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Mar 24, 2018
Charlton Heights Elementary SchoolPashley Elementary SchoolStevens Elementary SchoolO'Rourke Middle SchoolBH-BL High School

Budget Information: Meet the candidates

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Meet-the-Candidates Night opening statements

We were unable to record the candidates' opening statements at the beginning of the Meet-the-Candidates Night. However, we have published the opening statements below. They are listed in the order the candidates were assigned by the League of Women Voters at the Meet-the-Candidates Night.

You can also watch a recording of the Meet-the-Candidates Night. [WATCH VIDEO]

Joe Pericone's opening statement: Hi, I am Joe Pericone. I have been on the Board of Education for the past 8 years. In that time the district has gone through many changes.

The major piece of this is that the school district has caught up to the electronic age. While our young people have "been there and done that," it is the rest of us that are catching up and trying to stay ahead of this learning curve. This coming year students in class 3 through 8 will have access to Chromebooks.

The residents of the community have just passed one of the largest bond referendum, $34.2 million, which is all encompassing. This is all aimed at helping the needs of our students and the global environment they will be entering.

As president of the finance and school budget committee this year, we are presenting a budget that is the lowest in the history of the district (1.94% increase), with no loss of staff or reduction in program.

The district is trying to make enough classes available so that early college in the High School will allow students a full year of SUNY credit. The high school graduation rate is 95% for all those who entered the 9th grade.

I bring all this up to show that the district, within the the last few years, has change.

I believe we are still in the middle of change, and I would be proud to help lead the students and residents through these times.

Thank you.

Will Farmer's opening statement:  First, I too want to thank the League of Woman Voters and to all of you here and online participating.

Four years ago, I was elected to my first term on the board. Early on, the board was asked to consider supporting the Race to the Top application put forth by the state. We were in quite a bad financial time in 2010 and it was sold as more money for the district. We asked for more information about the program but there were only minimal and sketchy details available. The standards weren’t even completed at this point so we couldn’t review them. So without adequate information and dollar signs flashing in our heads, we agreed. To quote Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman, “Big Mistake! Huge!” I am running again to correct this mistake.

The state received over $700 million, BHBL's portion a whopping $14,000 that has already been spent and we haven’t even scratched the surface of this unfunded mandate. To top it off, the standards we adopted, Common Core, definitely aren’t better then what we already had and many would say, worse.

Our school board should be leading the fight to combat these standards but that has not happened. The district released a statement this year about the reform agenda. One positive, the board agreed not to include the word “higher” when describing the standards. They list the following actions they have taken:

  • listened to the community at a forum on Common Core
  • wrote a letter to the commissioner listings community concerns
  • wrote a second letter with concerns about implementation
  • discussed data reporting at length at a board meeting
  • held a second forum on testing

This isn’t enough, the time for listening and discussing has passed us by. Two years in and our kids are suffering every day. We need action!

The board did pass a resolution this year on the Gap Elimination Adjustment. This to me sends a message that our priority is funding, not on quality education.

The board should pass three resolutions:

  • withdrawing from Race to the Top
  • demanding the state reduce the emphasis on standardized testing
  • proclaiming that our children’s personal data should remain private

If elected, adopting these resolutions will be my priority. Thank You!

Peter Sawyer's opening statement: Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself and to speak about my qualifications to serve on the Board of Education for the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School system. I appreciate The League of Women Voters of Saratoga County for their sponsorship and for those involved in making this event happen tonight.

I’d like to speak about three characteristics that underlie my qualifications for serving on the school board: commitment, experience, and knowledge. As someone who grew up and graduated from Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and as someone with two children in the high school, I feel a deep commitment to the community and to the school. I believe we have an outstanding school, tremendous and dedicated educators, and a community that knows that character, integrity, hard work and education are the keys to the future.

Secondly, I believe my experience in higher education is an asset I can bring to the board. I began working and studying higher education in 1986 at the University of Vermont. I developed a background in leadership programs, career development, student activities, the first year experience, and residential life. After working for a number of years, I decided to go back and earn my doctorate so I could have a stronger influence on the development of students in their thinking about the world and their role in it. Since then, I have taught college courses at a number of colleges and universities and now work as a Department Chair and the Director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at Hudson Valley Community College. I have taught high school students through interactive television and at Tec-Smart. I have taught online classes and web enhanced classes. As a Department Chair, I supervise 24 full time and 70 part time faculty. I have a strong belief in the value of education and its mission to fully recognize and to bring forth the character, skills, talents and commitments of our young people, to help shape their futures and to build a better tomorrow.

Lastly, I believe that my knowledge of education and of the community allow me to be in a unique position to provide support to the district as we move forward in a challenging time for education.

