Anda Stipins-Gang, candidate for the Whitehall School Board.
Today, I post a candidate interview with Anda Stipins-Gang, candidate for the school board. She is one of seven candidates running for two seats on the Whitehall School Board. Voting is Tuesday, May 17th. I mailed candidate questionnaires to all those running in this year’s election and will post their responses in the order received. Below are my questions and Ms. Stipins-Gang’s responses.
Could you please tell us about yourself and why you are running for the school board?
I’ve been a full-time resident of Clemons since 1976, though I’ve been in love with this place since 1956; and worked at the WSWHE BOCES for about 30 years. During my years there, I taught adult ed., beginning and advanced welding, (ocy-acet, electric arc, MIG and TIG). I completed my Master’s at Castleton so that I could be a teacher of special needs students. During my first 13 years at WSWHE BOCES, I taught a vocational class in Building Maintenance, and then for an additional 13 years, I taught Special Education. In total, I’ve earned over 10 teaching certifications. Not many people have the advantage of that lens, and that experience is what I bring to this endeavor. WSWHE BOCES is a tremendous resource for all of us. With the new Superintendent coming on board at WCS, I feel it is a good time to join the effort. I’m a total package.
When you were growing up, who was someone you really admired? Why did you admire them?
I greatly admired my mother and father. WWII tore them from their home and land, Liepaja, Latvija. They started a new life in a new country without anyone sponsoring this transition. No matter how tough it got, we forged ahead. When not busy with chores, our noses were in books. My mother was a great reader, and encouraged us to develop our minds and abilities, and no matter how heavy your load, don’t give up. Knowing what they went through during the war and subsequent years, I knew she was right by proving it in her own life each and every day. Our combined libraries feel like the mythical great Library of Alexandria.
Name a leader on the state or national level that you think does a good job advocating to make things better for all of us? Why do you believe this?
I admired the work and message of the now deceased great photographer, Diane Arbus. She photographed individuals most of us don’t see, and her images revealed a greater truth than first visible in the picture. She taught me about acceptance and to open my mind and think of what it is like to walk in another person’s experience. Dorothea Lange is another favorite of mine. She chronicled the impact of poverty on people in the 30′s and during the dust-bowl era. Her images told great stories of survival under very trying conditions. Each of these women left an impact of such depth and enormity on me that they helped mold my thinking. Last, but certainly not least, I think of Eleanor Roosevelt. She fought for the right’s of individuals who suffered during her time.
From the 2004-2005 school year until the 2014-2015 school year, total enrollment has declined from 885 students to 736 students. However, the property tax levy increased every one of these years. How will you be an advocate for the taxpayers of the district?
This is a big issue for sure. Taxes are determined by the appraisal value of your property. Some of the residents of our town live in an area where their property’s are valued much higher than other parts of town. This truth is determined by the state of New York and Lake George. We live in an area that has real economic realities of lack of jobs and opportunities. However, there are other avenues to explore to help support funding school activities. BOCES is a first resource of choice. I would contact them to inquire about grant writing opportunities as they, too, use granting monies to fund projects. We are in a place of historical importance. Contacting Business and Industry is another source of potential funding. Considering our great history and fabulous location, companies dedicated to enjoying the outdoors could be approached to see how we could work together. To help with our costs to heat and power the school, it is a good time to consider solar and wind energy alternatives to supplement the existing structure.
The area that encompasses the Whitehall School district is experiencing serious economic challenges. How would you work on the school board to address these challenges? Do you believe there is a correlation between higher spending, rising property taxes and economic decline?
The tax base for the WCS comes mostly from property owners. Industry has abandoned this area, and as I hear stories about area towns struggling with toxic water sources resulting from industry waste, this might not be a bad thing. Non-funded education mandates from both the state and federal governments make this burden heavier to us, the tax-payers. Costs for everything, salaries, fuel, power, transportation, food and technology keep going up. Even with a smaller school population, the increase in costs impacts us continuously. Has anyone checked their food bills lately? Vagaries of weather impact the cost of our food, and there is nothing we can do about that. Keeping up with technology is also fabulously expensive. I would like to encourage people who have such connections in related businesses and industry within our district, to work to explore this option. History has shown us time and again that when the going gets tough, we have to reach more deeply into our pockets. During my years in the classroom, I can’t tell you how much money I spent, from my own wallet, to fund classroom activities, and I know many other teachers who do the same. Just ask my husband George Gang ((-;
What is your favorite book? Why do you like it?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte has always been a favorite. Overcoming obstacles to the human experience, regardless of one’s status in society, is, for me, the core lesson of this story. Finding love and acceptance is what we all hope for in life. Just as my own parents and siblings had to overcome the trials of trying to escape war and establish themselves in a new life, the characters in Jane Eyre also struggle to find love and acceptance and at great cost to themselves. If I had to name another, it would be The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Again, the battle between the fish and the old man, and resulting outcome, provides us all with insight in what it takes to fight the good fight. We all have to fight the good fight after all.
Editors Note: I would like to thank Ms. Stipins-Gang for her answers to my questions. I will post the other candidate’s responses in the order I receive them.