Nice people can lack needed knowledge, training, and experience

To the Editor:
For the first time in my memory, 10 candidates are running for four open seats in the Guilderland School Board election. Since we voters have choices among so many candidates, it is important that we look carefully at each.

The top three candidates in the election will serve for three years, and the fourth will serve for one year.   Like me, I expect voters would want the best candidates to serve for that amount of cumulative time in such an important community position.

During the last several weeks, I  reviewed what I could find on all the candidates, including their Facebook and candidate pages (if they had any), the Enterprise  summary of the McKownville Improvement Association meeting attended by Kimberly Blasiak, Katie DiPierro, Nicole Coonradt,  Barbara Fraterrigo, and Jennifer Romano, and the Enterprise podcast forum that featured all the candidates. 

I also watched the Guilderland PTA Council-sponsored forum for the candidates on May 9. I reviewed  separately responses from some of the candidates to a Guilderland Teachers Association questionnaire. Only Blasiak, DiPierro, Gloria Towle-Hilt, Romano, and Kelly Person responded to the questionnaire. The candidates Fraterrigo, Coonradt, Mark Reamer, and April McAllister did not respond to the questionnaire, which does not help me understand and learn about what they stand for and what they will bring to the position.

I am fearful that this seems to be a pattern with these particular candidates.  

The 10 candidates all present themselves as nice people. They appear to be interested in supporting children, and want to make a difference in the  education provided by the district and its teachers by serving on the school board.

I worked for many years as the State Title I coordinator and oversaw the rehabilitation of the state’s worst schools. Many of the leaders of these poor schools were nice people, but unfortunately they lacked the knowledge, training, and experience to deal with serious school problems.

As I researched available information on all the Guilderland candidates — their experiences, demonstrated knowledge, and positions on a wide array of issues important to a school board’s role and responsibilities — I determined there is a huge information and experience gap with the new candidates that are running as a group with Barbara Fraterrigo.

I feel that these candidates do not demonstrate an understanding of the wide array of issues that they will have to deal with if they were elected to the school board.

For example, candidates McAllister, Reamer, and Coonradt show a lack of knowledge about the teaching of United States history, and twist the meaning of race into a concept that comes from a national political narrative about critical race theory, something that isn’t even taught in Guilderland’s schools.

These candidates took questions about race and gender out of context, while their opponents — Person, Towle-Hilt, Blasiak, and DiPierro — demonstrated a more rational and comprehensive understanding of the issues.

I have observed the current incumbents from watching many school board meetings. You need only watch a few of these meetings to appreciate the professionalism, courtesy, respect, open-mindedness, and fair-mindedness of these candidates.

I tried with little success to find facts behind the claims of the new candidates affiliated with Barbara Fraterrigio. They did not espouse negative points of view in their public pronouncements, but their private Facebook sites are reported to draw comments about LGBTQ kids that are “negative, hurtful, and terrible,” as mentioned at some of the forums I watched. There are no open candidate pages or public Facebook posts that I could find for these candidates.

I would like to know to what extent their campaign is being financed by a well-known Altamont businessman and vehement anti-masker. I would like to know more about the candidates’ views on banning the same books and promoting the same rhetoric that come out of a political agenda playbook in Texas and Florida, as well as the anti-gay bills that have recently been passed there. 

What perplexes me most is that incumbent Barbara Fraterrigio, who constantly extolls her relationship and admiration for her incumbent colleagues — Person, Blasiak, and Towle-Hilt — would disassociate herself from them and run with a group of candidates that have so little experience and understanding of critical school issues.

Barbara has never explained this disassociation or given us any reason why we should not retain these admired colleagues. All voters have a right to know about these important factors that have percolated throughout this campaign.

As the former Altamont mayor, I believed that as a public servant I needed to be clear on what I would provide to those who elect me.

Given my weeks of study on all the candidates, I recommend Guilderland voters re-elect Gloria Towle-Hilt, Kelly Person, and Kim Blasiak and elect for the first time Katie DiPierro to the GCSD Board of Education. They are listed on the ballot in positions 1, 3, 7, and 9 respectively. I believe these candidates will provide the best service to our schools and community.

Voting is open on Tuesday, May 17, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the residential zone of your elementary school.  

James M. Gaughan


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