Twenty-eight candidates have filed petitions to run in the School Board elections in Niagara County's seven central school districts May 15.
Seventeen board seats are at stake.
The deadline passed Monday to file petitions to be placed on the ballot.
The biggest surprise: Three incumbent Lewiston-Porter School Board members did not submit petitions to run for re-election.
They are board President David S. Schaubert, who is finishing up his first three-year term; two-term board member and Vice President Louis M. Palmeri; and one-term board member Leonard Palumbo.
Palumbo said he's not running because he did the job he set out to do when he ran three years ago.
"I really feel I accomplished what I went in there to accomplish: to get the politics out of the district. I think the fact that the teachers union isn't running any candidates [for the board] this year is a good sign that the politics is starting to go away. For once, I think the board represents a cross section of the community like it was intended to be. I think it will remain that way with the five gentlemen who are running for the board this year. I think they will do a good job and remain representative of the district. They won't be board members that represent special interests instead of the community," Palumbo said.
Palumbo said a big reason he ran for office to begin with was he felt a certain faction within the teachers union had too much say over what went on with the district; that too much money was being spent on salaries and fringe benefits while district facilities were not being kept up and education necessities for students were not being updated.
Schaubert said he is not running for re-election because he is moving to Arizona with his family and will be unable to serve.
He said he thinks the board has achieved a lot during the last three years, ensuring that district facilities will be kept up and updated, that finances are in place to handle what needs to be done and that programs include the books, equipment and technology students need to compete with their contemporaries in the world market.
Addressing district voters, Schaubert said, "I do this with much regret, as it is leaving the job half-done. But, hopefully, you will make the right decision next month [in selecting good board members who will have the community's best interests in mind] and choose to continue the progress that has been made" by the current board.
He said if voters fail to research the candidates to detect any hidden agendas, and "never go beyond the surface of what people will present you with, . . . then you will be right back where you started three years ago."
Palmeri, on vacation, could not be reached to comment.
The five candidates to file for the three Lewiston-Porter seats are Edward Waller, Robert Weller, James Sperduti, Keith Fox and Michael Gentile. The winners will serve three-year terms.
The Starpoint School District experienced quite the opposite situation.
All three incumbent board members whose terms expire June 30 -- Gary Braun, Kelly Zarcone and Mary Brown -- filed to run for re-election. Also, Mark Montazolli -- a former board member who was placed in office this year to temporarily replace board member Mark Domino, who resigned because he moved out of the district -- is running for office. Newcomers Michael Zimmerman and Dennis Welka complete the slate of candidates. Four board seats are up for grabs. The three top vote-getters will serve three-year terms. The fourth will complete the last two years of Domino's term.
The Niagara-Wheatfield School District has six candidates competing for two board seats. Incumbent Maureen Kaus is running for re-election. The other open seat was vacated by Patti Crider in January. Other candidates are Dan Maerten, Kathleen Fleming, Russel Brumby, Brett Zipp and William Conrad. The candidate who collects the most votes will serve a three-year term. The second-place winner will finish out the last two years of Crider's term.
In Wilson, four people have filed to run for two board seats. Incumbents Eric Bloom and Timothy Kropp seek re-election to three-year terms. They are being challenged by Janet Hoffman and Mark Randall.
Two seats are up for grabs in the Newfane School District, with no incumbents on the ballot. Board member Anthony LaRose and Lois Farley, who resigned from the board last summer, are not running. Lorie Kauffman, who was appointed to fill in for Farley until the May election, and newcomer David Adams will run unopposed. The top vote-getter will serve a three-year term, and the second will serve out the last two years of Farley's term.
Royalton-Hartland School District voters have three people running for two board seats. Incumbents William Howell and Daniel Bragg filed to run for re-election to three-year terms. They are being challenged by Ginger Burg.
There's no contest in the Barker Central School District, as incumbents James Fisher and William Smith are running unopposed.
School Board candidates in the county's three city school districts -- Niagara Falls, Lockport and North Tonawanda -- must file petitions with their district clerks by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Coming Thursday in The Buffalo News: Candidates in the three Niagara County city school district elections.