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What you need to know for 08/17/2017

Niskayuna school board president faces pair of newcomers

Niskayuna school board president faces pair of newcomers

Three Niskayuna residents will compete for two seats on the Niskayuna Central School District Board

Three Niskayuna residents will compete for two seats on the Niskayuna Central School District Board of Education in Tuesday’s election.

Rosemarie Perez Jacquith and David Apkarian are each seeking their first terms on the board, while board president Deborah Oriola is running for a third term.

Jacquith, an attorney and parent of one high school and one middle school student in the district, said she chose to run after years of extensive classroom involvement.

“I’ve been actively involved for 14 years at multiple levels,” she said. Jacquith’s oldest child is a Niskayuna alumna.

Apkarian said his career, combined with his activism on behalf of Birchwood Elementary School, which the district recently considered closing, inspired him to run.

“I’m running because I’m a small business owner in the community, so I bring a different perspective,” he said.

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Two of Apkarian’s children attend Niskayuna schools, one at the middle school level and one in elementary school.

Oriola, who is the parent of a Niskayuna alumnus and a high school senior, said her tenure as a board member would be beneficial for big decisions looming in the district’s future.

“We’re preparing for recruitment of a long-term superintendent,” she said. “I’m bringing seven years of experience on the board, knowledge and training, and I think that’s very important.”

“The financial crisis isn’t over,” she added, noting that although the district’s position has improved over the past year, growth is still imperative. “I have a good handle on where we are financially, so we can develop plans going forward.”

Apkarian had strong words about the district’s fiscal situation.

“As a business person, I have to generate revenue,” he said. “If I don’t generate revenue, I don’t have a business.”

He offered suggestions to decrease the district’s dependence on variable state aid, such as increasing summer program offerings, leasing unused space to educational programs such as a preschool and publicizing fundraising options available through a nonprofit educational enrichment fund.

Jacquith also emphasized her professional status with regards to her potential worth as a member.

“As a lawyer, I’m a stickler for rules and regulations,” she said. “I want to make sure we abide by all rules, policies and laws, and I want to create policies and practices that restore confidence in our schools.”

Both first-time candidates emphasized class size as an important issue in their campaigns.

“We’ve increased class sizes, we’re staffing to enrollment and our kids are stuffed to the gills,” said Jacquith.

Apkarian said the high number of elementary classrooms that are near or over their recommended size motivated him to become active in the Birchwood closing debate.

Each candidate separately expressed a desire to improve the district’s sense of community and repair any existing rifts.

“I feel like we haven’t been talking about the kids and the teachers enough,” Jacquith said. “That’s what we should be focused on and where our energy should be, on our kids and our teachers, and not on all these other issues — the constant budget crises and divisions.”

“Working together as a community, we can continue to maintain excellent education programs for our kids,” Oriola said.

District residents can vote in the race, as well as the district’s proposed $77.3 million budget from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Niskayuna High School. The winning candidates will serve through June 13, 2017.

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