School voting preview -- Skaneateles Central School District

2013-05-19T03:00:00Z 2013-05-21T09:17:24Z School voting preview -- Skaneateles Central School District Auburn Citizen
May 19, 2013 3:00 am

Polling: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, in the auditorium of Waterman Primary School

Proposed budget: $30,058,829 -- +3.15 percent

Estimated tax levy: $22,775,100 -- +4.98 percent

Tax levy increase limit under tax cap law: 6.25 percent (simple majority - 50 percent plus one - needed to pass proposed levy increase)

Ballot propositions:

  • School buses: To purchase two new school buses at an estimated cost not to exceed $245,000

School board candidates (three open seats, top two winners will serve three-year terms, third winner will serve the remainder of a vacant one-year term):

Rhonda Fabrizio

Age: 52

Resides in: Skaneateles

Family: Husband, John; and son, Jack

Education: B.A. in accounting from West Virginia University

Elected offices held: None

What should be the top three priorities for the district?

In my capacity as a board member, I believe it will be important to have a more thorough analysis of the budget and how the yearly increases have directly affected each student. Laying out a strategic plan for our district, a plan that right-sizes the district's overhead costs without negatively impacting the students' education or extracurricular activities, will be an important goal. One of the board's strategies is to raise the bar on communications with the community. I would to like help facilitate more transparency between the school and the community.

What can you bring to the school board?

My background differs from most of the other school board members in that I have a financial background. I have a degree in accounting and I am currently a Senior Financial Analyst for IBM.  My previous community service includes serving on the boards of both the Varsity Boys' Hockey Boosters for four years, two as president, and the Music Guild. As a senior in high school, my son has taken advantage of all that the Skaneateles educational system has to offer. He has played sports, seen every school play, taken AP and honors classes, received special education services and participated in the Environmental Club as their vice president.  Having a child who has been through the primary and secondary educational process, I have a well-rounded understanding of the Skaneateles school system.

What will you do to ensure that local parents are partners in decision-making for the district?

I have a Facebook page that, if elected, I will use as a portal to provide public information on pertinent school issues. In turn, I hope to generate productive input and/or responses from the community. By using social media, my goal is to create a transparent and efficient forum where views are shared on educational issues.

Why did you decide to run?

My son, Jack, will graduate from Skaneateles High School this spring.  My son, my husband and I all love the community.  The school has been a primary focus for my family. We appreciate the high academic standards that the district has achieved and can thoroughly appreciate the needs of the students.  With my skill set, I can bring a financial voice to the board that will not jeopardize these high educational standards.

 

Geralyn Huba

Age: 53

Resides in: Skaneateles

Family: Husband, Bill; and three children, Gregory, 18, Eric, 15, and Amelia, 12

Education: Dual degree in history and theater from SUNY Oswego

Elected offices held: None

What should be the top three priorities for the district?

The hiring of a new superintendent, addressing the declining enrollment and increased mandated expenses facing the district, and ensuring a quality education while keeping costs down.

What can you bring to the school board?

Over the past ten years, I have volunteered at all four schools and in the community in a variety of capacities.  I have served on almost two dozen committees and boards, in all. I have work with Holy Trinity Preschool Board, Sea Scouts/Girl Scouts, Lakeshore Softball and Baseball, local libraries, the SCSD, in the school libraries, music, art, Horizons Enrichment, kindergarten readiness, chess, SIT, PTC's at all four buildings, new student orientation, and sports.  I know the buildings and the personnel in each extremely well, as well as the areas that are wonderful, and some things that could be improved upon. I know the challenges the district is facing: declining enrollment, ever-increasing state and federally mandated testing requirements, maintenance and facilities needs and technology needs.  I have been diligent about attending Board of Education meetings and budget meetings, was involved in the new superintendent search and attended numerous sessions on the upcoming bond vote. I know this district and I want to be involved as a volunteer on the next level, as a member of the BOE, as we prepare for our future.

What will you do to ensure that local parents are partners in decision-making for the district?

I want the district to allow the community members, taxpayers, business owners, parents, teachers and other stakeholders to have more of a say in the budget process and in the long term planning for our district. We need more transparency in the process and two-way communication. Can we form a "Budget Advisory Committee" to advise the BOE and the superintendent as they prepare the budget before it goes to the public? The same with a master plan for the district: form a committee to look into our future - three, five, eight or ten years from now. How will we use our facilities/buildings? Will we need to merge with another district? Can we share more resources with surrounding districts, utilize the resources BOCES offers more and utilize more long distance learning programs?

