Saratoga County

Slate of candidates set for upcoming vote

Some school voters in and around Schenectady County will have more choices than others when they go

Some school voters in and around Schenectady County will have more choices than others when they go to vote for school board members next month.

In some districts — like Niskayuna and Scotia-Glenville — only enough candidates to fill vacant seats filed to run in the May 17 election. But in other districts, contested races may provide stark choices as voters determine the future of their school boards.

In Duanesburg, six candidates are running to fill just two seats, including incumbents Kent Sanders, who is the board president, and Tina Gamache. Tiffany Benway, Deborah Grier, Donald Collins and Frank Chiofalo Jr. are all looking for board seats as well.

Jean Hanson, an analyst with the state Office of the Medical Inspector General, is challenging three incumbents — Robert Sheehan, Amelia Hallam and John DiCocco — for one of the three expiring terms on the Schalmont board.

For the Mohonasen school board, Board President Robert Piccirillo, and board aspirants Gary Spadaro, Deborah Escobar and Heather Quinn are running to fill two terms. And in Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, incumbents Lee-Ann Mertzlufft and Jennifer Longtin face challenges from former Ballston Supervisor Patrick Ziegler and John Kelch, who has previously run for school board as a Common Core foe.

At least some of these school board challengers are strong opponents of the controversial Common Core education standards and state testing regime.

But Al Marlin, a spokesman for the New York State School Board Association, said the statewide group hasn’t noticed a downward or upward trend in interest in school board seats as education issues have flared up and become politically charged in the recent years.

“There are changes coming from the top, and these are challenges school board members have to familiarize with,” Marlin said. “But there will be challenges 10 years from now and there were challenges 10 years ago.”

Marlin said school board members bring varying perspectives and beliefs to the table, and new members have the chance to raise issues with the board and try to convince their colleagues of their view. But school boards have long sought to tamp down the appearance of politics or contention as they move forward with the work of educating students.

“The board as a whole at the end of the day will have to stay consistent with whatever decision they go ahead and make,” Marlin said.

Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.

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