Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Six locals hoping to serve on the Ken-Ton school board answered residents’ questions at the district’s meet the candidates night on Wednesday, ahead of the election on May 20.
The candidates are vying for two open spots in this year’s race. Jeffrey Rickan, the only incumbent attempting to defend his seat, is running along with five newcomers — Jill O’Malley, Annemarie Gibson, Joseph Doherty, Jason Crosby and Donette Darrow, who did not attend Wednesday’s event due to a recent surgery.
Some 90 residents attended the event and were able to ask questions via index card. Although many of last’s years questions concerned the district’s consolidation options, the board has since made its decision, and three schools — Kenmore Middle, Hamilton Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary — will close after the 2015-2016 school year.
At this year’s event, all the candidates identified the implementation of the consolidation project as Ken-Ton’s biggest challenge going forward.
“It was a very emotional decision,” said Rickan, a self-employed father of three who stressed his experience on the board. “I wouldn’t have done anything differently. We need to create a seamless transition for each and every child.”
Although each candidate said they accepted that the consolidation project was necessary, some have expressed concern about the endeavor. O’Malley, a mother of three who created the Ken-Ton Parent Alliance and the Ken-Ton Closet, was outspoken about the closures last year, but said she was glad that the board listened to all the concerns before making a decision.
Doherty, a father who is an English teacher at Sweet Home High School, said he was concerned about students in eighth grade entering the high schools under the plan.
“There’s a lot of growth in those years. Some of my freshman aren’t ready to be in high school,” he said. “But I understand that it was the best compromise ... we have to think very clearly about what’s best for our kids.”