At the polls on Tuesday, May 20, BH-BL residents may elect three members to the Board of Education. The positions are unpaid and become effective July 1, 2014. Members serve a three-year term.
Below are the six candidates running in this year's election. They are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot, which was determined at the April 22 board meeting through a public drawing.
More information about the candidates can also be found on the League of Women Voters website.
If you missed the Meet-the-Candidates Night on Monday, May 5 you can watch the recording. [RECORDING]. NOTE: We were unable to record the candidates' opening statements. However, you can read their opening statements online. [OPENING STATEMENTS]
The statements below are written by the candidates. The opinions contained within are their own and may not reflect the opinions or views of BH-BL School District leaders or the Board of Education.
Matthew Schultz is seeking his first term on the board. He is a senior at BH-BL High School and graduates in June. Schultz, who has overcome challenges brought on by dyslexia, has been on the High Honor Roll since sixth-grade. He received the 2010 Barbara Alesio Memorial Award and won the 2014 Scholastic All-Star Award. In the past, Schultz volunteered for the high school football team and worked at the Saratoga Bridges Great Pumpkin Challenge. He is also the manager of his family’s business, Schultz Garden Center, and will attend Schenectady County Community College in the fall where he plans to major in business administration with a minor in computer networking and cyber security. Schultz lives in Glenville. See his position statement below.
“Having a strong board of education is one of the
most important factors in the health of a district. I am
running for the board because I want to help maintain
the tradition Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake has as being one
of the top schools in New York. I will do this by
promoting healthy connections with students, staff,
teachers and the community. I have been attending board
meetings since the beginning of the year and am familiar
with the issues facing the district, as well as district
procedures and policies. If elected, my first matter as
a board member will be to maintain the high school
courses that we currently offer. I will also support the
addition of new courses to help our students at all
levels be even more prepared for college and the 21st
century. In addition, I will be available to the
community, teachers, staff and students to both hear
ideas and to inform them about what is happening. I plan
to be a board member who listens to the concerns of
community residents and acts upon them in a proper
manner. I also plan to listen and respect all members of
the board and hear what they have to say. I will bring
to the board my 13 years of BH-BL schooling experience
and will prove that I am committed to being a
problem-solver, not a problem-maker. Finally, I will be
instrumental in the institution of the new renovations
project that I followed closely from concept to approval
in October 2013. I know that Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
is an excellent school district. I have learned so much.
As I prepare to graduate in June, I confidently go
forward knowing I am prepared to face the world.
Will Farmer is seeking a second term on the board. He has been a district resident for 19 years and previously served on the board from 2010 to 2013. Farmer is a partner at Creatacor, Inc. in Clifton Park where he manages a dimensional marketing business that employs 55 people. He has a communications management degree from Ithaca College and is a former T-ball and basketball coach. He and his wife live in Burnt Hills. They have two sons—one attends Charlton Heights and the other attends the middle school. See Farmer’s position statement below.
“With the adoption of the Common Core standards
under the Race to the Top initiative, our school
district and school districts across the state and
country have suffered sweeping changes resulting in
adverse effects on our children and our education
system. Common Core is bad on so many levels. It’s bad
for parents as it limits parental choice and shuts their
voices out of their child’s education. It’s bad for
teachers as they will have little control over their
classrooms, leaving little room to innovate and meet the
unique needs of their students. It requires testing and
more testing. Our teachers will have little choice but
to “teach to the test” lessening instructional time and
increasing test prep. It’s bad for taxpayers as it’s
another unfunded mandate adding cost while not improving
education quality. And most importantly, Common Core is
bad for students. It’s a one-size-fits-all education
policy that assumes every student learns exactly the
same. Students’ creativity and desire for learning are
being stifled. Good education policy realizes that all
students have different learning styles, preferences,
and paces yet Common Core does not.
Joe Pericone joined the board in 2006 and has served as both board president and vice president. A mechanical engineer, he has worked for General Electric for 37 years, including the past 15 years as an instructor at the GE Learning Center. He helped develop the Pathways Program, which introduces middle and high school students to engineering by bringing them to the Learning Center for hands-on lessons. A former Lakehill Soccer coach, he has been active with both Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. Pericone and his wife have been district residents in Glenville for more than 20 years. Their four children are BH-BL graduates. See Pericone’s position statement below.
“I would like to thank the community for allowing me to represent them on the BH-BL Board of Education for the past several years. During my time, I’ve been involved with various aspect of the school, both with the students and the staff. I have had the opportunity to speak with different department members, find out their needs and learn about their daily work. In doing this, I have discovered a staff that is highly dedicated to helping our students, which allows them to reach their highest ability.The district continues to be one of the highest performing districts in the region, both in and out of the classroom. As our students continue to excel academically, the district continues to offer students the opportunity to succeed outside the classroom. Take our Fine Arts program, for instance. If you listen to a concert or see a student art exhibit you’ll know that our young students have amazing talent, and you’ll be impressed. Our varsity sports teams continuously compete beyond the regular season, at the state level. Our student athletes not only compete on the playing field but their hard work inside the classroom has made it possible for BH-BL to have been presented with the Scholar Athlete New York State School of Distinction Award. This is awarded to schools whose varsity teams have a 90 percent or better grade point average. Only 20 of 697 school districts in the state achieve this award. BH-BL has achieved this honor three years in a row.The district’s revenue over the past several years has been drastically reduced from both the state and federal governments due to the poor economy. All district residents, who make up a large part of the district’s tax base, have also felt the effects of the weak economy. Now as things are beginning to improve, the district is beginning to see an increase in revenue from the government once again. This, however, may cause the district to allow spending to go unchecked. The board must remain vigilant and continue to offer our students the best education possible, while not increasing taxes unnecessarily. To this end, I will continue to push for the balance between making sure our students receive the best education they can while keeping districtwide expenditures low.”
