Three candidates will be on the ballot for the two open Irvington School Board seats on May 17, as first-time candidate Andrea Flynn faces off with six-year incumbent David Graeber and Erin Bernstein, who is completing her first term.
“I think we have big initiatives to move forward, especially related to social-emotional learning and diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Bernstein said. “With Covid, there was sort of a pause, so we want to continue the work that we’re doing. One term’s not enough to get your stride. You get your sea legs in your first term.”
Bernstein believes the isolation that students had to cope with during the pandemic affected their social-emotional health. “I think that’s a big focus,” she said. “Without a strong, healthy foundation it makes it hard for kids to continue that academic progress.”
Bernstein and her husband, Eric, have lived in Irvington for 12 years, and are the parents of a sixth-grader in the district. Bernstein has worked in the field of educational finance for more than 25 years. She is director of finance and chief financial officer at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, an independent school in Riverdale.
“It’s rare that one’s professional and volunteer roles align so closely,” she said. “I live it: I understand what it’s like to work for a board, and the value a board can bring. But at the end, the district is responsible for running the district, and the board is in a governance role.”
Bernstein wants to participate in developing a new strategic plan and to continue to scrutinize the fiscal sustainability of the district’s activities.
Regarding the makeup of a team such as the board, she said, “It’s important to have balance. And when you think about what the board does, a big part of it is managing risk, whether it’s financial risk or compliance risk. Some people say, ‘Finance isn’t important, we’re doing OK.’ But you have to pay extra-close attention at that time, so things don’t get out of control.”
Flynn and her husband, Evan Pressman, moved to Irvington seven years ago from Brooklyn. Their children are in grades K, 3, and 5.
Flynn is senior director at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, a progressive think tank where she researches racial policies’ impact on women of color. Her 2017 book, “The Hidden Rules of Race,” examines the history of racism and its continuing repercussions. She has also been published in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Ms. Magazine, The New Republic, and Time.
Flynn earned her B.A. in journalism and women’s studies from Syracuse University. She is an adjunct at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, from which she earned dual master’s degrees in public administration and public health. She teaches courses on public policy, reproductive health and rights, and economic inequality.
Flynn has also served as co-chair of the Irvington PTSA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
She told the Enterprise that her background studying identity-related policy issues “brings a perspective on things that are very important right now. I’m also excited to bring my background in advocacy and community engagement.”
Flynn said that her interactions with parents and students in the district convinced her that Irvington’s DEI work should embrace not just people of color, but also “LGBTQ kids, kids with disabilities who are struggling, low-income kids who have difficulty making connections with other kids. I think this is about a broad range of opportunities and meeting the needs of a lot of kids in my community.”
She also believes that her background in communications can be used to strengthen ties among the board, administration, and community. “I’m really eager to communicate the work the board is doing to families in the district… to communicate more effectively with families so they feel heard.”
Graeber and his wife, Courtney, have lived in Irvington for more than a decade. Their children, both in Irvington schools, are now in grades 6 and 10. Graeber was elected to the school board six years ago and has served as first vice president since 2020.
Regarding his bid for a third term, Graeber said, “There’s more work to do — the work of building a continually improving and strong school district.” He also pointed out that coming out of the pandemic, stability and strong leadership would be important.
“I’ve enjoyed the successes we’ve had,” he said. Now, he looks forward to more progress. “We have to renew the strategic plan, which is something I ushered in five years ago. We’re in the beginning of some powerful social-emotional learning and diversity and inclusion work, and fulfilling the promise of restoring early instruction in world languages.”
Graeber points to his professional experience in educational and school administration, as well as his experience working on a seven-member board, as qualifications for his own re-election. He has worked for more than two decades for the New York City Board of Education. He began his career teaching eighth-grade English in Brooklyn, and has subsequently held management roles in the city’s public school system. He has served as an instructional specialist for K-12 schools, an achievement and instruction administrator, a building principal, and as the senior director for school achievement in the school system’s School Renewal program. He currently works in the Division of School Leadership, where he is director of state and federal programs for several Bronx school districts, and for the New Visions High School District, which serves the entire city.
“I’m thrilled we have people willing to run for the board, that more people want to get involved in the community,” he said. “It’s always great when folks want to lend themselves to this work of supporting children.”