by Janet Schultz
Two very familiar Lewiston-Porter residents are running for two positions on the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education. They were questioned on their intentions as board members at a Candidates Night Wednesday evening.
Michael Gentile and Kenneth Fox both served on the BOE in the past, most recently a year ago.
Gentile has been a candidate three times, with a successful run in 2007. He served his three-year term and chose not to run in 2010.
"I have a deep-seated interest in education," he told the audience. "After three years on the board, I saw that the qualifications are the ability to work to find out what you don't know and learn from those who do. Ask a lot of questions."
He cited several challenges that faced the board in those years and acknowledged Fox, remarking that they met those challenges and now will be faced with new ones.
Fox, who served at the same time as Gentile, said that he enjoyed serving the district.
"Four years ago I didn't know Lew-Port," he said. "I was a teacher in Niagara Falls when a friend asked me to run for the board at the last minute. It was rewarding and we did a lot of things.
"The board is made up of seven smart and different people. I feel that I played a part in getting the group to work together," said Fox.
Both Gentile and Fox see the current board as working together and making strides in giving the students of the district an excellent education.
They both agree that the challenges they face are the budget and mandates over which they have no control.
Lewiston-Porter High School students submitted more than 90 questions, which the parent group, Partners in Education, had to review and select for use at the Candidates Night.
•The first question raised was how they would handle the budget crisis.
Gentile explained that there always have been budget issues. He said he isn't afraid to raise the tax levy rather than contend with no increases and then face huge ones at other times.
"We need to avoid spikes in the tax levy," he said.
Fox agreed, remarking that as a tax preparer he feels that even senior citizens can take small increases. He also doesn't want the district to use the reserve funds, believing in paying as you go and keeping your savings.
Cutting programs is something neither candidate wants to do. Gentile feels that evaluating programs is important so the school district can be assured that what is being offered is beneficial.
•Nutrition was the topic of the next question. Both cited that movements are already in progress to provide nutritional meals to the students. They acknowledged members of the current board for their vigilance in doing this.
•One question surprised both candidates, when they were asked about what they would do about a leaking roof in the high school. Both Gentile and Fox were on the board that had implemented a major capital construction campaign and had no idea that the roof in the high school was leaking; although they knew that the high school was in need of some repairs.
They told students that they would make it a priority and that it was time for another evaluation of the buildings and grounds at Lew-Port, something that is done every five years.
"There is state funding for capital projects, and we'd have to do some borrowing," explained Gentile.
Fox closed by saying how proud he is of the directions the current board has taken and when disagreements arose they talked things out without calling each other names.
Gentile urged voters to vote on Tuesday, May 17, saying that even though there are two persons for the two positions, there are other things to decide on, including the 2011-12 budget of $40,233,491. Listed as Proposition No. 1, the budget represents a 0.35 percent increase over last year's budget and provides for a zero percent tax levy increase and no cutting of staff. This is the fourth consecutive year that Lew-Port has had no increase in the tax levy.
"We have great performing students and a great performing school," Gentile said. "We are a collaborative board, we are a hard-working board. We want a strong, successful school district.
"We will continue to work hard."
The ballot also contains Proposition No. 2, covering "Voter Cost Control." The measure reads, "Shall the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education, prior to its final vote, call a special district meeting and hold an advisory referendum vote whenever a contract between the district and an employee union or the superintendent results in an increase in cost greater than $100,000?"
Voting takes place Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the boardroom of the Community Resource Center on the Lew-Port campus.