BY JOE OLENICK firstname.lastname@example.org
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A common theme in the Lockport City Schools Board of Education election is probably something that’ll come up in all school board elections. Finances.
Six people will be the ballot for the Lockport City Board of Education. Incumbents Edward Sandell, Jon Williams and Diane Phelps will seek re-election, while newcomers Randall Parker and Todd McNall will also be on the ballot. Former Board President Marietta Schrader will seek a return to the board as well.
On May 21 residents will elect three of them to the board, each for a three-year term.
Balancing the budget while trying to enhance the educational programs at Lockport will be a challenge for the next board that begins July 1. Here’s a brief look at those who want to be a part of tackling that challenge.
McNall, 35, was an elected United Auto Workers official for 14 years, five of those years as shop chairman at the General Motors facility on Upper Mountain Road. He currently works for GM in Tonawanda and serves on a committee at the Cornerstone Community Federal Credit Union.
It’s with this experience McNall said he believes he can be an asset to the Lockport School Board.
”I have extensive hands-on experiences which include budget oversights, problem solving workshops, team concept theories and contract negotiations at both a local and national level,” he said. “I faced many challenges over those years and was able to resolve many issues to satisfy the parties involved.”
McNall has two children, including a son in third-grade at Charles A. Upson Elementary. McNall is a Lockport graduate.
McNall said he wants to provide Lockport’s children with the best education possible but while being financially smart and responsible.
Parker, 52, has three kids who have graduated from Lockport.
He has been a city firefighter for 26 years, during which Parker has served in a number of elected positions, such as president and vice president of the union.
While in those positions, Parker has had to negotiate contracts, deal with disciplinary meetings and handle healthcare issues. These experiences would help him as a board member, especially when trying to cut costs, Parker said.
“Finances, I think, will be one of the big challenges,” he said.
A successful write-in candidate three years ago, Phelps is completing her first term as a Lockport school board trustee.
A parent of two kids who have gone through the Lockport school system, Phelps, 49, is also in the education field. She is an adjunct instructor at the University at Buffalo and a lecturer at Niagara University.
The district needs to do more with less, Phelps said. Lockport needs to lessen the burden on taxpayers but while strengthening programs.
”We have to think outside the box and find new ways to economize,” she said. “We have to keep the cuts out of the classroom and spread them out.”
Phelps is the board’s liaison with the New York State School Boards Association and she received the Board Achievement Award from the organization. The award is given by NYSSBA to “acknowledge the extensive time and effort required of school board members who continually strive to expand their knowledge and skills for better board governance.” Members earn points by attending informational and educational workshops and meetings.
Sandell is completing his second term and sixth year on the Lockport board.
As a board member, Sandell chairs the policy committee, which is currently reviewing and updating all of the 300 plus district policies. He is also the board’s Niagara Orleans School Board Association representative and has spent time on the facilities and audit committees.
Helping children succeed and keeping the district fiscally responsible are two of Sandell’s goals. Dealing with the state’s aid cuts, tax cap and mandates have been difficult, he said, making the budget a huge challenge.
Keeping the district’s buildings in the best shape possible is another priority, Sandell said. Major capital projects have taken place over the past six years, updating and fixing a number of schools in Lockport.
A Delphi engineer for 34 years, Sandell, 55, has two kids who have graduated from Lockport.
Schrader, a city resident, is looking to return to the Lockport School Board.
She spent 12 years on the Board of Education, serving as president in 2007 until the end of the 2009-10 school year. She did not run for re-election but was appointed to fill a board vacancy, then won the seat as a write-in candidate for the 2010-11 year when Allan Jack resigned.
Schrader could not be reached for comment.
Williams, 66, is finishing his second term and sixth year on the Lockport board. During that time, Lockport City Schools has made a lot of progress, especially with upgrading facilities, Williams said.
But the biggest has been grappling with the budget while maintaining a quality education. Being able to offer quality programs while trying to keep taxes as low as possible is an accomplishment, Williams said.
His financial conservatism is something Williams said he feels he brings to the board. But he said he also has a great concern for the kids of the district, especially in giving them as many options as possible.
Finances will be a concern, but so is dealing with some of the state’s new mandates on districts, Williams said. The new evaluations for teachers and principals will take something away from a principal’s interaction with teachers and students, while new testing by the state could be excessive for kids, Williams said.
Williams has three kids, two who attend Lockport schools and another who has graduated.