By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Two North Tonawanda Board of Education members whose terms are coming to an end in June have announced their intentions to retain their seats.
Art Pappas and Colleen Osborn will seek three-year terms. The district said two other potential candidates have picked up petitions to run, though their names and official entry into the race will not be announced until after the May deadline for petitions to be returned.
Pappas spent 12 years on the board in the 1990s, 10 as its president, before taking a hiatus. He returned in 2010, winning back his seat and nearly recapturing the presidency last year when he lost in a 4-3 split to Frank DiBernardo. He spent 39 years teaching in the Starpoint School District, where he continues to substitute teach after his retirement.
Osborn, who has three children in the district, took over for Martin Burruano, after he stepped down in 2011, for the remaining two years of the term. She has established herself as an outspoken member, and framed herself as a representative of working class residents and seniors.
The announcements come at a challenging time for North Tonawanda schools, with budget gaps, fluctuation in state funding and consistent rifts among board members. A newly state-mandated tax cap, the continual rise of employee health care costs, years without a teacher contract and the closure of Gilmore Elementary School have also been topics during both incumbents’ terms.
While the 2013 budgetary process is shaping up to be less stringent then last year, when the board unleashed a volley of cuts to staff positions and programs to balance the district’s finances, Osborn and Pappas say they want to be a part of the process the next several years.
Pappas said while his most recent stint has been arduous, he believes the board has been able to provide “a pretty sound education” for students. He also cited his experience in education, union affairs and business-related committees in Niagara County.
“I have the perspective of both sides,” he said of his experience. “I think I have some things to offer as a candidate that’s still needed in the district.”
Osborn said she joined the board after watching her children grow up in the district. She said she’s pressed to retain the district’s special education programs and has been a voice of reason during a factitious time among board members.
“I went in there with a parent’s point of view and I have learned some of the other side: The administration, the union issues,” she said. “I do feel that I bring a level of accountability. The board needs someone to ask the hard questions.”
Tricia DiVirgilio, an district administrator, said there is still time for others interesting in running for the board prior to the May 1 deadline. Candidates are required to obtain 100 signatures of support from North Tonawanda residents before they can run.
School board elections will be held May 21 along with the district budget vote.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.