Who is running for the school board?

Board of Education Candidates

(Listed in the order they will appear on the ballot.)
* The statements below each candidates’ bio were written by the candidates. The opinions contained within are theirs and may not reflect the opinions or views of BH-BL School District leaders or the Board of Education.

Michele Draves

Michele is seeking her first term on the board. She is a 1991 BH-BL High School graduate and attended SCCC for paralegal studies. She is also a graduate of the National Labor College. Michele is active in the school community as well as the community at large. Since 2016, she’s been a member of the Town of Glenville’s Efficiency in Government Committee and is a member of the high school’s Parent Advisory Committee and the Special Education PTA. She also served the community as a 911 dispatcher for five years, held a five-year leadership role with the Scotia-Glenville Democrats, and often volunteered at Charlton Heights Elementary School. She and her husband, Ron, have twin boys attending BH-BL High School. *See Michele’s position statement below.

“As a graduate of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake School District, I appreciate all that our district has to offer students from Kindergarten through High School. When I met and later married my husband, while house shopping, my main objective was to live in the district to offer my children the same quality education that I received.

Currently, while hopefully facing the end to the Global Pandemic that we have been facing for the past 2 years, I think that it is more important than ever that the members of our Board of Education set purposeful, well thought out policies and procedures. This includes but is not limited to the tiered mitigation plan.

As the parent of two high schoolers I have a unique perspective on the privileges our district offers, extensive language opportunities, college credit courses, unmatched technology opportunities, as well as BOCES and Driver Education programs. One of my high schoolers is also taking advantage of our unparalleled Special Education Program, which also gives me a unique understanding of why all of these services are so important to our community as a whole. This safe and supportive educational environment, with our new, exceptional Technology wing also affords students of our district many opportunities not offered in other districts, and if offered, none to the extent of BH-BL.

Knowing all of these many opportunities as well as the quality of educators and support staff in our district, I feel compelled to represent my community and our children to ensure that all of this remains offered at BH-BL, while also ensuring that the district budget be carefully examined  throughout and to always keep the current economic climate in mind. 

As a member of the board, I vow to do my best to ensure all policies and procedures that I am asked to examine are for the betterment of the school community at large. With your support, I look forward to serving as a member of our school board.”

Emily Walsh

Emily is seeking her first term on the Board of Education. She has been a resident of BH-BL for eight years. Emily graduated from Scotia-Glenville High School in 2003 and is the owner of Freckles Photography. She and her husband, Patrick, have three children who currently attend Stevens Elementary School. Emily volunteers her time and photography services for St. Baldrick’s events and is the photographer for Burnt Hills Nursery School. She also volunteers in various capacities at the Charlton Volunteer Fire Department. Emily and her family foster dogs for Dallys Hope 4 Paws. *See Emily’s position statement below.

“Growing up in nearby Scotia, I was thrilled to move to Burnt Hills in 2014 so I could give my children all of the benefits the school district has to offer. I embraced the BHBL community and started a family photography business in 2017 and have wholeheartedly enjoyed my time with all of the families in the area.

If elected, I will work hard to ensure the operational and fiscal practices of the board are sound while being a strong advocate for students who have struggled academically, emotionally, and physically. Covid has created many unprecedented challenges and as a board we need to be innovative in our solutions. This will include taking a close look at expanding our special education department to address a much greater need. I look forward to being part of the solution and helping to develop a concrete action plan to help all students heal and reach their full potential.

I am against COVID vaccine mandates and will be a staunch advocate for parent choice in these matters. I will always support the right of parents and caregivers to decide what is best for their child. All children must have access to a public education and that should not be threatened by policies that intrude into personal matters.

What sets me apart in a crowded field of candidates is that I will be a strong parent choice advocate while working collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure student success. Melissa Barone and I are running as a team because our shared vision allows us to advocate more effectively, and our district can only benefit from having fresh ideas and voices to navigate all the unique challenges facing public schools today. Together, we can move BHBL forward and ensure all stakeholders are part of the solution.”

