Schenectady

Schenectady voters ‘looking for a change’ in Tuesday’s school election

John Carnahan with his wife, Florence, of Schenectady speaks to a Gazette reporter on Tuesday.
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John Carnahan with his wife, Florence, of Schenectady speaks to a Gazette reporter on Tuesday.

SCHENECTADY – Schenectady City School District voters outside of the polling places Tuesday expressed frustration with district leadership and a lack of stability in the superintendent position, as well as support of the work going on in the district.

Multiple voters outside of four polling locations in the city said they were “looking for a change” or wanted “new blood” on the school board, citing frustration with how the board has handled the confidential departure of former superintendent Larry Spring and failed to hire a replacement.

Some of the voters even said that frustration drew them out to vote for the first time for years or had driven them to reject the district budget proposal for the first time. 

“I’ve never not voted yes,” Florence Carnahan said of her history voting in school budgets. “I voted no today.

“It’s a dysfunctional board,” said her husband, John Carnahan. “Unfortunately, we only get to replace two members.” 

Other voters highlighted the lack of a superintendent as a major factor in their votes Tuesday. Not only has the board not found a new superintendent, it has yet to find a replacement for departing Interim Superintendent Aaron Bochniak, who is set to leave at the end of August .

“I wish they could get a superintendent,” said Janet Gilbert.

Five candidates sought the two open board positions on the school board, including incumbent Andy Chestnut. (John Foley did not seek another term.) Some of the voters said they had found alternatives among the challengers for the board seats, with at least one voter citing all of the other candidates on the ballot.

But longtime community activist Jamaica Miles drew the widest support among the voters interviewed for this article. People cited her experience working in the community as well as a desire to elect a more diverse board. 

“She’s more aggressive in terms of getting things done,” said Richard Gilbert. “You can’t be wishy-washy.” 

Damaris Daniels, the parent of a soon-to-be high school graduate, said she supported Miles, citing her community activism and a desire for the school board to better represent the community. 

“She’s a woman and a minority and fills a lot of the boxes I fill, my family fills and the community fills,” Daniels said. 

The voters largely said they supported the district and its budget, though a pair of new voters at Paige Elementary School said they came out to vote against the budget over concern with the district’s focus on diversity and equity initiatives.

“Every time we get a chance to vote, we want our schools to be the best they can be,” John Kucij said, noting that this year he was “looking for a change.” 

Daniels said she was happy to see the district budget grow and add positions and pointed out that many people in the community have argued for more resources for the schools for years.

“I was glad to see the budget went up a good amount of money, because a lot of us feel shorted,” she said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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