Meet the four candidates running for the North Salem CSD Board of Education
This is the second of a three-part series that will share more about the North Salem Central School District Board of Ed candidates and their backgrounds, their platforms, and where they stand on key issues for parents and community members.
Four candidates–Carolyn Aversano, Matthew DeRose, Kurt Guldan and Christopher Jaeger–are running for two open seats on the North Salem Central School District Board of Education. Kurt Guldan is the current Board vice president. Current Board president Andrew Brown will step down at the end of his term.
WHO ARE THE CANDIDATES?
Carolyn Aversano and her husband are parents to three children. Their two sons are in college and their daughter is a sophomore at North Salem High School. Aversano previously served as a Board of Ed trustee from 2013 - 2015. During that time, she was co-chair of an advocacy committee and participated in a coordinated, state-wide effort to protest Common Core education reform. Aversano has also served as a trustee on the Putnam-Northern Westchester Board of Education and as vice president of the North Salem Foundation for Learning, a nonprofit that awards scholarships and funding for unique student/faculty projects which are outside the scope of the traditional budget. Aversano graduated from New York University with a degree in marketing.
Matthew DeRose is a Bronx native who moved to North Salem in 2012. He and his wife are parents to two children who attend PQ. DeRose is a lieutenant in the FDNY and a Little League baseball coach.
Kurt Guldan is a North Salem High School graduate, as is his son, who graduated in 2022. Guldan has served on the North Salem Board of Education for the past six years and is an active member of several town organizations. He is the president and captain of the North Salem Ambulance Corps, is the emergency management coordinator for the Town of North Salem, and is a member of the Croton Falls Fire Department. Guldan currently serves on the audit, safety, fields and facilities committees for the Board of Ed.
Christopher Jaeger is a Long Island native who moved with his wife and family to North Salem in 2018. Jaeger joined the military after graduating high school, then went on to earn a degree in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the City University of New York. Jaeger has served as an NYPD officer in Harlem for the past 10 years. He and his wife are parents to three young children, two of whom attend PQ.
WHY DO THEY WANT TO BE A BOARD OF ED TRUSTEE?
Aversano: Aversano believes that she has the experience, dedication and communication skills necessary to address the issues facing the district. “I am a big supporter of public education and as a Board of Ed member I will strive to ensure that all North Salem students receive the best education value for our tax dollars,” she said.
DeRose: DeRose said that he’s running “because I realize what parents want for their children. We want open communication, we want to be part of the decision making process, not be cast aside while the district move on decisions that will effect everyone in the community.”
DeRose says that he “will be the parents voice. Someone they will feel comfortable with speaking to.” He noted that he fought for the district’s second school resource officer, “something that our current board decided wasn’t needed in our district.” On March 17, school resource officer Jessica Greisinger became the second SRO to serve the district, joining officer Sean Armstrong.
Guldan: Guldan said that he’s seeking another three-year term because he enjoys helping the community and its children. “It’s rewarding to see what we do and how it helps everybody,” he said. Guldan also enjoys the challenge of securing grant money to fund necessary projects within the district, such as the grant he secured this school year to help cover the cost for new maintenance trucks. If re-elected, Guldan says “I’ll continue working on finding grant money for us.”
Jaeger: Jaeger said that as a parent of three kids under 7, he has a “long term, vested interest” in the school district. At the Candidate Forum, he said that over the past year he “saw that the Board of Ed makes a lot of decisions on important topics,” and as someone who likes to get involved in community affairs, he’d like to have an impact on those decisions. “I felt like many of us, as parents, were left in the dark when it came to the decision making process of certain board members on important topics concerning our children,” Jaeger said. “After the past year, I think our district’s Board of Ed would greatly benefit from the addition of new members bringing fresh perspectives and not continuing with the idea of ‘business as usual.’” Jaeger said community members should “all be working toward the same goal of making our district one of the best in the county when it comes to academics, mental health and moral, school safety, and athletics” and that “we need to actually start working together toward that goal.”
WHAT ARE THEIR PLATFORMS?
Aversano: With new Superintendent Dr. Duncan Wilson taking over on July 1, Aversano said she is primarily concerned with establishing a productive working relationship between the Board and Dr. Wilson, citing it as “the single most important issue next year.” Aversano said, “this is a time to clarify roles, process, priorities and goals set between the Board of Education and its Superintendent. The success and clarity of that will directly impact the outcome of all other priorities for many years to come.”
Aversano is also invested in pursuing a holistic approach toward student safety and wellbeing. “Every single school shooting is about an adolescent or young adult who begins to feel angry, isolated, unloved, or unwell. Yes, we need resources like SROs, security and technology - but until that specific problem gets addressed tragic events will continue,” she said.
DeRose: DeRose said that his number one goal is to “include parents on the district’s school safety committee,” and that he wants parents “involved in the planning and decision-making process.” There is already a parent representative on the school safety committee. In an email, Board of Ed president Andrew Brown said, “this is one of a number of things that Matt DeRose is absolutely wrong about. No committee excludes parents.” Brown added that the safety committee also includes North Salem School Resource Officer Sean Armstrong, who is a parent to five children, three of whom attend North Salem Schools, and Board of Ed trustee Brandy Keenan, who is a parent to four children, three of whom attend North Salem schools. “The entire committee knows what it is like to worry about their kid,” Brown said.
DeRose identified challenges he sees facing students, including “school violence and overall health and well being,” and believes that parent involvement and “keeping the students engaged in their education and focused on academic success" can help address those challenges.
Guldan: Guldan said he is determined to help bring Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) to North Salem. UPK provides free, state-funded preschool programs for four-year-olds. The New York State fiscal year 2024 budget adds $125 million to expand UPK statewide. Guldan has identified approximately $300 thousand dollars in state aid for North Salem that he says would be enough to begin the program beginning with the 2024-2025 school year. “This coming school year we’d form a committee to see how it would play out,” he said, noting that the number of available classrooms at PQ and the length of the day (full or half) would still need to be determined.
Jaeger: Jaeger identified three issues as key to his platform: transparent communication between the Board of Ed and parents, school safety and mental health. If elected, Jaeger says he’d like to seek parent input before voting on issues before the Board. “I don’t want people to find out after its already been voted on,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure transparency to the full extent is given.”
More from the Candidate Series
Later this week, the North Salem Post will look at where the candidates stand on issues impacting the school community.
Voting will take place Tuesday, May 16 at Pequenakonck Elementary School from 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.