The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

May 20, 2013

Five candidates vie for Medina seats

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — Voters who go to the polls in Medina Tuesday will be choosing four board members from a pool of five candidates. Three are incumbents. Of the four elected, three will serve three-year terms while the fourth-highest vote getter will finish the one year left on the seat vacated by Susan Squires.

Virginia Nicholson is one incumbent. She has spent several years on the board and is a past board vice president and president. She said she is seeking re-election because “the education of our children is what’s going to help create our society of tomorrow.”

As an advocate for education in both Albany and Washington, D.C., Nicholson said the board has a responsibility to “fight for the right way to educate students and help them succeed.”

“We need to find the right courses and teachers, and I feel we’ve been fortunate in our district and I want that to continue,” Nicholson said, adding that one goal the board should share is to have students graduate from high school either ready for college.

Community outreach is also something Nicholson said should continue.

“We have senior citizens using the pool and graduates coming back to the district as teachers,” she said. She added that she felt “fortunate” to have worked on a grant that allowed a school resource officer to be added as an added measure for student safety.

With education costs always a concern, Nicholson said, it is vital that the economy and the circumstances surrounding it are taken into account when assessing “the value of education.”

“I think I can help with that,” she said. “I want to help accomplish the goal of a solid education for our students with the least effect on the taxpayers.”

Wendi Pencille is also an incumbent who has finished her first term on the board. She said the past three years have been challenging and wrought with tough decisions.

“We have done some nice things in the district, but we’ve done some tough things, too,” she said.

Those tough things included closing Towne School this past fall and the “gut-wrenching” decision to eliminate some staff positions a year or two ago.

Pencille said those decisions, in hindsight, were the right thing.

“You look at other schools in (Western New York) and some of them this year had to decide whether to cut kindergarden or sports programs,” she explained. “This year, we were able to come out and present a budget without a tax increase and put some programs back.”

With two children in Medina schools, Pencille said her concern for the students in the district is as both a parent and a board member.

“It takes time and concentration, but it’s definitely worth it,” she said, noting how it has been rewarding this past year to see teachers and students alike rise to the challenge of the consolidation to one central campus.

“It’s been done with grace and dignity,” Pencille said.

Pencille said some of the board’s actions led to “huge scrutiny” in the past few years but the results have lead to positives.

“Good things are happening and I want to keep them going,” she said. 

John McCarthy, Jr. has served four years on the board. In his time as a board member, McCarthy has seen the start of shared student organizations. Continued efforts in this regard are something he said he sees as beneficial moving forward.

“We’re sharing music students, drama students, and different sports, and I firmly believe that if we expect the kids to do it, then we as the adults should make the same sacrifice,” McCarthy suggested.

Sharing administrators is something nearby Roy-Hart and Barker will do this coming year with a joint superintendent, McCarthy pointed out. In Medina, a new technology director or curriculum director shared with a neighboring district could lead to overall savings.

“All districts are in the same boat curriculum-wise,” he said, referring to the state’s Common Core standards. “For a county of this size we should be able to share more than we currently do instead of cutting programs.”

McCarthy also said that as both a teacher and as a board member he is against the “overtesting” of students.

“I know that some people like it, but as a parent of kids in school, it’s not great,” he said. “Quality teachers are missing class time because they are forced to be trained on certain standards.”

With two children in the district, McCarthy said he wanted his kids and the rest of the district’s students to be evaluated with more hands-on learning. He said as a board member he would fight to help teach kids to solve problems rather than “fill in a bubble” on a standardized test sheet.

Lori Draper and Dave Sevenski make up the rest of the ballot.

Draper said she has a “sincere interest in making sure all students are provided an education.” She said, “I want to make sure all our students are engaged, and I want them all to graduate.”

With society changing, Draper said students now come from homes where they are raised by single parents, grandparents, other non-traditional environments, or homes where safety is a concern. She said all of those students need the benefit of an education.

“The world is changing,” she said. “We get all kinds of students in school.”

Draper said the board should be a “good mix” of educators and parents from the community.

One thing she said is important is the communication between the district and parents of students because “it is not always done as efficiently and effectively as possible.” Another goal she mentioned is keeping the burden on the taxpayers as low as possible. That, she said, would include as much transparency as possible from the board.

In a district-wide newsletter, Sevenski said he would use his management experience from his years as a local businessman to “infuse common sense and long term thinking” on the board.

“Education matters because it is teaching our children how to live,” he said.

Having watched the board operate closely for the past several years, Sevenski said he believes he could help accomplish Medina’s district goals. Among them, he said one significant goal is “teaching children how to live.”

He said the district’s responsibility is creating students who are competent “academically, socially, and compassionately.” Testing, he said, is not something district should weigh heavily.

“Education is more than just a standardized test score on a graph,” he said.