David Mitchell

David is seeking his first term on the Board. He has been a BH-BL resident for 22 years and is the Executive Director of the Oak Hill School. David has his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from SUNY Plattsburgh as well as certifications in Special Education and School District Administration. David is a member of the Elks Club and is a former East Glenville Fire Commissioner. He also volunteers as a travel coach for youth baseball and basketball teams, and is involved in Junior Achievement at Pashley Elementary School. David and his wife, Brande, have five children. Three of his children have already graduated from BH-BL High School and one will be a Class of 2022 graduate. *See David’s position statement below.

“BHBL core beliefs state that students, staff, parents, and community members are partners and all have a responsibility in the educational process for our children. The strength of the BHBL Central School District is ensuring that all stakeholders are heard and are a part of sustaining a high-quality education for all students. As a board member, I would do my best to make sure that statement is adhered to. 

As a parent of five children, three who graduated from BHBL and another who will be graduating this year, and for someone who has been in the field of education for the past 40 years, I recognize how important it is for all stakeholders to work collaboratively to achieve success for all of our children. I have been a teacher, coach, mentor, principal, and district administrator in public education for 30 years. In addition, for the past ten years, I have been the Executive Director at Oak Hill School, a private school for students with special needs. I believe all of these experiences, including being a parent and community member, give me the unique perspective to act as an asset to the school board. As an educator, parent and taxpayer, I understand and recognize the importance of our teachers, administrators, and support staff as the pillars of our schools. We need to continue to hire, retain and support high-quality staff, which in turn produce high-quality programs for our children. 

Being a school board member is a considerable commitment and one that I take seriously. If elected, you can be sure that I will give my very best effort and will listen to all stakeholders before making any decisions that will impact our children or school district. In addition, I will use my knowledge as a parent, educator, coach, and community member to advocate for our children in a fiscally responsible and academically supportive manner.”

David Barclay II

Dave is seeking his first term on the Board. He is a graduate of Union College where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in history and a Master’s degree in teaching. He was also named Union football team’s 1998 MVP. Dave furthered his education at Johns Hopkins University earning a second Master’s degree in Education Technology and earned his Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership at SUNY Plattsburgh. Dave is currently a Regional Sales Manager for Hapara. He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and is the Founder and Organizer of the Dads in Cargo Shorts 5k. Dave is an Assistant Coach for Spartan Youth Football and is on the organization’s Golf Event Committee. Dave and his wife Kathleen have two sons who attend Stevens and O’Rourke. *See Dave’s position statement below.

After graduating from Burnt Hills in 1995, life took me several places around the United States and abroad. On this journey, I came to know many different people, cultures and ways of living. With our wanderlust satisfied, my wife and I moved back to BH-BL to raise our family in this unique and terrific community. As a Board of Education member, I would preserve and honor who we are, where we have been and what makes us great. With over two decades as an educator, I would be sure to keep an eye on how we can best prepare our children for an ever changing world that looks different from the community in which they live.   

Shared Decision Making stands at the core of how BH-BL operates. Continuing this long tradition will ensure that all community stakeholders will have their voice as we move forward together. Our success as a school district hinges on the strong relationships forged by parents, school leaders and faculty. As a parent of children in the district, a former school administrator and classroom teacher, I am uniquely placed to understand the challenges faced by each group, and listen empathetically to the needs, concerns and hopes for BH-BL students. 

Financially, BH-BL has kept yearly budget increases below 2% for the past 11 years. During this same period, the district has maintained a healthy student/teacher ratio and embarked upon multiple capital improvement projects providing our students with cutting edge technology and facilities. I am in full support of these efforts, and would move to continue on the trajectory of fiscally responsible improvements to our staffing and facilities.

Together, we have weathered the COVID storm. My goal is to play a part in healing our community as we navigate the road ahead. I pledge to listen to individual concerns, and emphatically accept the challenge of looking at all sides of the issues facing our district. I will work collaboratively with other Board of Education members to develop thoughtful, inclusive and well reasoned positions that benefit all Spartans.”