Why did you decide to run?

My children asked me too, and I want to have a say in the hiring of the new superintendent, the person who will be the face and personality of our district and help decide and implement the changes that are coming. I want to be more creative in the ways that we offer enrichment to our students. Music, art, languages, sports, technology, etc. have all experienced cuts in the past four years. We have such a wealth of experience in our community - writers, musicians, artists, financial advisers, Navy Admirals, accountants, college professors in so many disciplines and television personalities, just to name a few. Can we tap into that pool of knowledge and add to the curriculum for our students? It can't be simply about the mandated tests. Our students deserve more.

 

Thomas Lambdin

Age: 52

Reside in: Sennett

Family: Wife of 25 years, Claudia; and two children in Skaneateles schools

Education: MS in computer science from Union College, BA from Hamilton College, salutatorian, and Broadalbin High School, near Albany

Elected offices held: Member of Skaneateles School Board since 2010

What should be the top three priorities for the district?

We need to re-open the search for the next district superintendent. We need to support all in adjusting to new curriculum and new APPR evaluations. We have to match school operations carefully to fewer students and encourage more great kids to move here, identifying affordable houses.

What can you bring to the school board?

If elected to a second term, the school district will tap my experience on our young board, as only one board member has longer service.  My perfect attendance at over 70 board meetings demonstrates high commitment to the office during the last three years.  My GE private industry experience as a principal engineer provides rigorous external perspective.

What will you do to ensure that local parents are partners in decision-making?

The board must facilitate communication through the traditional press, electronic media, emerging technology and good, old-fashioned face-to-face dialogue. People notice my quiet presence at school events where they can voice concerns directly and get advice on the best school person to contact. The board also needs to partner with our PTCs, booster clubs and the Skaneateles Education Foundation, also for future school board candidates.

Why did you decide to run?

Being deeply thankful for my own education, patriotic and respectful of Skaneateles, it would be an honor to represent all people of the school district for a second term. We have challenges in the Skaneateles school district that we must translate to build, not weaken, the community. We have to maximize value of increasingly limited funds to uphold distinctive Skaneateles school traditions.

 

Margaret Usdansky Niebuhr

Age: 49

Reside in: Skaneateles

Family: Husband of 19 years, Gustav Niebuhr; and two sons in Skaneateles schools, Christopher, 14, and Jonathan, 10

Education: BA in Russian history and literature in from Harvard University in 1986, MA in demography from Georgetown University in 1995, Ph.D. in sociology with a concentration in demography from Princeton University in 2004

Elected offices held: None

What should be the top three priorities for the district?

The district's top three priorities should be a) hiring a new superintendent and new high school and middle school principals who have the vision, leadership skills and know-how to prepare our children for colleges and workplaces where science, technology and critical thinking skills matter more every day, b) finding innovative ways to respond to declining enrollment, including opening some low-enrollment classes to students from other school districts via Skype or other technology, and c) strengthening the quality of programs, including music and athletics, for all our children while remaining fiscally responsible.

What can you bring to the school board?

I bring to the school board nine years of experience in higher education, eight years of experience as a print journalist and almost a decade as a resident, parent and active community member in Skaneateles. As director of Syracuse University's Academic Integrity Office, I work with all academic divisions, from the School of Education to the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and I conduct research on the impact of majoring in the natural sciences on employment after college. My four years of service on the Board of Directors of Baltimore Woods Nature Center and my experience co-chairing the Skaneateles YMCA's successful annual support campaign this year taught me financial and organizational stewardship.

What will you do to ensure that local parents are partners in decision-making for the district?

As a former reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and USA TODAY, I am eager to build on the school district's increased efforts to communicate with parents and other community residents. The School News Notifier and enhanced website are a great start. I would like to see the district do even more to involve and communicate with district residents who do not have students in our schools, including outreach through local organizations and institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and the YMCA.

Why did you decide to run?

My husband, Gustav Niebuhr, and I moved to Skaneateles from Princeton, N.J. in 2003 to take jobs at SU. We chose Skaneateles because of the high caliber of this school district and the opportunities this community afforded to our sons, Christopher, now a high school freshman, and Jonathan, a fifth-grader at State Street. Our sons have benefited tremendously from the education they have received here, including strong core academic programs and wonderful opportunities in art and music, the performing arts and athletics. Because I care passionately about making sure all our children receive the best education possible, I attend school board meetings regularly and I would like to become even more involved by joining the board.

 

Doreen E. Bianchi (information not provided)

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