Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Residents brought their questions and concerns to Ken-Ton school board hopefuls Wednesday at the district’s Meet the Candidates Night.
The event came less than two weeks before residents will make their choices at the ballot boxMay 21. Four candidates are running for two open seats, and the winners will serve three-year terms. One incumbent, current board President Bob Dana, is running, as well as three newcomers — Stephen Hart, Todd Potter Jr. and Richard Harned, a former Ken-Ton teacher who did not attend Wednesday’s event.
League of Women’s Voters representatives moderated the forum Wednesday, in which attendees asked questions anonymously on index cards.
Many of those questions dealt with the district’s impending review of its consolidation options, which are aimed at saving money and centralizing the district. The district has received eight choices from its consultant, seven of which include closing schools, but officials haven’t yet decided what option they’ll chose for the 2014-15 academic year.
But when asked about what specific consolidation plan they would prefer, the candidates didn’t have definite answers.
“We aren’t done, and I don’t have all the information we need,” Dana said. “I can’t make the decision without hearing what the community wants ... that’s why we did the workshops and that’s why we are creating the community forum.”
Hart, who is an assistant teacher in Amherst, expressed concern about where special education students will go under the plans, but didn’t comment specifically on any of the options. Potter argued that all the district’s buildings, and not just the schools, should have been evaluated.
“It’s shameful that the study was released without looking at those, and it seems like the district is trying to divide and conquer,” Potter, a Kenmore East graduate and current law school student said. “We have the administration building, the transportation building and Philip Sheridan ... but those aren’t being looked at, and those could save us money, too.”
Another hot topic Wednesday was the recent state-mandated testing that has come under fire from parents who argue the exams are unfair.
The candidates were asked if they support students opting out of the tests. Dana and Hart said that although they believe the state tests need revamping, they don’t believe kids should opt out of them.
“What the state is testing is absurd,” Hart said. “But teaching children that if they don’t want to do the standardized tests, it’s OK ... that is setting a bad example.”
Potter said a happy medium between too much testing and too little testing needs to be achieved.
“Opting out should be a choice parents are allowed to make,” he said. “But at the same time, maybe standardized tests that I took in middle school helped prepare me for later standardized testing ... like the law school entrance exam.”
All three candidates also said they would support the board passing a resolution asking the state to rethink the testing.
“It’s not the school board that is the enemy,” Dana said. “Efforts need to be directed where things can be changed, and that’s Albany.”
Potter and Hart both said they would “absolutely” vote for the resolution.
“I’m surprised it hasn’t been done already,” Potter said. Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley