By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Candidates for the City of Tonawanda and Ken-Ton City school boards have filed their petitions for election to be held May 21.
In the city, three positions are up for grabs. Current board President Jackie Smilinich has announced that she will not attempt to retain her seat and will instead vie for a position on the city council. Vice President Demelt Shaw will also retire from the board.
Board member Danielle Opalinksi, who replaced Lynn Casal when she resigned earlier this year and has previously served on the board, will attempt to keep a board seat in this year’s race.
The three other candidates who have filed petitions are Fred Busch, Geraldine Angelo and Elizabeth Olka, who also has served on the board, but resigned in 2011 following a controversial tenure.
”Anybody who knows me knows that I am here for the kids, the community and the taxpayers who live here,” Olka said. “It’s as simple as that, and I also think I am the most knowledgeable.”
Opalinski, Angelo and Busch could not be reached to comment on the election.
The Tonawanda Parent Teacher Association is planning to hold an event May 16 to provide community members a chance to familiarize themselves with the candidates.
The candidate who wins the most votes will immediately assume the seat previously occupied by Lynn Casal, while the other two elected board members will be sworn in for three-year terms at the July meeting. The board will elect their new president and vice president at that meeting, as well.
In the Ken-Ton district, two seats are up for election. Incumbents Bob Dana, the current board president, will attempt to keep a seat on the body, while current Trustee Jim Simmons, whose term is also up, will not run in this month’s race.
Dana spoke to his experience in a statement in a district newsletter released Thursday, but also recognized the challenges the district faces.
”I have had to make some very difficult decisions which have always been based on my careful, fair and impartial evaluation of all information obtained without succumbing to any pressure exerted by any individual or special interest group,” Dana wrote.
Three others — Richard Harned, Stephen Hart and Todd Potter Jr.— will also take part in this year’s election in hopes to win a three-year term.
Harned was a teacher in the district for 35 years and said that experience, as well as his familiarity with the district, can help him with the district’s financial difficulties.
”I will do my best to do my homework on the problems and choices before us and contribute to balanced, fact-based solutions,” he said in his statement.
Hart also worked for Ken-Ton and is now a teacher in a neighboring district. In his statement, he targeted the board for putting the district in a financial crisis by irresponsibly spending taxpayer money.
”District administrators are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in wrong areas that do not benefit the students in any way,” he said.
The fourth candidate, Potter, is a law student at the University at Buffalo and is a graduate of the Ken-Ton district. In his statement, he spoke to his experience working for elected officials and said he hopes to restore programs that have been cut.
“As our district moves into the future, our taxes cannot increase any more without first restoring the extra-curricular and co-curricular activities that have fallen victim to budget cuts. Ken-Ton will be a premier school district again, but it will not happen by cutting programs that get students interested and invested in school and in education,” he said.
Ken-Ton’s Meet the Candidate night will be held Wednesday in the community room in the Philip Sheridan building, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore. The two candidates who receive the most votes will fill the open positions.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley