by Rick Pezzullo
In May, residents in the Irvington School District voted to expand the Board of Education from five to seven members. A special election was set for July 11 and four individuals have stepped forward to vie for the two additional seats: John Dawson, Brian Friedman, Maura Gedid and Della Lenz. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Main Street School.
Dawson, a teacher for over 30 years, has served as an Irvington school trustee in the past. During his tenure, he said the Upper Dows Lane field was renovated and brought up to regulations for varsity competition for several sports, the process for the work at the Middle/High School Campus was begun, and all union contracts were negotiated and ratified.
“Our district has many positives for which to be thankful and celebrate. However, there are problems as well,” he said. “There is labor tension. Teachers, administrators, and CSEA workers have been negotiating without success. District morale is low. Additionally, district policies and procedures need to be reviewed and updated due to recent local and worldwide events. Finally, we must find a way to maximize teacher-student contact time. Frequent teacher pull-outs must be reduced to insure student success.” Dawson’s wife is a longtime teacher at Irvington High School.
Friedman is a 1992 graduate of Irvington High School. He graduated from Duke University and NYU School of Law and is currently a senior counsel at Proskauer Rose in the litigation department. In the district, he has been involved in the PTSA, serving as the co-chair of two fundraisers.
“I decided to run because I believe in public education and community service,” he said. “In addition to being a teacher, my mom was very involved in the PTSA while I was in school and my mother-in-law served on a school board in New Jersey and that culture of involvement rubbed off on me.”
“Above all, the most pressing issue facing the school district is maintaining and continuing to enhance the quality of our students’ education, especially given the tax cap and other significant fiscal constraints,” he stated. “I believe that all Board members must continue to look critically at the budget and seek to allocate our resources in the most effective way.”
Gedid, a former financial marketer, has lived in Irvington for six years and has two children in district schools, Luke in first grade, and Allie in third.
She helped the district start the Walking School Bus program in the spring 2016 and has coordinated more than 150 parent volunteer walkers over the three semesters it has been in place at Main Street and Dows Lane schools.
Gedid has also been a member of the PTSA’s Legislative Strategic Advisory Committee since 2015 which helps the PTSA to keep tabs on state and federal educational policy and education budget decisions.
“I have taken on projects that contribute to the schools because this is the most important reason why my family came to Irvington,” she said. “We have invested in this community because we believe that this school district, despite the challenges that being small can create, is a good one. We all want to find sustainable excellence in the schools since it benefits us whether or not we have kids in the schools.”
Over the past two decades, Lenz said she has been a strong advocate for Irvington and its residents, working with many civic and community organizations, including the PTSA, IEF, School Board Budget Task Force, JCC, FACE, Rivertown Heroes, West Help Homeless Shelter, Abbot House, Andrus Children’s Center, St. Barnabas Outreach Programs, Presbyterian Church Outreach Programs, Cinderella’s Closet, and Irvington Lacrosse.
She and her husband, Brian, have lived in Irvington for over 20 years, and their three children have attended Irvington schools since kindergarten. Lens has a B.A. degree in Psychology and worked with special needs children and adults early in her career before transitioning to Solomon Brothers where she worked in Information Systems.
“Over the past 13 years, I have been very involved in the Irvington school district and its board matters. I have gained significant insight into effective Board membership,” she said. “To me, it is a balance of supporting our schools while overseeing school management to ensure the proper use of our assets, that laws and regulations are followed, and that the public’s best interest is being served. Our district’s long-term success is dependent on understanding and meeting the educational and fiscal expectations of all stakeholders. I would be a proactive member of the Irvington School Board, advocating for all children and stakeholders in our community.”