John Kelch is seeking his first term on the board. A resident for 38 years, he is a retired NY government manager for Time Warner Cable. He has held similar positions with large computer corporations and worked with numerous BOCES and NY school districts to expand educational opportunities. Kelch also served as a volunteer on the Governor’s Public Broadband Initiative with leaders from across the state. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran and served in an intelligence unit in North Africa. He has been active in the district and served as parent representative at the middle and high schools and was on the Renovation Committee. He and his wife Vicki, a BH-BL bus driver, live in Rexford with their son, who attends the high school. Kelch also has two older children who attended BH-BL. See Kelch’s position statement below.
“With 38 years in our school district and two families of boys attending, for most of that I too was overly accepting of public platitudes and invested little in understanding what went on “under the covers.” Six years ago, when that changed, I was troubled by much of what I found—an administration and board that found deceiving the public all too ‘justifiable’ to get what they wanted and often catering to their own interests instead of the public’s. Since then I have invested hundreds of hours attending meetings, conversing with staff and teachers, researching laws, rulings, and background, and advocating for constituents as the parent representative on Building Councils, PTAs, and the Renovation Committee, speaking out repeatedly to inform the community.Our schools exist for one pre-eminent reason—to assist parents in providing the best education possible for our kids, and to do so respectful of the investments by the community, yet I often find that those stakeholders are the last ones considered in many decisions. Three years ago, when I ran to advocate for those interests, 1,300 members of the community rose to empower that, but it wasn’t enough. The teachers’ union, who hasn’t appreciated my actions to balance decisions, brags about their ability to pre-destine 800 to 1,000 votes, and as we saw last year when they spent $2,000 to buy and place signs for Lee-Ann Mertzlufft and Jen Longtin, is able to defeat responsible candidates and install Board members that cater to their interests over those of taxpayers, parents and kids. Thus the interests of a few hundred staff dominate the interests of 18,000 in our community. When only 2,300 people vote out of 15,000 eligible, as did last year, that influence becomes pivotal, and I run against two long-term incumbents, John Blowers and Joe Pericone, that have catered to union support and rubber-stamped every vote taken. If I’m to be elected to represent you, I will need the votes of many that have and haven’t typically voted, and I ask you to gather your neighbors and turn out that vote. More of my position at BHBLCitizen.com.”
Peter Sawyer is seeking his first term on the Board and has been an on-and-off BH-BL resident for more than 30 years. He is a 1977 BH-BL graduate and has a Ph.D. in social sciences from Syracuse University. Sawyer is a department chair and director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at Hudson Valley Community College. He also is a member of the Burnt-Hills Ballston Lake Rotary Club, American Sociologist Association, Town of Ballston Parks and Recreation Committee and the Rubin Foundation. In the past he has served on several BH-BL committees. He lives in Burnt Hills and has two sons who attend the high school. See Sawyer’s position statement below.
“As a Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake graduate and someone who has two children in the high school, I feel a deep commitment to the community and to the education that is provided here. I believe we have great schools, tremendous and dedicated educators, and a community that knows that character, integrity, hard work and education are the keys to the future. It is this commitment that leads me to run for the school board. My ability to contribute to the board is reflected by more than 26 years working in higher education. I began working and studying higher education in 1986. In those early years, I developed a background in leadership programs, career development, student activities, the first-year experience and residential life. After working for a number of years, I decided to go back and earn my doctorate so I could have a stronger influence on the development of students in the classroom. Since that time, I have taught courses at a number of colleges and universities and now work as a department chair. I also am the director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at Hudson Valley Community College. My experience in the classroom includes teaching high school students through interactive television and at the Tec-Smart campus in Malta, NY. I have also taught online classes and web-enhanced classes to traditional college students. As a department chair, I supervise 23 full-time and 70 part-time instructors. I see the value of education in its mission to fully recognize and to bring forward the character, skills, talents and commitments of our young people. I hope to use my experience, my commitment and my dedication to continue the fine tradition of our schools and to help them continue to be the strength and the heart of our community. As a member of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Rotary Club, I believe in the Rotary motto of “service above self.”
John Blowers joined the Board of Education in 2006 and has served as both board president and vice president. He is a member of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake class of 1983 and holds an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Blowers is the talent acquisition leader for Price Chopper, the author of the novel Life on Tilt, and a consultant for Pinnacle HR Solutions. He coaches CYO Basketball and is board chair for Junior Achievement. Blowers resides in Ballston Lake and has two children attending O’Rourke Middle School and one child attending Charlton Heights. See Blowers’ position statement below.
The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors
into windows.—Sydney J. Harris, Journalist