Cortlandt area and turned her attention to other life endeavors.  Through the ensuing 19 years, Clarkin was frequently stopped in town and asked when she would start up the Herald again. In January 2019, Clarkin decided it was less labor intensive to deliver a weekly blog than a print newspaper so she began posting one story a week about life in Peekskill. After a successful crowd funding campaign in 2020, the Herald was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in July of 2021. Peekskill Herald is a digital relative of the former print edition, featuring many of the favorite aspects of the beloved Peekskill Herald such as old pictures, personality profiles and well written stories about newsworthy events. Regina Clarkin is the editor and publisher of the site. Photo by Joe Squillante