Pine Valley hosts Meet the Candidates

SOUTH DAYTON – Eight residents are vying for five seats on the Pine Valley Board of Education. It was the public’s turn to get to know the candidates during a Meet the Candidates night sponsored by the Pine Valley Teacher’s Association.

The event was a question and answer format. Each candidate was given the opportunity to answer all questions, regardless if the question was directed to him or her. Stephen Raiport was unable to attend due to a weather-related emergency in the village of Gowanda.

The eight candidates are seeking four three-year terms on the board of education and one two-year term. The shorter term will go to the candidate who receives the fifth most votes to fill the vacancy of Jo Ann Anderson.

The seven candidates introduced themselves and stated why they are motivated for running for a seat. Rex Butcher has worked for several years in managerial roles, has experience working on private sector budgets and is seeking change after seeing the district’s academic performance slip. Incumbent Jeff Chase wants students to receive an education to allow them to reach their full potential. Angelo Graziano wants to make a difference and be a voice on the board of education.

Incumbent Patricia Krenzer, who is currently serving in Anderson’s seat, would like to bring her educational background to the board.

Incumbent Michael Pease wants to ensure the same opportunities he received at Pine Valley are continuing. Montgomery Sticek would like to work to create a more transparent and fiscally responsible board, and see students thrive within the community. Incumbent Matt Waag wants students to be successful and make sure the district is being fiscally responsible.

To begin the randomly selected questions, Adam Lukasik, student representative on the board, asked, “What is your vision for education in this community?”

Graziano would like to address class sizes and get teachers the help they need. He wants to see more “refrigerator art,” family involvement and parental support.

“I think (teachers) should do things for the kids to bring stuff home to their families. … Show it off that they did a good job,” Graziano said.

Butcher said there has to be enthusiasm from teachers to motivate students to learn. He said as soon as teachers show enthusiasm, students will reciprocate. Krenzer stated students need an incentive to want to succeed.

“We should look to the community for people that have interesting and exciting jobs to come in to the school to talk about what it’s like to be out in the workforce,” she said.

Waag would like to serve all students in the district, no matter what they want to pursue after graduation. Pease also agreed with Krenzer that there needs to be an incentive for students, teachers and administration to want to do well. Sticek was asked what challenges school districts are facing in today’s society. Unfunded mandates, state testing, the common core, were among several issues Sticek noted.

“We just have to take one at a time, work on educating the community or working with politicians to try to increase funding, decrease the mandates and hopefully get the kids a quality education,” he said.

The next question was, “What do you feel is the most important priority in our district?” With being such a rural district, Graziano said transportation is important. Sticek said the district needs to be cost effective while maintaining facilities. Both Krenzer and Butcher agreed pushing students to do well and achieve higher academic standards are top priorities. Chase said student achievement needs to be the main focus and make sure teachers are properly trained on the Common Core.

Candidates were asked about what their plan of action would be when the district faces budget constraints. Krenzer said the district needs to have “creative accounting,” including looking for grant opportunities. Butcher said the district needs to be able and willing to make tough choices. Graziano said before the district cuts within the budget, the board of education should look at construction projects and sources for revenue in potential scrap metal.

“You have to take an honest look and determine if that money was my own money, would I spend that dollar? That’s the way you have to go about looking at every honest expense. … You got to be able and willing to do the hard things because long term, if you continue to put your head in the sand it’s going to get worse,” Butcher said.

The candidates were asked what kind of relationship the board should have with the community. Waag said the board needs to have an open mind and make Pine Valley a school all students want to be at. Sticek believes the board should be treated like a family – while they may not always get along there should always be respect. Krenzer wants a cooperative relationship with the community, and Graziano would like to have an “open door policy.” Since the board members are elected by the public, Pease wants to be available to the public.

“I think any board member should make themselves available to anybody who wants to talk to them. Everybody needs to work together. If we don’t work together, this district is not going to grow or thrive ,” Pease said.

Butcher said the board and the community need to have a “working relationship” and have what is best for students in mind. Chase agreed students are the most important.

“The relationship has to be open and honest. You have to listen to all the parties you have to listen to what the people say. The kids are the reason why we’re all here. They are our most valuable resource,” Chase said.

Polls will be open on Tuesday from 12 to 9 p.m., in the high school foyer near the auditorium. Voters must use the rear entrance accessed through the parking lot coming in from the elementary school. The high school front entrance is closed off due to construction.

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