by Susan Mikula Campbell
Voters will choose from among three candidates for two three-year terms on the Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education on Tuesday, May 15.
Running for re-election are Steven Sabo and Kristin MacKenzie. Richard Sirianni, a candidate in last year's board election, is back, hoping to take one of the two open seats.
The school district's budget and trustee vote will be held from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Adult Learning Center adjacent to the high school at 2292 Saunders Settlement Road, Sanborn.
•Sabo, the current board president, tied for third place for the one-year term open in last year's election. This year, Sabo will be running for a full three-year term.
He teaches sixth grade English language arts and reading at Meadow Elementary School in North Tonawanda and coaches girls varsity soccer. Sabo is a graduate of North Tonawanda High School and holds a bachelor's degree from Canisius College and a master's degree from Buffalo State College. A Wheatfield resident, he has two young children, one in the district.
"While serving as the Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education president for the past year, I have stopped the bleeding of funds that was caused by the lack of oversight by the previous board members and former superintendent. Now, N-W is heading back down the road of recovery to being financially stable," Sabo said. "To begin this march back to the educationally and financially sound district that N-W once was, I have successfully negotiated concessions over $1.6 million from our two largest unions. I have helped lobby for additional funding from our Senate representatives. Through my own personal lobbying efforts, I have secured $120,000 from the state to help fund our pre-K program."
"It is my belief that a board member must be willing to sacrifice his or her own time 24/7 in order to make sure that the school district is functioning soundly," Sabo added. "I have done this for the past year and am seeking to do this for another three-year term. N-W will be hiring two superintendents to lead our district over the next two years. As a proven educator and leader, I will work to make sure that the future leader of our district will not put us again into financial turmoil, but instead will be a strong educator who is interested in being part of our community."
•MacKenzie, a board member since 2009, is a graduate of Niagara-Wheatfield High School and has lived in the district all her life. She has two children in the district, a son at the high school and a daughter in Edward Town Middle School. MacKenzie is a Sanborn resident and works as an administrative assistant at Tonawanda Pediatrics. She is also very active in Girl Scouts in Western New York.
"School districts throughout Western New York have been dealing with tough budgets this year. Being a school board member has not been an easy task," she said. "As my first term is coming to an end, I feel there is so much more work that needs to be done. Our budget issues are going to continue. The board will need to look for new ways to cut costs while retaining the staff that is needed to run a successful school district. Our children need good sound educational programs and class sizes that are manageable."
"It has been a long, uphill battle with state cuts that everyone has been affected by," MacKenzie continued. "I would work diligently to make sure money is being spent on the education of our children. I would like to continue this work along with the search for a new superintendent - someone to lead our district educationally as well as financially. We have wonderful educators working in our district and they need the support to continue doing what is best for our children."
"I am so proud of the education my children are receiving in this district and would like the opportunity to work with the other board members to move forward for a better future for our district," she concluded.
•Sirianni, a Town of Niagara resident, graduated from LaSalle Senior High School, and has lived in the N-W district for 21 years. He worked in industry for 32 years, held various union positions for 26 years and served on the board of directors for two different federal credit unions.
"I am running for Niagara-Wheatfield School District because I want to give the students of our district the same opportunity my son had. He received an excellent education from K-12th grade," Sirianni said.
"I have a very good understanding on how to work with people. I have a lot of experience working as a communicator, decision maker, team player, and leader. My past experience as financial officer will also help me adapt quickly to the Niagara-Wheatfield's budgetary system," he said. "We are in a financial crisis today that is not going away anytime soon. We need to continue to be consistent to give this system the tools it needs to be successful. We need to make decisions based on fact-finding, not political or personal agendas. We need to maintain and improve the education of Niagara-Wheatfield students. We need to continue to make sure our students improve in all the subjects. We must continue to do this and stay within our financial means and budget."
"As we move forward, we must understand the concern of the taxpayers, and employees, and the needs of our students," he concluded. "We have to make sure our students get the best education possible. But we also have to be concerned with the cost and how it will affect the taxpayers and find the blend between the three stakeholders so we can have a second-to-none education system at the Niagara-Wheatfield School District."