Paula D’Orazio recently stepped down from the North Colonie Board of Education after serving 20 years. She and her husband, Tom, live in Loudonville where they raised four graduates of Shaker High School. Their granddaughter is the third generation to attend North Colonie schools.
Q: How has education changed in the past 20 years?
A: The most obvious change in education has been the use of technology which for better or worse was an integral necessity during the COVID lockdown. The introduction of the Common Core stands out as a major shift in mandated curriculum standards. Most recently, there has been an increased emphasis on project based and hands on learning which is providing students with many exciting and rich experiences. North Colonie has become a more culturally and economically diverse community and there has been an increased number of English Language Learners. Since the pandemic, student mental health issues have become more prevalent and districts are thoughtfully and purposely expanding their counseling programs to help students in need.
Q: Being on the Board of Education can be a thankless job — responsible for spending what is the largest chunk of a resident’s annual tax bill, overseeing the education of those same taxpayer’s children and all without any pay — what motivated you to do it for so long?
A: It was never my intention to serve 20 years. There was always something happening that I felt that I wanted to be involved in and see through to the end. This past bond project was a full circle moment for me. I began as a volunteer on the 2000 Ad Hoc Long Range Planning Committee which resulted in a major bond project. I really just enjoyed the work and learning about all aspects of the district from curriculum to food service, budget, building projects and even school bus body rot!
Q: What are you most proud of in your time on the Board of Education?
A: There are so many things that come to mind. I have been in awe of the development of the talents of the student artists, musicians and athletes and the academic achievements of students across all subjects areas. The Special Education Department is second to none and works diligently to educate the special needs students within their home district whenever possible. The faculty and staff is fully dedicated to the district mission and last but not least, a Board of Education and administrative team who work cooperatively and collaboratively to ensure these successes. I am proud to have been a part of a district that consistently provides a high quality education and is one that is always examining ways to do better and be better.
Q: What do you think of the movement some are calling a lack of “parental rights” in what is taught in public schools?
A: Parents certainly have the right to discuss with their child’s teacher and ask questions about what is being taught. However, allowing parents to dictate or veto subject matter is a slippery slope. What one parent may find offensive or objectionable may be acceptable to another. Who decides? Where is the line drawn? In order to serve the best interest of all students, an open non-judgmental discussion between educators and parents could lead to an acceptable resolution to all parties.
Q: What will you miss most after serving 20 years on the BOE? The least? And why?
A: I will miss the people the most especially my fellow board members and administrators who are an incredible group of dedicated and thoughtful individuals. I will also miss being involved in the field of education and a community that I have been a part of since 1990. I will not miss the worry that comes with student, employee and legal issues and their possible impact. I will not miss trying to find more storage for the reams and reams of Board of Education materials.
If you would like to see someone featured in Five Questions contact Jim Franco at [email protected] or 518-878-1000