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Lackawanna school board candidates

Five candidates are seeking three seats on the Lackawanna School Board. The News invited candidates in contested races to tell voters why they should vote for them.

Maureen Gambino

I was one of eight children that was born and raised in Lackawanna. My parents are still
living in the house I grew up in which is in the 1rst ward of the city. My husband and I live
and work in the city. I am seeking re-election to the Lackawanna School Board of Trustees
because I care about what happens in the schools and for the future of the children. My family
has a long line of educators in it. My daughter, son-in-law, sister-in-law, two nephews and a
niece are teachers.  I take education very seriously.

I have served on the current board since being elected last May and prior to that was
appointed by the board in November of 2010 to fill a vacancy.  We have an excellent working
relationship with the superintendent as well as with the mayor.  We have had to make major
adjustments due to budget concerns and have implemented many changes and have many more to
follow through with.

Popularity isn't something that comes with the position but that's never been one of my
concern. Sometime you have to make tough decisions and not everyone is going to like it but
you have stand by what you believe.  That's not something I take lightly.  If I give you my
word, you can count on it.  I will continue to work diligently with the other members of the
board upon re-election on Tuesday, May 15th.

 Leonard Kowalski

I am motivated to run for Lackawanna School Board Trustee because all three of my boys
attend Lackawanna Public Schools.  I also have four nieces enrolled in the school district, so
my family has a lot invested in this education system.  In addition, I also believe that the
parents in this community need someone on the board to fight for their children.

As an individual I think I have a lot to offer the district.  I graduated from Lackawanna
High School and went on to get my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Civil Engineering from the
University at Buffalo. I think my education, technical experience and motivation make me a
good candidate for school board trustee.

Below are a few things that I would like to accomplish if I am fortunate enough to be

I think the biggest problem facing the school district right now it that it has an image
problem. People who were born and raised here don't think that the district is good enough for
their children, and that is a major problem.  If we can't retain our own citizens, it just
isn't good for the city as a whole.  So my first focus would be to try and improve the image
of the school district within the community.

We also need to focus on improving parent involvement.  Everyone knows that education
starts at home and parents are a critical partner in the learning process. We also need to
make sure that tax dollars are being wisely spent and that we are keeping the tax payer in
mind when developing the budget.  Throwing more money at problem is never the answer.

I also believe that there should be more polling districts throughout the City.  Limiting
each Ward to a single polling site is a deliberate way to try and control the vote, especially
in the 1st Ward.  A single polling site located in Bethlehem Park disenfranchises the African
American, Arab American, elderly, and those who lack transportation throughout the remainder
of the 1st Ward.  It is political tactics like this that no longer can be tolerated.

And finally, I am going to focus on education and not employment.  My goal is to work on
trying to remove political influence from district hiring and to stabilize the current
learning environment.  We need to let the educators do what they were hired to do and keep
politics out of our school system.

A strong public school system is a critical component to strong and healthy community.  If
we cannot provide our children with a good education, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

John Makeyenko

John Makeyenko was born, raised and, except for the period of his military service, has
lived in Lackawanna virtually his entire life. Married to the former Sissy Geary, he is 47
years old and the father of four children.  He is employed full-time with the Lackawanna
Municipal Housing Authority, serves as a City Marshall for Lackawanna and is a U.S. Marine
Corp Veteran.

Currently the President of the Board of Education, John is seeking election to his 5th term
on the Board.

He proudly points to his efforts in spearheading the construction of the Martin Road
Elementary School in 2002, along with his more recent efforts in helping to expand ELA and
Math AP courses in the District, the introduction of the "Inspiring Minds" Mentoring Program
and in securing State funding for capital improvements at Truman Elementary School at no cost
to the taxpayers as some of his achievements as a Board Member.

Robert Sireika

As a member of the 1997 and 1998 State Championship football team for Lackawanna, I take
great pride in graduating from Lackawanna High School. The school system has been poorly run
for the last few years. Last year, Business First, rated Lackawanna academic performance 119
out of 133 high schools in the eight counties of Western New York. It's time to demand more
out of our school system.

It's time to demand a better education for the children in Lackawanna Schools. We have many
highly qualified teachers in the Lackawanna School System. However, they often struggle with
challenges of an underdeveloped support system. Guidelines and rules are in place to allow the
school system to run smoothly. It is imperative that our school system provide an environment
that is conducive to teaching, by imposing strict behavioral guidelines, allowing students to
learn at their highest potential.

I believe in a board transparency, as well as involving parents and teachers in important
decision making regarding budgets and education. As a former student athlete I am a huge
supporter of extracurricular activities providing a safe and structured alternate to the
streets. I am committed to developing a budget that does not punish students by taking away
extracurricular offerings or amenities. I believe it's time for new ideas, new voices and new

I want to be a part of getting the Lackawanna School System on track to thrive.

Mark Kowalski

I am a 32-year-old jifelong resident of Lackawanna and graduated from Lackawanna
High School in 1998.

I received an associate's degree from ECC South in 2000 for completing the Ford ASSET
program in automotive technology. I have been employed by the City of Lackawanna as a Police
Officer for the past four years.

 My reasons for running are:

  -- Two children currently enrolled in the Lackawanna School system.

  -- Working toward fiscal stability to curtail layoffs to teachers and staff.

   -- Instill more discipline in our schools and encourage more parental involvement.

   -- And lastly, to be a voice for our whole community working together to achieve one common
goal and that's providing the best education that we can for our children.


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