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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 22, 2010

Four vie for vacant seat on Guilderland School Board

By Melissa Hale Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Four school-board hopefuls will be interviewed in a televised session tonight, July 22. James Anderson, Emilio Genzano, Carlene Pacholczak, and Anthony Pietrafesa are all vying for a seat left vacant when Julie Cuneo, after serving one year of her three-year term, moved to Saratoga with her family.

A student moderator will read questions submitted by school board members who will listen to the 7:30 p.m. session in the large- group instruction room at Guilderland High School. After the interviews, the board members will adjourn to executive session to discuss their views and decide on Cuneo’s replacement.

The district also received a fifth letter of interest, according to Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Lin Severance, but Rosemary Levy was not available for the televised interview. She will be invited to run in the general election in May, said Severance. At that time, there will be four seats open on the nine-member board.

The new board member will serve until the May 17 election. The fourth highest vote-getter in that election will fill out the remaining year of that term. The top three will serve three-year terms.

All six of the board members present at a July 6 meeting agreed to follow the process the board used in the fall of 2009 to select Genzano to fill a seat left vacant by the death of John Dornbush. Eight men applied then and were interviewed in a similar televised session.

Genzano ran last May — on a slate with board members Colleen O’Connell and Gloria Towle-Hilt — and came in fifth in a six-way race for four seats.

At a meeting last month, O’Connell had pushed to re-appoint Genzano directly while the board’s vice president, Catherine Barber, advocated using the same selection process the board had used to initially fill Dornbush’s vacant seat. While other board members supported the interview process, several also expressed their support for Genzano.

Genzano works as the assistant vice president for engineering and construction at Albany Medical Center, and he said during the campaign that his background in construction was unique among the board members. He had run unsuccessfully for the school board twice before his appointment — in 2001 and 2002.

Genzano told The Enterprise last month that he would appreciate the appointment. He has recently been involved in raising funds to re-instate freshman sports and cheerleading, which were cut as part of the budget process.

“My stance hasn’t changed,” Genzano said this week. “I’d just like to have the opportunity to help.”

The other three applicants are making first attempts at getting on the Guilderland School Board.

James Anderson, who works as a technical sales representative for a computer company, served two terms on the Fonda-Fultonville School Board before moving to Guilderland two years ago.

“We were looking for a place where our daughter could get the best leg up on her future and college,” Anderson said yesterday. She will be a senior at Guilderland High School next year and has been happy academically and socially, he said.

One issue that Anderson is particularly interested in, he said, is the block schedule at the high school. “I have a strong belief that that is a good system,” he said.

Carlene Pacholczak is a mother of two; she has a daughter at Guilderland Elementary, and a son who is too young for school yet.

She works for the Public Service Commission, a state agency that oversees energy utilities, as a utility analyst.

“I like to part be of their education,” she said of her children. “The governor made tremendous cuts to education and I really paid attention. I was impressed with the way the board handled the budget.”

The Guilderland board, she said, kept the important programs, and she would like to be part of that process.

“We need to keep a balance in the district,” Pocholczak concluded, “to keep children at a high level of education…and not burden the taxpayers.”

Anthony Pietrafesa, an attorney, could not be reached for comment. According to the Legal Information Institute website run by Cornell University Law School, he has had his own practice since 2008, handling arbitration/mediation, bankruptcy/debt, consumer law, and divorce.

He graduated from Phillips Academy at Andover in 1974, received a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in 1978, and his law degree from Syracuse University in 1981.

From 1995 to 1999, he worked as an assistant to New York’s Attorney General, managing the Medicaid Fraud Control Bureau in Syracuse; from 1999 to 2003, he was deputy counsel for the New York State Higher Education Service Corp.; and from 2004 to 2008, he was deputy counsel at the New York State Office of Children & Families, where he “championed daycare regulation enforcement.”

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