By Albert Amateau
It was more than a month after his Democratic primary victory as a candidate for the state Senate, but Daniel Squadron last week sounded like he was in the middle of a campaign.
He fielded questions from East Village constituents who wanted to know what Squadron would do about homeless people, about homeless animals and whether he could make rents go down so parents could buy more things for their kids.
Right off, the potential voters asked Squadron why he was running for the state Senate and whether he had a wife. One of them wanted to know if he was rich.
What about pollution, the war in Iraq?
The constituents were in the first to fifth grades at P.S. 19, and Squadron was “principal for a day” on Friday morning Oct. 24 as the guest of Ivan Kushner, the principal for every day at the elementary school on First Ave.
The annual citywide event is sponsored by PENCIL, a nonprofit organization that links public schools with partners in business and public institutions.
P.S. 19, between E. 11th and 12th Sts., is one of the city’s empowerment schools, where principals consult with a team of parents and teachers to determine how school budgets are spent and to make other school decisions.
Squadron, an aide to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer before he became a candidate for the state Senate, was on the mayor’s team that created empowerment schools in 2006; so his visit last week to P.S. 19 was not the first to Kushner’s school.
“We’re teaching kids to be conversant with the electoral process — we’re interested in real thinking,” said Kushner, P.S. 19 principal for 18 years and a public school teacher for 20 years before that.
Squadron responded to the really difficult questions by saying that one person couldn’t do it all. He made the kids promise to be sure to vote when they reached the age of 18. But he did say he was running because he wanted to help make changes.
“Everyone has a little bit of power,” he explained.
No, he didn’t have a wife, but he had a girlfriend and asked her to marry him two weeks ago: “She said yes.”
Cheers from the kids. He didn’t know McCain and Obama personally but as an aide to Senator Schumer, he did shake Obama’s hand — more cheers.
“They were concerned about things we’re all concerned about,” Squadron remarked about the kids to a fellow visitor to the school, “affordable housing, the homeless, the environment.”
There were some very local concerns. One 7-year-old girl said she went to church at Mary Help of Christians — located a block from P.S. 19 and scheduled for closing — and wanted Squadron’s help to keep it open.
Squadron began his day at P.S. 19 at 8 a.m. when he read the day’s announcements, usually read by Kushner, over the public address system. By 11:30 a.m. he was leading a question-and-answer session at an assembly of three fifth-grade classes. There were more questions — about crime and gangs and why lots of people losing their jobs.
It was a lot for the Squadron to think about as Election Day approached and a seat on the state Senate loomed in the coming years.