Sisson-Chrysler and Bashwinger vie for BKW Board seat

Enterprise file photo  — Marcello Iaia

Lillian Sisson-Chrysler

Randy Bashwinger

BERNE — Incumbent Lillian Sisson-Chrysler has a challenger in the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board election this May, town of Berne highway Superintendent Randy Bashwinger.

District Clerk Denise Robinson confirmed on Tuesday, the day after candidate petitions were due, that Sisson-Chrysler and Bashwinger were both running. There is only one seat on the school board up for election this year. The post on the five-member board is unpaid and carries a three-year term, from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2021.

Sisson-Chrysler was elected for the first time to the board in 2015 after running unopposed. She has often been against increases in spending for district projects, and voted “no” to putting a $20 million capital project up for public vote last fall. District residents approved the project.

Bashwinger, who formerly worked in the building industry, has served as Berne’s highway superintendent since 2014. As the town’s Republican Party chairman, he also led a political upset last November when Republicans ousted the longtime Democratic supervisor and fell one vote short of ending a decades-long Democratic majority on the board.

Bashwinger ran unsuccessfully for school board last year in a five-way race for three seats, saying that the district needed upgrades and to eliminate its high staff turnover rate. He also defended his town position last year, saying that it would not be a conflict of interest because he does not control a budget. The district and the town have shared transportation services before, and there had been talks last year of sharing a garage.

Al Marlin, the communications manager for the New York State School Boards Association, told The Enterprise that NYSSBA does not have any opinions filed against a highway superintendent like Bashwinger serving on the school board. The state Education Law prohibits a district superintendent, supervisor, clerk, tax collector, treasurer, or librarian from serving on the board, according to the NYSSBA publication “School Law.” The publication also states that one cannot serve if one position is subordinate to another or “inherently inconsistent” with the other.

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