ROTTERDAM – Seven candidates running for three open school board seats in the Schalmont Central School District introduced themselves Wednesday night at a meet-the-candidates forum where several topics were touched on, including budgeting and programming.
Running are: Phillip Contompasis, Patricia Dowse, Miranda Eldridge, Jean Hanson, Kyrish Iyer, Heidi Schilling and William Wilday.
Here is a brief look at each of the seven candidates:
Phillip Contompasis – Contompasis is seeking his first term to the board. He has worked in the educational publishing field as a consultant for over 20 years where he advises educational community members on various topics like technology and classroom policies. As someone who has visited hundreds of districts across the state, he said he understands various trends in the educational system.
“I think my knowledge could really be a great asset for this district,” he said.
The district does a good job at celebrating students, he said, while also keeping in mind taxpayers. His big issue with the district is traffic flow, which he said is being addressed.
Miranda Eldridge – Eldridge is seeking her first term on the board after she was unsuccessful in her bid last year. She and her fiance have a son at Jefferson Elementary and are hosting an exchange student from Germany. Eldridge said she felt being a part of the board would enable her to know more about what’s happening in the district. It’s why she joined the budget committee, she said. Eldridge said it’s important to make sure all students regardless of their abilities are treated fairly and in a way that helps them excel.
“We need to make sure we’re not trying to fit our children into these cookie cutter molds because they’re not all going to fit into the same mold,” she said.
Patricia “Pat” Dowse – Dowse was appointed in 2019 after a board member stepped down. She owns Dowsefactor, which works with various organizations to help people with disabilities lead inclusive lives. Like Eldridge she said every student needs to continue to be included regardless of the abilities and in a way that isn’t stigmatizing. She said the district has done well at ensuring students have what they need while keeping in mind the taxpayers. If elected she said she would be a voice of reason on the board.
“I think it’s important to see all sides and discuss all possibilities and then you evaluate what’s in the best interest of our students because that’s what we’re here for,” she said.
Jean Hanson – Hanson is seeking her third term on the board. She said she likes that the district puts the students first and wants to ensure that continues. Hanson is retired, having previously worked as the director of the Bureau of Business Intelligence with the state Office of the Medicaid Inspector General. She said the traffic is an issue within the district, but that is being addressed. However, the district should continue to reevaluate itself.
“We should never be satisfied with the status quo,” she said. “We should continue to reassess and reevaluate. There’s always room for improvement, nothings always perfect.”
Kyrish Iyer – Iyer is running for his second term on the board and wants to stay on the board to ensure the district remains a good place for the education of his two daughters as well as other students in the district. He is the senior manager at Apex Analytix. The district has done a good job at balancing the needs of the students with the taxpayers, while continuing to provide programs and pivot when needed, he said. He said he is someone that won’t just sit back and agree with things to move them forward.
“ I’m one of those guys who has no problem asking why and why not,” he said, noting he enjoys learning more about what could and couldn’t work.
Heidi Schilling – Schilling is seeking her first term on the board. She retired from the comptroller’s office two years ago and has seen three generations of family members learn in the district. Schilling said she wants to make sure the district remains a safe environment where education excels and believes there are some best practices that could be reviewed, but declined to go into detail at the event. However, she did say that extracurricular activities for students are important. Overall, she said the district is doing well and she will be amicable to working with other board members to resolve issues if she is elected.
“I’ll make sure your child has all the necessary tools to succeed,” she said.
William “Bill” Wilday – Wilday is seeking his first term on the board. He is a Vietnam veteran and was a meat cutter for 50 years. He is interested in looking at critical race theory and what books are in the libraries, noting some of them shouldn’t be there. He’s also interested in looking more closely at the budget.
“I want to go line by line in the budget and see what we need and don’t need,” he said.
Wilday and his son founded the district’s pee wee wrestling program. Providing support for extracurricular activities like sports is important to him, he said.
More information on the candidates can be found on the district website.
Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at SB_DailyGazette.
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