One of the candidates for the Schenectady Board of Education wants to make it harder for students to drop out — by making it illegal.
County Youth Bureau Director Edward Kosiur wants to require students to stay in school until they are 18. The school board could vote to make that change, according to state law, but it would only apply to unemployed students.
Kosiur said letting students drop out at 16 is wrong.
“That’s too young for a young man or woman to make that decision,” he said.
But, under the board’s current policy, they have to let them leave.
“The school’s hands are tied,” he said.
He also thinks the graduation rate would improve if the district could discourage elementary school children from skipping school.
“I think the main thing is they’re not coming to school.” he said.
The elementary school truancy numbers are small, but shocking, he said. He wants to hire high school students to pore through the attendance data and figure out why students are skipping.
His theory is that walkers skip far more often than students who are bused.
“With the rain and the snow and the inclement weather, and they’re walking by themselves,” he said. “Can we pick up those kids? We can’t do it district-wide but can we do it in elementary?”
Kosiur is one of three candidates running for three seats on the board. So far, the race is uncontested, but candidates can still submit petitions until Wednesday. The election is May 21.
Kosiur is running with school board President Cathy Lewis and Vice President Ann Reilly.
Lewis has led the board for three years, since she was first elected in an effort to oust the previous board and its superintendent.
Reilly was also elected as part of that effort, and the two helped usher in a new culture of transparency and reform.
The new board paid its superintendent to leave, hired an interim and ran an open process to select a new superintendent.
The board also brought in sweeping changes, from creating a ninth-grade academy to supporting new ways to crack down on truant students.
There were controversies, too, including the closure of Oneida Middle School last year.
Lewis pushed for ways to do better for less money, while Reilly fought to protect the district’s extensive arts program from cuts.
Lewis said she’s pleased with the board’s efforts to hold the line on taxes. The tax rate did not change in 2011-2012, and the lax levy — the total amount of money gathered — did not change in 2012-2013. There is a proposed 1 percent tax increase this year.
“We’ve been trying to streamline and become more efficient,” Lewis said. “I think we’ve been able to do pretty well with the budget in light of the difficulties we have.”
Candidates who want to join the race must gather at least 100 signatures from residents. The signatures must be submitted to the school clerk, at Mont Pleasant Middle School, by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Candidates must also be registered voters who have lived in the district for at least a year.
The top two vote-getters in this year’s election will win three-year terms, starting this summer.
The third candidate will take office immediately to fill the remainder of board member Gary Farkas’ term.
Farkas resigned without explanation last fall; his term ends in 2014, so the winning candidate would have to run again next year for a full term on the board.