Meet 2021 Board Candidate Ruth Arena

How will you, as a Board member, impact the J-D schools and community?

I am a parent of three J-D students, a dancer, and a professor.  My work in the arts and as an educator have instilled critical thinking and a collaborative work ethic.  I value listening, reflecting, and responding with creative problem solving.  I recognize the importance of diverse perspectives and ensuring that all voices are heard.  I want every child in J-D to feel loved and respected.

If elected, what would be the main goal of your agenda during your time as a Board member?

I hope to continue the work of building equity and the professional development to support it.  Ensuring that our curriculum, standards, and practices set high expectations and culturally responsive rigorous instruction for our most vulnerable students means that learners at all levels will be supported and challenged. 

Many areas in the school receive less attention than other areas, both financially and publicly. Do you believe they should all be covered equally? If so, how would you make sure all areas are covered equally?

Not all students excel in athletics or the arts, and all students deserve opportunities for excellence.  One reason I am compelled to serve is to amplify the voices of those who have been underrepresented.  The current Board has instituted Red Ram Recognition at Board meetings and this is a great step toward increased visibility and support for many parts of the school community.

Moving forward, how would you plan to make changes to our materials, classrooms, and other areas of the school?

I would like our teaching materials to support the curriculum, which is being reviewed as part of the Strategic Plan.  Teachers need materials that support culturally responsive teaching to ensure our students are getting the best possible education.  I hope to be involved in assessing our facilities to ensure we have maximum safety, energy efficiency, and conscientious use of resources.

What do you believe is the most pressing issue facing the J-D district?

The mental health of our students, and of their support systems, is critical.  We must continue the work toward integrating social and emotional learning into all parts of the school day and ensuring that every child feels safe and supported in a welcoming and affirming environment.

Many community members likely want to hear your stance on pertinent issues right now. What is your stance on the SRO position? What about the budget shortfall and COVID-19 restrictions being lessened?

My focus is on keeping our whole community safe.  We should be promoting a safe climate through strong mental health supports and integrated social and emotional learning; preventing violence with methods such as risk assessment, door monitoring, interior locks, and safety drills; and planning for intervention through thoughtful and structured engagement with community resources including police.  My understanding from the budget presentation is that the shortfall is not of concern to the Board as it falls within the expected range and the amount can be considered rolling capital since it gets replenished in the following year from reimbursements, mainly BOCES.  I am happy to hear that the state aid to J-D is greater than expected and so we can fully fund goals of our Strategic Plan including the continuing work with the Metro Center, the purchase of an ELA curriculum for grades K-6, appropriate technology for more students, and increased instructional and maintenance staff.  As a parent who has had serious health concerns this winter and spring, I am grateful that the district recognizes there are many students who still need to choose remote learning for a variety of reasons.  The plan continues to support remote learners while making it possible for many to return to in-person instruction safely.  The pandemic has presented incredible challenges for teachers and I commend them for the grace with which they have handled it.

What do you think of the position of student Board representative?

I love it!  This is a great way for students to have a voice and our student Board representatives bring vital perspective to the conversation.  Participatory citizenship is a goal of a strong education, and having a student Board rep. puts that into action.

Do you believe administrators should have the final say over material published in the school newspaper, rather than students making the executive decisions?

Our journalism program should have excellent instruction and a clear structure that guides students to build their capacity for making smart executive decisions. 

What are you going to do to make sure students’ voices are heard?

I am going to encourage those of you eligible to vote in this election for one thing!  One of my favorite parts of teaching is hearing student perspectives and experiences and I am always impressed with students who speak at Board meetings.  I recognize the inherent power imbalance in the school environment and encourage all students to reach out to their Board representatives — students and adults — to amplify their voices.  Your input is valuable. 

Whose opinions (students, parents, or school officials) should carry the most weight in establishing school policies? Please rank them in order of value.

I’ve really contemplated this question.  I truly believe that education matters to the entire community.  It can and should be preparation for citizenship, and we need the voices of students, parents, and educators to set good policies.  Each brings unique and necessary expertise and balancing them is critical.  In some matters students have the most vital knowledge and experience; sometimes the knowledge and expertise of an educator is most needed; and parents bring a perspective from beyond the school structure.

All Board member articles 2021:

Carolyn Souser:

Jalal Zoghby:

Ruth Arena:

H. Bernard Alex:

Kelly Austin:

Emily Costello:

Lisa McKenney:

Isaiah Steinberg, '23
Isaiah Steinberg is a senior at J-DHS. He is the Standards Editor and News Editor for the RamPage. In his free time, he enjoys hanging out with friends, playing with his half-brother, or sleeping.