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Candidate profile: Thomas O. Raczka, Cheektowaga Central School Board

Thomas-RaczkaSchool district: Cheektowaga

Age: 63

Town (current residence): Cheektowaga

Current occupation and/or community involvement:

I retired from Cheektowaga Central in the spring, after being with the district for 35 years. In my capacity as Head Custodian, I was responsible for overseeing budgets, as well as overseeing operations at the Union East building in our district. In addition, I served as Union President for our district for 25 years. It was noted that I excelled in both negotiations and working with union members.

Number of years you have lived in the school district: 56

Incumbent: No

Have you run for office before? No

Please tell us about yourself:

I've lived in Cheektowaga all my life and am fully invested in the future of our children. I graduated from Cheektowaga Central in 1970 and have watched the district evolve over the years. I know I will add value to the board and help strengthen our district for our children, our teachers and our families. Working in the district has been an important part of my life and I am now ready to lend my hand in my retirement as a board member. My record shows putting our families and teachers first has always been my priority- that will not change in my tenure on the board.

Please describe the top issues facing your school district and how you would address them as a school board member:

I would push for less testing and more experiential based learning. We're preparing children today for jobs that don't currently exist. Giving them the tools to think creatively and problem solve in varied situations is essential. Our students need to be able to compete in future job markets. They need to be armed with the skills necessary to approach the high tech problems we already see in the world. Anything less is a disservice to our future. Another issue regarding our children's success is the student to educator ratios in the classroom. Proper support for both our children and their teachers is critical if we want to see high graduation rates and high percentages of students moving on to higher ed. When educators are unable to meet the demands of student needs simply because the resources are unavailable, we are setting our educational system up for failure right at the gates.

Do you think public education in New York is headed in the right direction? Yes

Please explain why, in 100 words or less:

This is a tough question, as I believe public education is one of the most important gifts we can give our children. I have watched educators work hard to ensure their students are met with nothing but success and joy as they navigate their early educational years. Where I feel we need the most reform is funding for state mandates. Our schools see so many directives passed down and they are expected to implement them with little to no adequate funding. If we can marry the state mandates with proper funding and resources, we will see our children enjoy their academic environment and experience continued success.

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