Though uncontested, the election for the Irvington School Board will result in a new addition on Tuesday, May 18. Incumbent trustee Beth Propper, a member of the board since 2018, is running for a second term and Susan Brunenavs is running for her first term. Brunenays will replace Michael Hanna, who is leaving the board after two terms.

Propper, 59, has lived in Irvington for 18 years. She and her husband have two children, a daughter in ninth grade at Irvington High School and a son who graduated in 2015. She holds a J.D. and MPA (master’s in public administration) and freelances in the area of restorative justice.

“I’m very excited to serve again and I’m really looking forward to having more time to do more work on behalf of our district,” she said on May 11.

Propper is the daughter of two New York City public school teachers who were involved in the PTA at the schools she attended in the Bronx. She remembers her mother saying, “The success of children is affected by how much they see their parents care about the school.”

Her voluntarism in the Irvington School District began with the PTSA Nutrition Committee and then with the PTSA’s involvement with the opt-out movement in testing. As the PTSA’s vice president for advocacy, she kept the association’s members up to date on statewide issues that affected education.

During her first term on the board, the district grappled with an attempt to redesign the school-day schedule, an effort that had to be shelved because of the pandemic. The district also moved ahead and with a buildings and grounds upgrades. She noted the progress with the latter project, with the student pavilion building rising at the high school/middle school. 

“That design actually integrates outdoor learning space,” she said, adding that as school districts emerge from the pandemic, “outdoor learning can really become an important part of what all schools do.” 

Propper said she was pleased with the district’s performance during the pandemic, showing its ability “to pivot to provide quality instruction and support, even under tremendous stress.”

“We’re going to continue to provide best practices for our students, our families, and our staff,” she stated. “We’ll continue to look for opportunities to improve. Public education is really one of the most important resources in our state and our country, and I’m really proud to be associated with the board of education in Irvington.”

Brunenavs, 43, has been a resident of Irvington for 11 years. A former banker and communications coordinator, she now works as a freelance writer. She and her husband, Mark, who works in the energy field, have two sons, one in second grade and the other in fifth.

Brunenavs has served on the PTSA Executive Committee for the last five years, two of them as co-president. She served on several district committees, including the interview committee for the recent assistant superintendent of instruction hire. Currently, she serves on the Main Street School Site Committee. She has also been a volunteer for the Village of Irvington’s “Holiday Happening.” 

A parishioner at the Church of St. Barnabas in Irvington, she has been a Sunday School teacher, helped run the church’s clothing sale, and served on the Clothing Sale Grant Committee. She worked for the church for three years as its communications coordinator. Most recently, she volunteered at a Covid vaccination center.

“Our family is deeply involved in the Irvington community and connected to many families,” she said. “I understand their needs, and I understand their frustrations, and I’m excited to help the district continue the pursuit of excellence for all students.”

Brunenavs said her work with the PTSA provided insight into how the district functions. “I’m keenly aware of issues that parents across K-12 experience,” she said. “I’ve advocated for our schools at the local and state level. I’m a lifelong learner, like I want my children to be. And I’d like a seat at the table to continue that advocacy, to continue to learn about ways to improve our district and to improve community engagement.”

Brunenavs said the district improved communications with the school community. “I’d like to see that get even better,” she said. “Getting involved with the community has been a great experience for me. I’ve learned that it’s great to look beyond your own family’s needs, not just my friends needs, or the kids of the neighbors, but the needs of all kids.” 

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