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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 29, 2010
Three vie for vacant seat
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND Emilio Genzano is happy to be back on the Guilderland School Board.
“I enjoy passing on the good given to me and my family,” he said last Thursday night. He and his wife, Jill, have three children Emilio Jr., Joseph, and Maria.
Genzano will now fill the seat vacated by Julie Cuneo in June; she moved to Saratoga with her family after serving one year of a three-year term. Genzano will serve until the next election, on May 17.
Genzano works as the assistant vice president for engineering and construction at Albany Medical Center. He had run unsuccessfully for the school board in 2001 and 2002 before being appointed last year.
The seven members of the school board who were present at a special meeting on July 22 voted to re-appoint Genzano after listening to a televised interview with three candidates for three-quarters of an hour.
They adjourned to executive session for 38 minutes before returning to vote in public. The only absent member was Allan Simpson. He had defeated Genzano in the May election.
Genzano had initially been appointed to the board in the fall of 2009 when eight men vied for a seat left vacant by the death of long-time member John Dornbush. Then Genzano ran in May to keep his seat but came in fifth in a six-way race for four seats. Simpson came in fourth, meaning he is serving the one year left in Dornbush’s term.
At recent meetings, several board members had publicly expressed their support for Genzano, and Colleen O’Connell, one of his running mates in the May election, had advocated appointing him directly without soliciting other applicants.
O’Connell had speculated on election night that Genzano’s defeat was tied to his strong identity with the sports community as he has long been involved with Pop Warner football and started a program for players with handicaps.
At the April 13 school board meeting, in the wake of state aid cuts, Genzano had been one of three board members Cuneo and O’Connell were the other two who advocated reinstating freshman sports. Then, at the April 27 meeting, when the hall was filled with sports boosters, protesting the cuts to freshman sports and fall cheerleading, Genzano spoke in favor of sticking to the budget that the majority had supported.
“We have to respect this process…I will look for alternatives,” he said then. “This isn’t over.”
Genzano now chairs the Friends of Guilderland Athletics, working to raise $60,000 from the community so that the cut sports can be restored. (See related letters to the editor.)
Asked on election night if he thought his stance on sports is what caused his defeat at the polls, Genzano said he had no regrets. “You speak your mind,” he said. “You do what you think is right.”
Last Thursday, as the board deliberated on its appointment, Genzano said of why it’s worthwhile to raise the money for the cut sports, “You don’t get what you want all the time. It’s important to teach our kids that. If it gives our kids hope, it’s a lesson for them. That’s why I’m doing this.”
The other two candidates James Anderson and Carlene Pacholczak were making first attempts at getting on the board.
Each candidate had up to two minutes to answer a series of nine questions.
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.
Pacholczak, who works for the Public Service Commission, a state agency that oversees energy utilities, as a utility analyst, said she wanted to be part of her children’s education.
All three candidates have children in the Guilderland School District.
Two others Rosemary Levy and Anthony Pietrafesa had been interested in the unpaid post but were unable to be on hand for the July 22 interview.
Board President Richard Weisz told the candidates, after the executive session, “There was unanimous agreement each of you would have made a great candidate…All three of you could join us eventually on the board.”
In answering the board questions posed by a student moderator, all of the candidates were supportive of the way the board handled this year’s budget crisis, and advocated maintaining strong programs without overburdening taxpayers.
“I miss everyone,” said Genzano of his reason for seeking the seat. He also spoke of his skills in construction and his organizational skills, put to use recently in raising funds to restore cut sports programs.
Pacholczak stressed her role as the mother of young children. “I’d be willing to volunteer for anything,” she said, adding after a pause, “Not anything.” Board members chortled at this. Pacholczak also said she was interested in health and safety issues.
Asked how a board member should balance the needs of students, staff, and taxpayers, Anderson said, in his business, he tells his clients they can have only two of three things fast, cheap, or easy. “The board has to choose two,” he said. “Balancing is a juggling act.”
In giving his three priorities for the district, Genzano said that the board had adopted a transitional budget for 2010-11 and would now need to develop a new baseline.
“Priority one is balance, priority two is balance, priority three is balance,” Genzano said, concluding, “I just don’t give up.”