Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 13, 2013

Five vying for seats in Newfane

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Three seats are up for election in Newfane, each with a three-year term. Incumbent Trustees Joe Flagler and Michele Malone are up for re-election, while Donna Lakes, James Schmitt and Margaux Lingle are also running.

Incumbent Frank Westgate has said he will not run for re-election due to personal reasons. He said he plans to run again sometime in the future.

To introduce the candidates to the public, Newfane Parents Teachers Students Association will be hosting a Meet the Candidates Night at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Newfane Elementary cafeteria on Transit Road. The public will be able to submit questions in writing at 6:30 p.m., then each candidate will be introduced and given five minutes to talk about themselves.

To help, here’s a very brief look at all five school board candidates.

Joe Flagler

Flagler, 49, is a lifelong Newfane resident. And he likes to be involved in the community.

A father of two kids, one of which graduated from Newfane in 2011, Flagler is completing his first three-year term on the school board. Prior to that, Flagler, a Niagara County Sheriff’s deputy, served as the district’s school resource officer for six full school years.

After two-and-a-half years, Flagler said he has a better grasp on how the district operates. It’s a big learning curve, he said.

”Now, I have a clear understanding,” Flagler said. “I feel I can really contribute with valued input.”

While on the board, Flagler was able to have the Army National Guard take down the old, dilapidated elementary school playground without any cost to the district. The debris was also removed free of charge by the town. 

When asked what’s the biggest challenge Newfane faces, Flagler answered with three words. “Money, money, money.” The district needs to be responsible financially, Flagler said, while maintaining the programs Newfane offers.

Donna Lakes

Lakes has had four children graduate from Newfane. After attending a few Board of Education meetings, Lakes decided she now has time to make a run for a BOE seat.

“Obviously, it’s a huge commitment,” Lakes said.

The 53-year-old Newfane town resident says she’s willing to listen and would be willing to work with fellow board members. A clear understanding and transparency are important, Lakes said. 

She has experience working with a municipality. Lakes is a deputy town clerk with the Town of Newfane. She is also familiar with a major challenge for the school district, which is money.

Getting everybody to work together to make difficult decisions is something Lakes said she’d like to see happen.

Margaux Lingle

For Lingle, 34, serving on a school board was something she witnessed first hand when she was in school. Her father John Benoit served as a Newfane board member during the 1990’s.

”They made a lot of good changes then, they had good rapport,” Lingle said. “Everybody was cooperative, I’d like us to get back to that.”

A Newfane town resident, Lingle said she feels the time is right for her to make a run for the school board. Helping Newfane deal with a tough financial time and increasing communication between the district and the public are some things Lingle would like to do if she was elected.

Dealing with a tight budget is something Lingle has experience with. She works as an accountant in the Niagara County Treasurer’s Office and is familiar with government finances.

Lingle is a mother of four, two of which are old enough to be in Newfane schools.

Michele Malone

Malone is completing her first three-year term on the Newfane board.

A mother of two Newfane graduates, Malone said she brings integrity, as well as a wide perspective, to table as a board member. Over the years she has been a parent volunteer for various events and a teacher aide for 10 years.

Over the past three years, aside from dealing with difficult budgets, Malone said the introduction of AVID has been one of Newfane’s biggest accomplishments. AVID, or the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, aims to improve college readiness for students who may struggle academically.

And for three straight years, the district has been named a School of Distinction, an award given to districts that have all of their sports teams finish with team averages over 90 percent.

A Newfane resident, Malone, 50, works in customer service at the Lockport Athletic and Fitness Club. 

James Schmitt

Improving communication between the district and the community is a priority for Schmitt, if he was elected.

Although he works at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, Schmitt knows what it’s like in the classroom. He has worked as a substitute teacher for a number of districts and has a degree in education.

The education and classroom experience would bring a different view to the table, Schmitt said.

Newfane faces some long-term challenges with the budget and the state, Schmitt said. As the state mandates increase, the aid hasn’t follow suit, creating a burden for the school district, he said.

A town resident, Schmitt, 35, has two kids.