LAKE GEORGE — Lake George residents heard from the five Board of Education candidates Tuesday night during a town hall at Lake George Junior-Senior High School.
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This year’s candidates, who are seeking three seats on the school board, are incumbent Courtney Richichi, former board member Linda King, Maryanne MacKenzie, Jason Willet and Melissa Seale.
The panel, moderated by Ann Kril of the local League of Women Voters chapter, asked several questions and allowed all candidates to respond in a rotating order.
Richichi’s message was consistent throughout. She said she believed the board is currently on the right track and, if she were re-elected, she would continue on the same path. She said consistency and continuity were important because there have already been significant changes in her time on the board and she would like to see them carried out to completion.
Seale said as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, she wanted to prioritize student support services and ensure there were ample resources for students who may be struggling with mental health. She also said she would make communication with the public a primary goal because the implementation of policy without collaboration can lead to unwanted consequences.
King served on the Lake George Board of Education for more than two decades and said she wants to bring her experience back to a more tight-knit setting. She said creating policy and maintaining the fiduciary health are the primary roles for a board member, and she is running to stay involved with the community she has been a part of for years.
MacKenzie said maintaining strong ethics would be an area of focus for her as well as trying to create a positive climate in the district to keep students and staff in a happy and healthy environment.
Willet, an ex-Marine, said he wants to continue his commitment to community service and foster a community that encourages achievement in all students. He also said he wants to prioritize school safety and find creative ways to address some of the problems posed by declining enrollment.
Lake George resident Kirstin Preuss said she appreciated King’s experience and thought MacKenzie had well-thought-out responses to the questions. She also complimented the organizers of the town hall for setting up an event in which district voters could learn more about who was running.
“I think this is a great venue for the public to get to know them a little bit better, and we appreciate them doing that,” Preuss said.
Another district resident, Todd Earl, said he was a part of the Lake George United group, an organization that formed in response to the board’s surprise decision to eliminate the assistant principal from the junior-senior high school last year, and will be supporting Seale and MacKenzie because they are aligned with the group. He also said he thought King’s experience was hard to overlook.
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Earl said he worked as a counselor for nearly 30 years at Hudson Falls High School, and while he was happy to hear the emphasis on mental health from many of the candidates, he thought those needs were already being met in the past by the role of the assistant principal.
“They eliminated a position and now they’re creating all these director of this, director of that and all these administrative positions that are pulling people out of the classroom, out of contact with students and trying to create alternative ways of doing what someone was already doing incredibly effectively in the past,” Earl said.
The concerns over administration and the board’s decision-making process were addressed by some of the questions posed to the candidates, including what their position was on continuing the interim curriculum coordinator position and whether they would consider same-day proposals and votes without public discussion.
Most of the candidates agreed the position has value, but the problem was with the process that created the position.
Seale said the elimination of the vice principal position caused an upheaval in the community and it was unclear whether the new position should be continued, because there was not enough communication with the community on whether it has been effective.
“My view of it is a little bit different,” Seale said, “because I wish there was a little more communication and involvement in rolling this out. I still don’t really understand even a year later what we’ve accomplished in regards to curriculum.”
District residents will be able to cast their votes at Lake George Elementary School gymnasium from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21.