CHATHAM–Five candidates are vying for three open seats on the Chatham Central School District Board of Education in Tuesdays election. The posts carry three-year terms each.
Voters will choose among three incumbents, Melony Spock, Muriel Faxon and Craig Simmons, and two newcomers who have previously run, Wayne Coe and Steve Gilger.
A separate report on the proposed Chatham Central School District budget appears elsewhere in this issue.
Candidate profiles, in alphabetical order, appear below.
Wayne Coe is vehement about the need for change in the district. He cites what he described as “the incumbents’ plummeting test scores” and their “ceiling-shattering $30,000,000 budget,” saying, “I can do better.” Mr. Coe, a native of Los Angeles who has resided in Chatham for a decade, called his opponents “union-puppet incumbents are only interested in union wealth, costing $26,850 per student, among the most expensive in the nation.”
He is a professional illustrator who works for the entertainment industry. He has made two prior, unsuccessful bids for a seat on the school board. The father of three students attending other schools, he said he is vying a third time as a way to expose what he alleges is corruption existing in the state education system at large and within the Chatham Central School District in particular. He cited information on his website at chatham-ny-watchdogs.com.
Muriel Faxon, a lifelong resident of Chatham, is the mother of five grown children and two grandchildren and is owner of Faxon School of Dance, which is poised to present its 64th recital this month. She is seeking to serve a second term on the school board to “keep the momentum going.”
“I think we have a lot of unfinished business that I’d like to see through,” she said. “The next three years will be very important as we conduct a search for a new superintendent and continue with the ever-important work of upgrading the district’s curriculum.”
Ms. Faxon lauded existing school board members as strong team players who make the students their first priority. She said she believed her efforts on the Facilities, Negotiation and Library committees were noteworthy and that she was very optimistic about the future of the Chatham Central School District.
Steve Gilger, 58, a parent, shares Mr. Coe’s views on the Chatham Central School District. A native of Long Island and owner of his own building/contracting business, he has resided in Chatham for two decades and made two previous unsuccessful bids for a seat on the board. In a prepared statement, Mr. Gilger said the following:
“I am a concerned taxpayer and parent who seeks reasonable, ethical, sustainable change. I am the parent of a child in the CCSD. I hold a degree in fine arts and business and a diploma in construction management. I bring over 30 years of experience in building and facilities management to the table. I am a member of Northern Columbia Rotary, the Red Rock FD and a volunteer for Chatham Boy Scouts. I am running for school board because to say it bluntly–I would like to see a more transparent process of open meetings and workshops free of propaganda or public manipulation–a process free of patronage and politics which allows for differences of opinion. I want to help create a common sense system that works not for itself, but for everyone concerned. I want to reign in unnecessary spending and reduce our 11-million-dollar debt. I want to be part of a plan for change that makes a child and their education the most important part of the school system.”
Craig Simmons is optimistic about the district and said he is committed to finding the most suitable replacement for Superintendent Nuciforo. A local entrepreneur and farmer, he is a lifelong resident of Ghent and the parent of three children who currently are or have attended the Chatham Central School District.
Mr. Simmons served one full term and said he is seeking another term so he can remain instrumental in advancing initiatives that best serve and protect the education and wellbeing of all students.
“I’ve been something of a squeaky wheel,” he said. “For instance, three years ago when there was talk of consolidation and closing the Middle School I was the only opposing vote.”
Mr. Simmons persisted and called for review of the matter, which ultimately reversed the majority’s decision, he said.
If re-elected, he said he would continue to stand his ground on other issues, with the students’ best interest in mind, regardless of the popularity of his views.
Melony Spock, 49, who currently presides as school board president, is the mother of three school-aged children attending Chatham schools and a staff member of both the New York State Health Facilities and Performing Spaces for the 21st Century. She is serving a second term on the Board of Education and seeking a third term because she says she “cares about what is best for kids.”
“I want to continue to collaborate with all stakeholders in our community to develop a vision for our future that benefits our students and community,” Ms. Spock said.
She cited her intention to continue working with the board to create goals that prepare students for the future while remaining mindful of the board’s fiscal responsibility to not overburden taxpayers. If re-elected she said she will be focused on finding a new school superintendent who is the best fit for the district. Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo recently announced she will retire in June 2017.
Polls are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 17. Voting will take place in the gymnasium at the Mary E. Dardess Elementary School, 50 Woodbridge Avenue in Chatham.