Broadalbin-Perth board candidates meet at public forum

BROADALBIN — Residents came out to hear from the six candidates for Broadalbin-Perth school board, as well as the district’s 2022-2023 budget proposal, Monday night in the district’s brand-new lecture hall at the high school, built as part of its recent capital project.

Those running facing off for two seats being vacated this summer by board Vice President Robert Becker and board member Stephen Syzdek, each term is five years. Each person in the race is seeking their first term on the board.

Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson spoke during the meeting about the number of residents stepping forward to run, particularly during an election cycle where districts like Greater Johnstown School District had no candidates handed in petitions to officially enter their school board race.

“In my opinion, it’s one of the most important forms of service that you can give your community,” the superintendent said during the meeting. “And I’m proud that we have a lot of interest in serving on this board. I take it as a compliment that people want to be a part of the good work that we’re doing here.”

Vincent Arcuri is a father of three and a six-year resident of the district. He is a volunteer with the girls’ modified basketball, track and field teams, along with the elementary school band.

Arcuri said there are three “key elements” driving him to run for school board: continued and improved fiscal responsibility and management, a shared responsibility in education between teachers, the district, families and learners, and a focus on a traditional curriculum.

Currently a program developer for National Grid, he pointed to more than 20 years in engineering and technical leadership as providing opportunities to manage budgets as large as $80 million. He said that has led to the creation of a skill set focused not only on budgetary choices, but also who makes up a tax base, including those without children enrolled in the district and those on fixed incomes.

Jacob Dutcher has also lived in the district for six years, and has three children enrolled in its schools. He is a certified registered nurse anesthetist at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Dutcher said he is running because he is a father in the district and the role he would like to play on the board is that of voice for what he hears from parents.

Lori Harlan is a graduate of the former Perth Central School District who has lived in the Broadalbin-Perth district for the past 40 years. She has spent the past three decades working for the Greater Amsterdam School District as a physical therapy assistant and has served on a number of district committees.

Harlan has two adult children and a 10-year-old grandson in the district. She said she is running because “the world seems a little upside down right now,” and she wants to see what she can offer her community.

While she was out letting people know she was running, she also asked taxpayers what there concerns were. She heard four most often: lower taxes, changes in bullying policies and procedures, freedom of choice for parents, particularly when it comes to what she called “unjustified, unsubstantiated mandates and government overreach,” and transparency to parents and the community about what is being taught in school. Some also brought up superintendent accountability.

Emily Behnke is a volunteer with the district’s Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) and classroom representative in both of her daughters’ classes. The five-year resident of the district manages SUNY Empire State College’s grant portfolio, and has been in charge of the disbursement and reporting of its Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding.

Behnke believes her knowledge of educational budgeting and planning, as well as her familiarity with a lot of state and federal mandates and her role as a compliance officer regulating all conflicts of interest and managing ethics within the college and in research, make her uniquely suited as a candidate.

She also spoke of a desire to add a mom’s perspective to the board as the current seven-person board in entirely made up of men. She tied that together with her experience as a PTO member and classroom representative, where she comes across the needs of district children. Behnke said she wants to join the board to come up with solutions and see the board and PTO come together to “really meet all the needs of all of our students where they’re at.”

Allison Goodspeed is a graduate of Broadalbin-Perth who recently returned to the district. She is a retired veteran of the US Air Force and currently is a senior scientist for Applied Research Associates leading weapons effect test programs supporting the Department of Defense to counter and deter weapons of mass destruction and emerging threats, according to the district release.

Goodspeed’s son is already enrolled at the elementary school and her daughter is set to begin pre-K in the fall. Goodspeed said they are the sixth generation of her family to enter the joint district or either the Broadalbin or Perth schools.

She said she didn’t have a particular platform because she thinks “part of the reality is that you’re part of a board and you need to work with the entire group to find the right solution.”

Samantha Gallup is another PTO member and classroom volunteer, as well as a coach with the Broadalbin Youth Commission. She has three children in the Broadalbin-Perth district, which she has called home for the past decade.

Professionally, she is a self-employed pediatric physical therapist, working with children pre-kindergarten to age five.

She said she was running to be a voice for children and parents. She believes the board “should be comprised of educated individuals whose hearts are in the right place.”

One thing she mentioned in particular, after the meeting was providing students with the most educational opportunities possible. One in particular she would like to see is foreign language learning possibly introduced earlier. She pointed to the importance of knowing other languages. In addition, she works with speech pathologists in her work and she said most language is learned before the age of three.

“They go to stem, they go to art, they go to PE, well let’s have them go to Spanish class,” Gallup said, “even if we teach them the basics, and then now, so they have a foundation.”

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