SPRINGVILLE—District residents will have their say in the members of the Springville-Griffith Institute Board of Education on May 16. Four seats will be vacant, the three candidates who receive the highest vote totals will be elected to a full three-year term, the candidate with the fourth-highest vote total will be elected to a one-year term, filling the vacancy left by Garett English’s resignation.
Current board members Chris Cerrone and Jennifer Sullivan are seeking re-election. The other two seats are currently held by Michael Connors and Tammy Sherwood, who was appointed to English’s seat earlier this year.
Chris Cerrone is a three-year member of the board of education, having been elected in the 2014 election. The father of two S-GI students, Cerrone said the board needs to now focus the future of the district.
“The next step, I think, is to establish a long-term vision … what our goals are,” he said. “We’ve been talking about whole-child education … being student-centered.”
If re-elected, he said he would continue the trend of working to graduate well-rounded students. Cerrone believes the board’s vision should include looking into how to further enhance teaching and educating for students.
“I think I have the knowledge needed to move in a direction as we focus on student learning,” Cerrone said.
He ran in 2014 hoping to help create a better administrative team and improve the district’s leadership. Having been a member of the board which helped hire Superintendent Kim Moritz, Cerrone feels satisfied his original goal has been completed.
In addition to his years on the board, Cerrone is an educator at Hamburg Central School. While sitting on the S-GI Board of Education, he has also been a delegate on the Erie County School Board Association.
Sitting vice-president Jennifer Sullivan is also seeking re-election. Sullivan joined the board in 2014. She formerly served as the president of the Colden Parent Teacher Association for the two-year term limit. In addition to having four children in the district, Sullivan said she’s re-running because she likes to “help out where [she] can.”
“I think [the board has] made good, positive changes and we’re really making a difference now,” Sullivan said. “People are happy and good things are happening.”
Those good things, she said, include the hiring of Moritz as well as the hiring and relocating principals at all levels. While hiring Moritz, a committee was set up which included staff, students and members of the community. Sullivan said that committee was a big step in the board opening communication and creating more transparency. Listening to the community, in everything from hiring a superintendent to daily operations, is an important factor for the board, according to Sullivan.
“We’re the voice of everybody,” she said. “People should feel like they can open up and talk.”
If re-elected, Sullivan will work to refocus the district’s goals on the students. Offering more programming, or looking at what the district offers, are on her list, to help make the school a “great experience.”
“Not every kid loves school, but school has to have something every kid likes,” she said. “We offer great education … but now it’s time to look at what we can do to improve and become better.”
Jessica Curry Schuster
Jessica Curry Schuster is a graduate of Springville-Griffith Institute with one child currently in the district. She has two more younger children, who will also become Griffs. She calls the district a “cornerstone” of the community, and is running for a position on the board to help increase communication with the district and community members.
“My interest peaked when the [December 2015] capital project failed,” Schuster said. “I think we can always do better with communication … and I think the board is a conduit for community communication.”
Along with the new administrative team, Schuster said she feels the board of education is heading in the right direction. She applauded the business office for creating a more transparent budget process, but noted there is always more work to be done.
“We’re parents and we’re taxpayers … we deserve to know what’s going on,” she said. “I think we have to maintain the budget and be fiscally responsible.”
She added, if elected, she hopes to better represent residents in the Collins area. Schuster’s husband is a native of Collins, and while the family lives in the village now, she hopes to be able to give a voice to an underrepresented part of the district.
“Our district is big, and diverse,” she said. “While I don’t live in Collins … I feel comfortable representing the area.”
If elected, Schuster will work to improve upon communication and transparency. Her main concern, now, is for residents to get out and vote.
“I’d like to see a high voter turnout. Voting is your voice,” she said. “Without it, people aren’t represented. So getting out and voting is important.”
Pamela Heary is hoping her experience as a project manager will translate well onto the board of education. With a background in leading a diverse group of people, maintaining a large budget and implementing annual preventive maintenance, Heary feels she has a good set of skills.
“I believe I have experience that’s useful,” she said. “I have good experience that would be helpful to the board, and I really want to help build the community and stronger education.”
Her experience will bring a different perspective to the board, she said, including being a resident without students in the district.
“I think it’s important to get members [on the board] without kids in the district,” she said. “We should pull those people into the district and focus on community involvement.”
Improving communication and accountability within the district, especially for those residents without students, is an important factor for Heary. She feels all district residents should be involved in some decisions.
“Maybe that’s setting up a community subcommittee, or surveying members of the community,” she said. “But there should be follow-up too. Where the money went, what worked, what didn’t work.”
Creating a preventive maintenance plan for district buildings is also a priority of Heary’s, who has experience creating a plan. She noted it’s important to be responsible for the district’s facilities and to use the money wisely.
Dan Miess is a first-time board candidate with three kids currently in the district and two more heading into the school. A graduate of S-GI, Miess said he has a “tremendous” interest in the success of the district and its students.
“I have not been in education … I’m degreed in manufacturing engineering,” he said. “My kids and wanting to contribute are the main motivators.”
He praised the current board and administration for doing a fine job, saying he was pleased with the progress being made. Miess was impressed with the December 2015 capital project and how it was handled by the board and district. He felt the board did a fabulous job advocating for the things that were needed, not wanted.
“I’m not coming from ‘there’s a problem and we need to change it’,” he said of his campaign for a board seat. “We’re a good school district and I want to help get better.”
He said the district is doing an excellent job being fiscally sound, and hopes to help continue that trend, if elected. As for his focus on what to improve, Miess would like to see more emphasis put on educating students in a more modern curriculum.
“We have to prepare kids for the world we live in today,” he said. “Whether that’s with arts and music, extracurriculars … the things that make for a well-rounded student and a good life. We should preserve that for this generation.”
For polling locations, voting times and other information, visit www.SpringvilleGI.org.