Incumbent Matthew Bonney and two new candidates — Alex Archer and Vikas Agrawal — are vying for a single seat on the five-member Ardsley Board of Education. Bonney, the current board president, is seeking a third term. The election, and the school budget vote, will be May 18. The term will run from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2024.
The League of Women Voters of the Rivertowns and the Ardsley PTA will host a virtual candidates forum on Wednesday, May 5, from 7-8 p.m. To view the forum live, register at www.lwv-rivertowns.org. The event will be recorded and posted on the school district website. Questions must be submitted in advance and will be vetted by a PTA and League committee who will submit them to the moderators.
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Vikas Agrawal, a neurologist affiliated with St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers, serves as a board member of Ardsley Little League and the Yonkers Health Advisory Committee. He’s also a Cub Scout leader and cricket team captain.
He feels that two skills he uses as a physician would serve the board well: assimilating a lot of data and creating relationships. However, he added, “My overarching philosophy concerns things very personal to me that that I’m campaigning for; Ardsley has not reached its full potential, and I think I can contribute to reaching its goal.”
He referred to the issue of racism: “Recently I was attending a rally of Asian-American students and I came to know that in an enlightened town like Ardsley, there are issues to be worked on in terms of educational equity and diversity. These issues are important: inclusiveness.”
Agrawal is also concerned with maintaining academic rigor. “We need to compete… winning in terms of improving our school ranking, see what our neighboring towns are doing to improve.” He includes special education in that improvement.
Capitalizing on his community involvement, as well as contact with political and local leaders, Agrawal said, he would use his connections to bring resources to the district, through nonprofit organizations, private organizations, and government grants.
Agrawal and his wife, Ruchi, also a physician, have lived in Ardsley for eight years and have sons in the fourth and sixth grades.
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Alex Archer and her husband moved to Ardsley nine years ago for its sense of community and the quality of its schools. Currently a healthcare professional with two children in the schools, Archer is a member of a school’s planning and performance leadership team as well as the Village of Ardsley’s Multicultural, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Committee, and 125th Anniversary Committee.
She is a co-founder of Ardsley RACE (Racial Advocacy Committee for Equity), an organization that partners with community stakeholders to facilitate events that foster communication and cooperation in addressing issues of racism. Those events include Coffee with a Cop, Black History Month celebrations, and virtual town halls, during which school district officials and members of two high school clubs, Building Bridges and Students of Color, participated.
Archer feels her work with the Multicultural, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee and Ardsley RACE “helped give our students a voice for their concerns.” She said that her family and others have felt disconnected from the district at times.
“My hope is to be an advocate for families and a liaison to the community who is able to communicate some of the inner workings and thoughts of the board which we all have voted to elect to represent us,” she explained.
To the board, Archer wants to bring her experience with students, school administrators, and teachers. She acknowledges the accomplishments of the board, and wants to be part of the process.
“It is important that we offer all students an equitable educational experience. We must offer a greater partnership with our families, community partners, and schools,” she stated. “And lastly, we have a fiscal responsibility to spend money on efficiency for all stakeholders in our district. I want to be a part of this growth and change that our parents have been voicing, but most importantly that our students have been voicing.”
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Matthew Bonney, a senior tax partner with Citrin Cooperman, serves on the board’s contract committee and its audit and finance committee. He is the also the board’s liaison to the PTA and to the Ardsley Panthers Booster Club. His wife, Stephanie, is the Ardsley High School PTA vice president.
The Bonneys have resided in Ardsley for 22 years. Their son, John, is a fifth-grader at the middle school, and daughter, Jennifer, is a high school junior.
“Being a trustee of a school district is not an easy job,” Bonney said. “You need to understand school curriculum, policies, budget and finance, and communicating… Once you learn them, which takes years of service, that is when you can begin to become totally effective.”
He sees areas where the board can help the school district work on inclusiveness, tolerance, social justice, and economics, stating, “The most important aspects of being a board member include the belief in free public education for all people no matter what race, color, creed, or affluence.”
Bonney thinks a necessary skill for a board member is the ability to accept others’ thoughts and beliefs, and to work with other board members “to get to the right place.”
He views the Ardsley School District as “a gem that is being polished; it gets dirty, we need to clean it.”