Jennifer Longtin

Jen is a 22-year BH-BL resident and is  seeking her fourth term on the board. During her time on the board, Jen has served as president, vice president, and finance committee chairperson. She is also the chair of the Policy Review Committee and serves on the Long Range Planning Committee. She is currently serving her second term as a NYSTRS Board Trustee and earned a Board Mastery designation from NYSSBA. Jen owns Lighthouse Insurance Agency LLC and Longtin Properties LLC, both of which have operated in Burnt Hills for more than 12 years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Siena in Business Administration, Accounting, and Management. She lives in Ballston Lake with her three children who attend BH-BL High School. *See Jen’s position statement below.

“First and foremost, I want to thank our voters for their support over the past nine years. It has been a pleasure to serve this district. I know how lucky I am to be a part of this board and community, and I do not take that for granted. 

BH-BL is a special place to live, go to school, and even work. We have exceptional teachers and staff who are truly invested in helping all of our students succeed. We have a community that supports the district’s goals to improve and flourish. And we have a visionary leadership team that has put our district on a steady and strategic path toward continued success and growth. 

With three children in the district I have had the opportunity to personally meet many of our wonderful families, and I am proud to call so many friends. It has been an honor to be a part of our students’ successes and watch them excel on the stage and on our athletic fields and courts. I am truly proud to be a Spartan.

During my time on the board, I have been instrumental in supporting transparent communication and ensuring the district continues to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment to provide our students with the foundation they need to thrive and succeed. I remain strongly supportive of the district’s shared-decision making tradition and have participated on various committees, such as the Policy Review Committee where I play an integral role in revisiting and revising the district’s current policies to align them with NYS School Boards Association recommendations.

We all know the world is changing and we are faced with challenges every day. And that is why I will continue to be an advocate for our students, teachers, and community. My passion to make a difference is the same as it was nine years ago and I want to continue doing my part to help guide our district into the future. I will remain an active, engaged board member working in the best interests of our students, district and community. I am proud to serve as a board member and thank you for your support with my re-election.”

Ben Riehlman

Ben is a seeking his first term on the board. He holds degrees in mathematics, science, technology, world history, and education from The College of St. Rose, SUNY Albany, and SCCC. He is a dual certified teacher in both technology and social studies, and currently teaches general and special education. Prior to that, Ben worked as a dairy farmer, a construction worker, a cook and an uber driver, and is a supporter of trade apprenticeships. Ben is also a coach and mentor. He and his wife, Brenda, are raising two children, an 8-year-old so who attends Pashley Elementary School and a 4-year-old daughter who will be entering kindergarten in September.  *See Ben’s position statement below.

“New York State’s effort to reimagine education is proving to be a dismal failure. We must return schools to their proper order, whereby they serve the interests of the community in which they reside, not the interests of state agencies. While I am certainly prepared to tackle the procedural and logistical side of being on the school board: passing budgets, forming coalitions, and engaging in shared decision making, my primary focus will be on much more critical issues. If we do not rein in the state’s Unconstitutional and immoral overreach into our schools, then the repercussions on our children, and our society, will be catastrophic.

Originally, public schools were structured in a way that gave parents and community members the ability and authority to guide policies and curricula. Recently, state agencies, using monetary incentives, have usurped this authority, leaving the community out and taking away parent’s choice. The policies and mandates handed down from state agencies are becoming increasingly distasteful and have strayed from the original mission of educating students. Good citizens and loving parents, many of them living paycheck-to-paycheck, are left with a difficult choice: Keep their children in a school that promotes ideologies which are averse to their value structure or quit their job so that they can homeschool their children, leaving them economically distressed. For some, the latter of these two choices is an impossibility, as it would mean that these parents would be unable to pay their bills, subsequently putting them out on the streets. As such, these loving parents are forced to keep their children in a school that no longer reflects their values and beliefs.

I would like to offer these concerned citizens and parents, a third choice. I am running for school board to put the power back in the hands of the local community and to give parents a voice. If elected, I will do everything in my power, use every tool at my disposal, to reject the repugnant policies and mandates being pushed by the state and to reaffirm that Burnt Hills–Ballston Lake CSD, belongs to our community.”

