Eight candidates, including a high school senior, are running for three seats on the West Seneca Central School Board, the largest number of candidates running in any of the 37 school district elections in Erie and Niagara counties on Tuesday.
The candidates are looking to serve on a board that will choose the next superintendent of the 6,300-student district. Some candidates talk of improving transparency. Most support parents who opt their children out of state tests. One wants term limits, and others would like to improve relations on the board.
The winners of the contest could shift the majority on the School Board.
Several issues have divided the current School Board, with some board members not happy with the slow progress at picking a new superintendent after Mark Crawford announced last fall he was retiring. The board was about to launch a search for a permanent successor, but decided to appoint an interim superintendent, Whitney Vantine, instead.
The board also was split on a proposal to increase the number of outside agencies offering prekindergarten from one to four to handle 86 children, while keeping 144 pre-K student slots in the district. The prekindergarten issue has energized teachers, and the teachers union and three employees who could be affected by contracting out pre-K have challenged the board action in State Supreme Court. They charge the board violated the Open Meetings Law when it decided to issue a request for proposals from outside firms.
The teachers union has endorsed incumbents Janice Dalbo and Carol Jarczyk, who voted against contracting with additional outside firms for pre-K, and newcomer Diane Beres, a former teacher.
Dalbo and Jarczyk have been in the minority of a 4-3 split on the board this year. Board Member Lauren Nicholas, a member of the majority who pushed the prekindergarten plan through, is not seeking re-election.
Residents also will vote on the proposed $116.8 million budget that raises the tax levy 1.6 percent, and on spending $577,093 from the capital reserve fund to purchase six buses.
- Diane Beres, 68, a retired Buffalo Public Schools chemistry and physics teacher, is endorsed by the West Seneca teachers and administrators associations and Western New York Area Labor Federation. She wants stakeholders involved in the superintendent search, supports parents whose children opt out of state assessments, wants to restore programs and is against privatizing district programs.
- Lisa Breidenstein, 50, is a Williams Sonoma culinary specialist and former public school educator for 10 years. She wants to bring civility back to the board, engage in long-range planning, restore programs and does not believe in Common Core or high stakes testing.
- Janice Dalbo, 77, a retired educator working in the activities department of Eden Heights, has served 27 years on the board. She is endorsed by the district's three unions: CSEA, teachers and administrators. She said she believes the top issue is the selection of a new superintendent and wants all stakeholders involved in the interviews, supports having standards, but not the "failed" Common Core.
- Carol Jarczyk, 61, who has served on the board for 13 years, is endorsed by the West Seneca Teachers Association. She believes hiring a superintendent with a transparent interview process, including employees and community members, is a key issue, stands with parents who opt their children out of state tests, wants to continue to restore lost programs and is against privatization of educational services.
- Rodney Montgomery, a paralegal who served on the board from 2011 to 2014, is endorsed by CSEA. He believes Common Core is destroying children's education and that board members must retain individuality while working as a team.
- Matthew D. Poole, 18, a senior and president of Class of 2017 at West Seneca East Senior High, advocates for term limits for board members. He believes one of most important decisions will be hiring a new superintendent and it should involve all stakeholders and that the board needs to keep track of finances. He also says state testing is a waste of time.
- Lawrence Seibert, 50, director of commercial fleet and sales for Delta Sonic, thinks the district needs immediate change with fresh ideas and a long-term vision encompassing fiscal responsibility. He would like to see equality from school to school, believes parents have the final say on students opting out of tests, finds the Common Core restrictive and would like more teacher input in testing.
- Ryan Taughrin, 29, a graduate recruitment officer at the University at Buffalo, is endorsed by CSEA. He believes the biggest issue is rethinking how the board communicates with the public, would like to implement full-day prekindergarten and wants support for students providing clear pathways to college and career options. He said high stakes testing harms students and teachers and supports parents' decisions to opt children out of assessments.