Four candidates will face off for three seats on the Greater Johnstown School District board on May 17.
Thursday was the deadline for submission of petitions to run for the board. Three challengers did so: Angela Clizbe, Anne Cassidy and Brian J. Miller Sr.
Of the three seats up for election this year, the only incumbent board member running is Robert Curtis, also the board’s president. Board members Scott Miller and Leslie Buggeln-Bosworth are not seeking re-election
Last year, board incumbents Russ Martin and Joanne Freeman were trounced by three candidates supported by Johnstown’s teachers union, part of a movement to shift the direction of the board away from the leadership of Curtis and fiscal conservatives. Curtis has served as school board president for three consecutive terms but was challenged in his last bid for president by board member Ron Beck, a retired teacher. Beck, who was overwhelmingly elected to the board in 2009, was instrumental last year in recruiting candidates to oust incumbents.
Beck could not be reached Thursday for comment about the new batch of candidates.
Scott Miller, who has served two three-year terms, said he wasn’t worried about not being re-elected when he chose not to run again. He said he’s very busy serving as the president of Johnstown’s baseball Little League and as vice president of the football Little League. He said that he’s enjoyed serving on the school board but he no longer has the time to devote to it.
“That’s not to say I would never run again. I might come back,” he said.
Buggeln-Bosworth, also a retired teacher, said it was time for her to leave.
“Six years is enough,” she said.
Curtis, who has been on the board for six consecutive years and also served a previous three-year term, said he likes serving on the school board and wants to continue. He said he’ll also seek another term as board president “if he has the majority” support to win.
“With Kathy [Sullivan] retiring and us having a new superintendent coming in, I’d like to help that person get his or her feet on the ground and have as smooth a transition as possible. I also think serving on the board is very rewarding,” he said.
Brian J. Miller Sr., who served one prior term on the board, said his primary reason for running is opposition to higher taxes.
“I don’t want to support higher and higher taxes. I want to see if we can cut in other areas besides personnel before we add more taxes,” he said.
He is married to one of Johnstown’s high school secretaries.
Angela Clizbe said she doesn’t like higher taxes either, but she has two children who attend the district schools and she’s concerned about maintaining the quality of Johnstown’s education.
She is married to a high school English teacher in the Greater Amsterdam School District.
She said she was encouraged to run by several members of the school board, including Curtis.
“I’m a taxpayer and my husband is a teacher, so I think I can give perspectives from different angles,” she said.
Cassidy did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday.
One of the major issues in last year’s school board election was the district’s ongoing negotiations for a new teachers contract. The district’s labor contract with the Johnstown Teachers Association expired in 2008, but state law mandates that all of its provisions remain in place until a new deal is reached. For the past three years, Johnstown’s teachers have worked under the rules of the old contract, which include 26 annual teacher step raises, which vary in size according to how many years a teacher has worked at the district. The approximate average step raise in Johnstown is 3 percent.
The majority of the school board desires to eliminate the step raises, which has been among the major bones of contention over the past three years of negotiations.
Curtis said he believes the school board and the teachers union are very close to an agreement, and he expects that the sitting board will vote on its approval before any new members are elected.