Saranac Lake High School
Six people are running for three, three-year positions on the Saranac Lake Central School Board this year.
President Debra Lennon, Vice President Katie Fischer and member Tracey Schrader will all be seeking re-election. The three other candidates are Nathan Cox, Michelle Hill and Miles Van Nortwick. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 15 at the district offices, located near the lobby of the high school auditorium.
We asked each candidate a set of questions. Here are their answers.
Why are you running for school board? I think that there’s a lot going on in the schools right now, and there are a lot of changes coming up and a lot of changes to be made. And I think that I would offer a unique perspective to the board.
What experiences do you bring to the board? I’ve never been on a school board before, but I’ve been on a number of committees as part of my work for the Tri-Lakes Center for Independent Living. I’m also the preadoptive parent of two children who are in the district special ed program. I’m an administrator. I will have my master’s degree in human resource management in the fall.
Key issues for the school district? I think we have a number of issues, but I think they all come down to the budget. They have a budget that needs to be kept in check because of the state tax cap rules. And they need to be thinking creatively about how they can keep within the budget’s parameters while also maintaining the programming for the kids. The current budget being passed, I was rather disappointed to see so many cuts to services for children but no cuts to administrative costs … In the next year, they’ll be hiring a new superintendent, and I think that will be a challenge as well.
Final comments: I’m doing this because I’m interested in seeing the schools be the best they can be. I have no motivation to run other than to see the schools provide quality education for the kids.
Why are you running for school board? I really enjoy taking responsibility and making decisions for what’s in the best interest for taxpayers and the district itself.
What experiences do you bring to the board? I’m open minded, I’m fair, I have no agenda, and I’m impartial. I have one child in each one of the schools. I’m hands on. While we might agree to disagree on the board, we all respect each other, that we have the best interest of the kids and the taxpayers, first and foremost, at heart.
Key issues for the school district? Naturally, trying to balance the programs we can provide for the children and rising costs of the health care package, benefits in general. We’ve brought the budget in the past three years at very little increase, but to do so, we’ve closed two schools, we’ve lost close to 50 positions by attrition. It’s going to be hard moving forward to continue that.
Final comments: I’m in the trenches, whether it’s planting flowers at Petrova Elementary or examining the pooper scooper for the high school fields for the kids to play. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for each building … I just like being in there and being hands-on, not just sitting at a table making decisions.
Why are you running for school board? Just to be a part of the community. I don’t have an agenda, and I have no issues with speaking my mind.
What experiences do you bring to the board? When I worked at Albany Med, I worked in the budget office, so I have a lot of budget experience. I run a business, the Adirondack Surgical Group, and I’m on the board of the Saranac Lake Pee Wee Hockey Association. So I’m very familiar with working with other people to get things done.
Key issues for the school district? There are a few. One is the budget. I think we just need to move forward. We need to drop some of the dead issues and keep going.
Final comments: No. I’m trying to keep it low key. I’ve asked people not to write letters. I’m not a politician.
Why are you running for school board? Because I enjoy it. It’s going well, and we have a board that works really well together. And I would like to have it try and continue that way. Since we seem to get a lot accomplished in a good way, it’s the right time. I can run again and feel good about it.
What experiences do you bring to the board? I’ve been on the board for eight years. I’ve been president for four years, I was vice president before that, so just board experience alone. But I’ve also owned my own business for 24 years. My husband and I own Darrah Cooper Jewelers in Lake Placid … so that gives me a lot of experience.
Key issues for the school district? Maintaining programs in the face of budget cuts and decreasing state aid. That’s the biggest challenge that any district will face. Honestly, it’s the boards that work well together that will do a good job with that. You really have to have a team effort to make it work and to make that work well, and we have a great team. We also will be hiring a new superintendent at the end of the next school year, 2013. That’s a huge challenge for a district to find the right person.
Final comments: I’ve been doing this for eight years, so I have a track record, and I think we have programs that our community’s been proud of, and we plan on maintaining them. We’ve been able to do that pretty well … You vote for the person who has experience. I’m doing this because I enjoy it, because I care about the district. I’m not doing this for any other reason.
Why are you running for school board? I love our district. I am a mom, first and foremost, and I have learned so much in five years sitting on the board that I still have a passion to be on there. It’s been such a great learning experience, and I really care about the district.
What experiences do you bring to the board? I bring five years of experience to the board and two different rounds of negotiations. I was on the negotiating committee for the last contract and also on this negotiation committee. My husband and I also own and operate our own business, so I know finances. I handle payroll and taxes and vendors. And our son is a student in the school district; he’s a junior. So I’m very familiar with the school.
Key issues for the school district? The key issues are definitely our budget constraints. Because of the tax cap, it’s definitely been challenging to work a budget that’s fair to our students and still provides all that we can, but we must fall under that tax cap; otherwise, we’d have to go to the voters to override that. But we also have to be fair to the taxpayers in this environment. The biggest challenge is providing the same level of education, but doing it with less money, basically, doing more with less.
Final comments: I really enjoy this. I knew it would be a learning experience, but I’m really surprised at how much I have learned in five years … In some ways I feel like I’m just getting started and feeling like I really know the issues, and I know policy. I’m hoping that the community will support me and give me another shot at it.
Miles Van Nortwick
Why are you running for school board? I did not know that the superintendent was retiring (in 2013). I have another reason now (to run). I am a very strong proponent that the chief executive officer of the school should be a resident of the district where he works so that he understands what people are going through as far as paying taxes and if there are any emergencies … And I feel I have a fair amount of experience picking superintendents.
What experiences do you bring to the board? I spent 10 years on the board … When I was on the board, all of a sudden our slabs started rising up (from the building project in the 1990s), and the first school where we had that happen was Bloomingdale … I was board president during the busiest part of that, going to Albany and basically begged State Ed to refinance the project.
Key issues for the school district? Key issues with the tax cap are obviously going to be money. Also, I am concerned about the country and our students being able to go out when they leave here … We need to prepare these students. Give them the best background in math, science, plus the social sciences. They really need to understand what is going on so they can make smart decisions.
Final comments: I’m an advocate for our students. Times are challenging, and I’m an advocate for the taxpayers. I was part of the taxpayers association a long time ago.