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New candidate joins crowded Saratoga Springs school board race - with group's backing

New candidate joins crowded Saratoga Springs school board race - with group's backing

Shaun Wiggins endorsed by Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools
New candidate joins crowded Saratoga Springs school board race - with group's backing
Saratoga Springs City School District Board of Education candidate Shaun Wiggins
Photographer: Photo provided

A Saratoga Springs business owner on Wednesday joined the field of candidates vying for three Saratoga Springs school board seats, running on a slate of candidates who favor increasing armed security in schools.

Shaun Wiggins accepted the endorsement of Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, a parent group pressing to rearm district grounds monitors, about a week after another candidate they had endorsed, Connie Woytowich, dropped the endorsement over messaging she said she didn't support.

Wiggins, who served in the CIA clandestine service and has worked as a security and risk analyst, moved to Saratoga Springs with his family in 2012. He and his wife have a third grader at Caroline Street Elementary and a junior at Saratoga Springs High School. Wiggins is the president of Soteryx, a data analytics firm in Saratoga.

Wiggins joins Ed Cubanski and Dean Kolligian on a slate running a close-knit campaign with the parent group's financial and organizational backing: the three candidates have a shared campaign bank account and jointly control spending decisions. The slate was backed by Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools in an effort to win enough seats to reverse the school board's October decision to not formally authorize district grounds monitors to carry firearms – as some had done for years without board authorization.

“I am a firm believer that no one should learn, teach or work in an environment that's not safe and right now there is a lot of risk having reduced the presence of security in schools across the district,” Wiggins said in an interview Wednesday.

Introducing a new approach to increasing armed security, Wiggins said armed school monitors should work under a “peacekeeper authority not under civilian authority” and suggested the monitors could be managed more within a law enforcement command structure than a school district command structure – though it's not clear how that would work.

“I would advocate to have the sheriff's department and/or the police chief to oversee them, but there's got to be that connectivity (between police and school officials),” Wiggins said.

Prior to Wiggins' announcement, as many as seven other people have indicated they are also running for the school board: sitting board member and professor of education Heather Reynolds, Skidmore sociology professor John Brueggemann, and speech-language pathologist Natalya Lakhtakia have all announced independent campaigns and said they support the board's decision to not rearm the monitors. Jim Wendell, a sitting board member, in December said he planned to run for re-election, and Woytowich said she was still running -- “by myself” -- when she dropped off the slate last week. To make it onto the ballot, prospective candidates must file petition signatures with the district by end of day May 1.

Wiggins acknowledged that armed monitors have become a “polarizing” issue in Saratoga and said he is additionally focused on improving the district's use of technology and working to find budget savings, savings that could be used to boost school security.

“The bottom line is we've got to have that security, period,” Wiggins said. “The hardest challenge to me is how are we going to pay for it.”

He said he also wants to see the district improve its communication with families and the communities, citing what he called an “eleventh hour” letter from his daughter's elementary school that said class sizes would increase next year due to budget challenges. District officials and the school board have been meeting in recent months to zero in on a final budget. Wiggins said a variety of issues, from the armed monitors to the growing class sizes, have piled up since the fall leading him to finally join the race.

“This makes no sense that we come from a pretty well off school district, and these cuts are being made and they are communicating these things at the eleventh hour,” Wiggins said.

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