Tom Bird

Tom is seeking his first term on the board. He has been a BH-BL resident for three years and lived in Glenville for 38 years. He graduated from Siena College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and Management degree. Tom is the owner of First Class Home Solution and a partner in Bird Realty, both located in Glenville. He also holds a NYS Real Estate Brokers License and is a member of the NYS Association of Realtors and National Association of Realtors. Tom and his family are parishioners at Faith Baptist Church where he’s also the Facility Director and a member of the Music Worship Team. Tom lives in Glenville with his wife Brittany, who is an educator, his step-daughter Sofie and son Johnathan. *See Tom’s position statement below.

“In today’s society and especially within our schools, we as a community are in a fight against situations we could have never imagined. This is happening for all parents and students no matter how you may feel from a political perspective.

Our children have had to deal with differences in their learning environment and also from a social/emotional aspect of life. In trying to keep them safe from a pandemic, our NYS government overstepped their bounds and handcuffed local school administrators’ abilities to teach our children from a “normal” position. I would like to be a part of the BH-BL Board of Education to help fight against mandates and curriculum changes that disregard parental choice and the voice
of the community. 

I am very pro-teacher as my wife and some family members teach children every day, and I understand how difficult of a position this can be. However, it takes a village (our community) to raise a child and I feel strongly that we need to make sure our teachers are well equipped from a budgetary standpoint, so that they may handle the everyday situations that may arise. However, being fiscally responsible with the taxpayer dollars after teachers are compensated fairly is a task that I am willing to take head on. 

As a member of the Board, I would like to see more local control from and for our schools administrators. Although I would come to this position from a morally conservative viewpoint, I would want to work as a team with the other seven board members for the betterment of each child who walks into our schools. I would push for more camaraderie as a community rather than the separation that is happening in today’s society.”

Melissa Barone

Melissa is seeking her first term on the Board. She has a Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Albany where she studied psychology and philosophy. Melissa is licensed in Property & Casualty/Life & Health Insurance. She is a licensed NYS Real Estate Salesperson and a self-employed realtor with Field Realty. She volunteers for Red Cross Blood Drives, Toys for Tots, and Make a Wish Foundation. She also volunteers at the “Morning of Kindness” and “Dine Out for Life”annual events. Melissa was an Eagle Society Top Sales Leader and Chairman Circle Qualifier (via State Farm) and a two-time Arbonne Incentive Trip earner. She and her husband, Jason, have lived in BH-BL for three years. Their two children attend O’Rourke Middle School and Charlton Heights. *See Melissa’s position statement below.

“Born and raised in Troy, NY, my husband and I were excited to settle with our two boys in the Burnt Hills community. I run both an Arbonne and Real Estate business, and I am deeply committed to volunteering and to community service. I have served as President of the Colonie Chamber Ambassador Committee, President of the Clifton Park Women in Networking Connect, and the President of the Forest Park Elementary PTA, to name just a few. I will bring that same passion to serve on the BH-BL Board of Education.

COVID created many setbacks and challenges for students. As the parent of a child with a learning disability, I came to see how a successful balance had not been struck between keeping everyone safe while also protecting the mental, academic, and social health of children during critical periods of development. I am committed to bringing valuable insight to complicated issues and will work collaboratively to help students overcome and thrive. I am opposed to COVID mandates and believe all parents should play an important role in shared decision making.

Coming from a culturally diverse family with military and civil service roots, it is important to me that our district promotes the values and lessons that create a positive learning environment. Administration, staff, and parents need to work together to ensure sensitive topics are handled in a way that does not expose children to developmentally inappropriate lessons.

It is my love of our children, district, community, and country that led me to run for the BH-BL Board of Education. Running as a team with Emily Walsh, we hope to continue the legacy BH-BL has built, but there is much work to be done to overcome unprecedented challenges. I promise to be open, listen, and collaborate, all while standing strong for our Constitution and parent choice.”