In closing, my choice to run for office reflects a desire to make a positive contribution to this school system and to our community. I hope to use my commitment, my experience and my knowledge to continue the fine tradition of our schools and to help them continue to be the strength and the heart of our community. As a member of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Rotary Club, I believe in the Rotary motto of “service above self.”

John Blowers' opening statement: Good evening. My name is John Blowers and I’m seeking re-election to the board of education in order to keep our schools strong and student-focused. Burnt Hills remains a destination district for families and educators as evidenced by our ranking of 5th out of 85 area districts.

However, as strong as our district currently is, that strength is at risk. There is an educational initiative we are still operating under which threatens us. Here are some quotes about it:
“This is stifling creativity in the class room”
”There is too much testing”
”This approach is a failure”
”This is another example of harmful politics”
”The implementation is terrible”

No, I’m not referring to what is broadly referred to as the common core. These are quotes about No Child Left Behind, signed into law in 2002 and in place for four years when I joined the board in 2006. Not many in education were in favor of this program. It would introduce excessive testing forcing teachers to teach to the test. There was a perceived over-reliance on data. Sound familiar?

We had options at that time. We could have passed resolutions, signed petitions, put up signs, had rallies and become activists. Instead, we focused on the best way to impact student achievement while educating lawmakers about the challenges this legislation was creating. Essentially we put students before politics. We are now four years into the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards. We could have chosen to invest our energy into high-stakes radicalism, but we knew that wasn’t a winning strategy in 2006. And it isn’t now. There is no need to overreact and choose to let an educational initiative define us.

So, that said, with all due respect to Messieurs Ali and Frazier and their classic Thrilla in Manilla…let’s get r-r-r-r-r-ready to uncork at O’Rourke!

Matthew Schultz's opening statement: Good evening thank you all for coming out to the meet the candidate night and for watching online. I am running for the school board because I love this district and feel I have a lot to contribute to the board. I have been a student of this district for 13 years. This has given me a very unique perspective on the day to day operation of the school. I know what it is like to be on the “receiving end” of difficult decisions and I feel this will help when I, too, make decisions about the well being of the students and taxpayers. If elected, my biggest focus will be to maintain our excellent education system while making financially responsible choices. In addition, I would like to add some classes in a creative manor that will help our students be ready for both college and the 21st century. I also believe in solid communication. I plan to make sure the community is informed about what is going on in the schools. This will help residents feel comfortable because they will know what is going on. Another way to improve commination would be to get the input of the students. I’d like to hear what they have to say because they are the ones that are most affected when changes are made. To do this I plan on visiting the schools at least ounces a month. Finally, I will use my experience as the Schultz Garden Center manager to help me be a productive member of the board. In closing, I would like to add that while some people might wonder if an 18-year-old has enough experiences and responsibility to be a board member, I believe I have a lot to offer. I have been on the High Honor Roll since 6th grade. I have also been able to overcome dyslexia and have won the Scholastic All Star award for improvement in my reading abilities. I have been an active attendee at most of the board meeting this entire year. I have spent a lot of time and effort learning about the procedures and policies of the board. One very clear benefit of my youth is that I am not afraid to ask for help and will seek it when necessary. So often I have talked with many people who have been on or are on boards to learn about different parts of the educational system. I plan to continue education myself on these matters to help me be a member of the board.

John Kelch's opening statement: Hi. I’m John Kelch. I’ve lived in the community for about 38 years. I’ve raised a couple of families of kids here. I’ve had a very diverse career with major corporations that have taken me around the world, certainly around the country.

About six years ago, around the time I was getting ready to retire from Time Warner, I got involved in some issues in the District and was surprised by some things that I found. I spent some time looking “under the covers,” attended Board meetings religiously for about three years, certainly had many communications with people in the District, served on building committees, etc.

I’m running for the Board for a couple of reasons.

I am not happy with the priority of many of the decisions being made by the Board, and Administration. I think that they have not been as considerate of the interests of kids, parents and taxpayers in the community, as candid as they should be. So I have decided to step up and run for the Board.

The second thing I want to talk about in the minute I have left is “Common Core”. I’ve had a lot of time to research “Common Core”, to reach out to people behind the scenes, and find out what’s driving it. And it is more than one agenda. It is foisted upon education but the agendas behind it are much more than just education. The part of it that I agree with is what they call the “high school of the future”. I think that’s a good step forward. Many of the other agendas behind the scenes in terms of grabbing our kids and collecting all kinds of information on families and kids is detrimental to the interest of kids and families, and I’m adamantly against Common Core and have certainly let people in Albany know that.
Thank you.


You can also watch a recording of the Meet-the-Candidates Night. [WATCH VIDEO]