Schenectady County

Five on ballot for three Schenectady school board seats

It’s a far cry from last year’s competitive race, but this year, five city residents are running for

It’s a far cry from last year’s competitive race, but this year, five city residents are running for three seats on the Schenectady Board of Education.

Last year, 11 people submitted petitions to run for four seats. Two petitions were thrown out due to a lack of signatures, but the rest waged an energetic campaign.

In the end, the new grassroots group SCOPE, Schenectady Citizens for Openness in Public Education, swept all four seats.

SCOPE came out early this year as well, with its candidates announced last month. The deadline was Wednesday, but by then only two other residents had emerged to try to beat the SCOPE team.

Incumbent Gary Farkas, who asked for SCOPE’s endorsement but was rejected, is running for his second term. “I’m not done yet,” he said. “We need to do more to bring this school district back to the top.”

Farkas, 47, works as a database analyst at Solutionset in East Greenbush.

Resident Barbara Metcalfe is also running. She ran last year, finishing in last place with 676 votes.

Metcalfe, an accountant, was unavailable for comment but campaigned last year for more textbooks and more supervision at the high school to keep students from skipping classes by sneaking off campus.

They are facing three SCOPE-endorsed candidates, including board Vice President Ron Lindsay, who won last year but has to run again to win a full term. He was backed by SCOPE last year as well.

Lindsay said he’s worked to re-establish trust with district residents. Now, he said, he wants a full term so he can work on the district’s long-term financial problems and have a voice in the selection of the next superintendent, which will likely be decided in the next year.

SCOPE also endorsed two newcomers: Shatiki Beatty, who said she wants to discourage wrongly labeling strong-willed children as having behavioral problems; and Cheryl Nechamen, who wants to push the board to cut costs by sharing services with the city.

Farkas has similar ideas about sharing services.

“That’s an area we need to build on,” he said, suggesting that the district share health insurance with the county and city, while achieving savings of scale by purchasing supplies with other school districts.

“We just need to do more. Even though it’s separate budgets, we’re all one community,” Farkas said.

Considering that every incumbent who ran last year was defeated by SCOPE, Farkas acknowledged that he may have a tough race ahead of him.

He’s trying to mobilize teachers and parents — “everyone who knows me” — to vote for him. And he’s unhappy with SCOPE for never saying why the group would not endorse him.

“You have a group who claims they’re open but won’t tell you the criteria for endorsing you,” he said. “They’re just another political party with an agenda, and they’re not willing to tell you what it is.”

Last month, SCOPE organizer Marjorie Karowe declined to explain why Farkas was not endorsed but said that Farkas “deserves to run on his own record.”

SCOPE swept all four seats in last year’s election on a platform that included transparency, integrity and changing the board’s “prevailing culture” by installing new members.

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