Education is an endlessly changing subject and a constantly evolving landscape that touches suburban and urban life at its core. Many people moved into our three counties for the schools, and what goes on there and how tax money is spent is of amazing interest.
There now are four of us who are assigned to cover education for The Journal News and LoHud.com. You’ve probably seen our bylines on education stories old and new: Mareesa Nicosia, Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, Gary Stern and Randi Weiner.
Mareesa Nicosia joined The Journal News as a reporter in September 2011 and works out of the paper’s West Nyack office. She has dedicated much of her time to investigating and reporting on divisions in the East Ramapo school district. In 2012, she collaborated with Gary Stern, Randi Weiner and other journalists to produce a special investigative report on the district that won a 2013 Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism. This spring, she was a guest speaker on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show during one of several segments he dedicated to the conflict in East Ramapo. She also covers news in Spring Valley and Ramapo. You can reach her at 845-578-2414 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can follow her on Twitter @MareesaNicosia.
Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, born and raised in Mumbai, India, graduated with honors in economics from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and holds two master’s degrees, one in sociology from the University of Bombay and one in journalism from New York University. In addition to working as a municipal reporter in Westchester and New Jersey since 1999, she has experience grading papers as a fellow in St. Xavier’s sociology departmentYou can reach her at 914-696-8229 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Gary Stern covered education during the early 1990s (the days of “shared decision-making”) and returned to the beat three years ago. He is amazed each day by the complexity of educational jargon – especially the myriad uses of the word “reform.” Stern got his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Buffalo and a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri. He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who have taken their share of standardized tests. You can reach him at 914-694-3513 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I spent more than a decade covering education in Rockland before returning to the beat in Westchester last year, and wrote about No Child Left Behind, Universal Pre-K and 3-8 testing from their inception, bemusedly finding much that is similar in the current Common Core initiative. I have an impressive vocabulary of education acronyms and educationalese at my disposal, as well as experience watching my three children wend their various ways through public school and on into college. I received my bachelor’s degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University in Ohio back when kids used slide rules and manual typewriters and knew cursive. You can reach me at 914-694-5060 or by email at email@example.com
We all contribute to the Hall Monitor blog. Now we will be talking education through this extension, a weekly column slated to run online Mondays. We hope to expand on the education stories and concepts that we write about, explain why things happen, give a pat on the back to good programs and teachers and provide a forum for discussion on the many controversial subjects that seem to arise whenever people start talking about their community schools.
A lot of what happens in the local schools is part of the larger education picture: State and federal education changes drive a lot of what happens locally. If there’s something we’ve noticed over the years it’s that nothing is as simple as it seems nor as simple as it ought to be. If there were quick fixes, they would already have been made.
In the following weeks, we’ll bring you interesting tidbits about education policy and procedures, new ideas to engage kids and parents, odd facts and the details about what kids are being taught in our busy, electronic age. You’ll get a chance to hear from the people who know the ins and outs of education and meet the ones making the decisions.
We’ll also bring you information from other states and countries, since educating children is a huge story all over the world. We hear a lot about how American children compare with those in other countries and how New York students compare with their peers across the country. We plan to bring you the facts behind the flash and introduce some context into the mix.
Occasionally, we’ll ask for help from you, readers, scanners, educators and parents, for upcoming stories we have planned and for a better understanding of the issues you live every day. Education is local, and who better to help us cover it than you? Consider dropping any of us a line if you have a concern or someone (or something) you think we ought to look at, good or bad. It’s a new school year and we’re all in this together.