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Clarence School Board candidates

Six people are seeking three seats on the Clarence School Board. They are: Maryellen Kloss, Michael B. Lex, Julie A. McCullough, Brendan Biddlecom, Roy Olsen, Gregory P. Thrun.

All were invited to tell distrct residents why they are worthy of their vote.

1. BRENDAN BIDDLECOM

Bidddlecom 

If the Clarence Schools are going to maintain their stellar reputation, we must build a culture of openness, transparency, and mutual trust between all stakeholders. During this year’s budgeting process I saw firsthand how quickly conversations can deteriorate when people sense their voices aren’t being heard, or information is being withheld.

As a long-time Clarence resident with children attending our schools I believe I’m in a unique position to advance the district’s mission and bridge the divide between diverse interest groups. I’ve worked as a teacher, entrepreneur, and volunteer organizer, and currently serve as the Director of Business Development at local energy consultancy--a position that affords me the opportunity to facilitate complex negotiations with CEOs, politicians, policy makers, and everyone in between. I hope to use the unique skill set I’ve developed over the years to build consensus throughout the community via active outreach, including frequent stakeholder meetings, development of a more user-friendly website, and on-site visits to schools and community centers.

Looking ahead, next year’s budgeting process promises to be just as difficult. Further external funding cuts are expected, which means the threat of larger class sizes, fewer services, and the elimination of key staff. It is therefore more important than ever that board members work hand-in-hand with parents, teachers, students, and the community at-large (and do so throughout the year, not a week or two before the budget goes to vote) to ensure our schools remains the envy of the region.

While fiscal matters are sure to dominate future discussions, it’s essential we not lose sight of our primary task, which is to develop caring, compassionate, and intellectually curious children who will have the tools to succeed in college, the workplace, and beyond. With federal Race to the Top dollars already in the pipeline and the state’s Common Core curriculum on the horizon, there will be challenges and also countless opportunities to diversify and enhance the current curriculum. I plan on working tirelessly to make sure these initiatives are not a hindrance, but rather work to the advantage of the district’s students and teaching staff.

To sustain (and hopefully improve) the quality of our schools will take creativity and shared sacrifice. So long as we work with the knowledge that a strong school system is the anchor of a strong community, I’m confident that everyone—students, teachers, and town residents—will benefit.

2. MARYELLEN KLOSS

Kloss 
My husband, David, and I made the decision to move to Clarence Center in 1990 because of
its exemplary school system. Each of our four children has benefited from the opportunity to
excel because of the wonderful teachers and staff in the district.

I earned my BS in Accounting from Daemen College and my MS in Education from Canisius College. I have been the Director of Finances for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Clarence for nineteen years.

Quality education for our children has always been a priority for Clarence residents We all
have chosen to live in this community and made a commitment to provide a sound education for
all students. This has not been done, however, without regard for cost. We expect careful
budgeting and purposeful spending. This is not always easy.

Difficult decisions and review of all expenditures are necessary, especially when state
funding is reduced for all school districts. We recognize the value of our school district to
our community and must continue to offer academic and athletic opportunities that challenge
all students.

My decision to continue to serve as a School Board Member after these past six years grows
from a strong desire to work with other community members to continue the outstanding
educational system that we as parents expect and our children deserve. 

3. MICHAEL LEX

Lex 

The Clarence School System faces two great challenges in the immediate future. For the
first time in twenty years there will be a change in the District's educational leadership. It
coincides with a period of fiscal uncertainty and program contractions. It is important to
have leadership that will facilitate a seamless transition and balance the needs of all
stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to continue the community's tradition of providing an
outstanding public education to its children.

The best way to find solutions to the challenges ahead is with honest, caring, experienced
leadership. As a board member for the past twelve years, I understand the traditions and
values of the community and schools. It is important to preserve those things that make this
District unique.

During the 25 years I have lived in Clarence I have served as President of the Sheridan
Hill PTO and coached over 20 seasons of soccer and baseball at the house and travel levels. I
also served on the Clarence Conservation Advisory Council, which developed the bike paths. I
have a Masters Degree in Public Administration and am currently a supervisor in law
enforcement. I am grateful to the community for the education provided to my children. My
daughter attends the high school and my two sons recently graduated from the district.

Thank you for your past support. I hope I have earned your trust again.

4. JULIE A. McCULLOUGHMccullough 
It would be an honor to continue my service to the residents of the Clarence Central School District as a member of the Board of Education, utilizing my experience as an educatorand parent volunteer.

 

I am a lifelong Western New Yorker, moving to Clarence with my husband in 1975. Widowed in
1993, I continued to live in the Harris Hill with my two children, both graduates of Clarence High School.

I retired in 2007 after teaching Health/Physical Education for thirty seven years at Williamsville South High School. I earned my Bachelor and Master of Education degrees from SUNY at Buffalo.

I have served as: treasurer and co-president of the Harris Hill PTO, Harris Hill School Improvement Team, cochairperson of the Harris Hill Playground Committee, president of the High School Football Boosters and Basketball Boosters, member of the Post Prom Committee, corresponding secretary and copresident of the High School PTO.

While serving as a School Board trustee for the past nine years, I have served on the Erie County Association of School Boards' Legislative Committee and the Clarence Cable TV Committee.

With the many challenges we face, our schools must continue to provide a healthy educational
environment for all children as they develop into lifelong learners. I look forward to assisting the district on its path to continued excellence.

5. ROY OLSEN

Olsen 

My goal is simple: Have our educational system be about the kids and the quality of their education while reducing the town tax levy by 10% over three years by doing the following:

Consolidate with other school districts common non-educational services to create economies of scale and privatize those services.

Establish strategy to receive a portion of the $500M school incentive to increase education performance and efficiency as defined in the NYS budget.

Eliminate three administrative positions; Director of Curriculum, Business Official and Director of Special Education.  Ultimately, re-create these positions through consolidation with other school districts with similar needs.

Revise pay structure for school administrators and highly compensated positions (over $100,000) to reduce their base salary by 30% but create a clearly defined and measurable performance bonus structure of up to 40% of their base salary.

Meet with teachers union proactively and work together to maintain jobs and classroom size.

My belief is that we have too much administration and that it is an easy out to focus on cutting teachers. Once we revise the administration and consolidate non-educational services we can reasonably discuss revisions to teacher agreements. As your middle-aged elected official I will develop, with the Board of Education, a strategy for these recommendations to begin implementation within six months of being elected.

Educationally, in 1979 I received an AAS degree from SUNY Morrisville, continued with coursework at Rochester Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southern California University of Professional Studies. Delaware North Companies currently employs me in an executive role.

6. GREGORY P. THRUN

Thrun 

In the coming years, Clarence will be facing many fiscal challenges and it will be the Board of Education's role to creatively address these issues so that students continue to receive a quality education. From New York State's budgetary concerns, to overwhelming mandate issues, it will be the Board of Education’s responsibility to effectively manage the resources at their disposal. With regards to mandates, Board members must pressure their State Representatives to pursue needed relief in order to eliminate many of these unnecessary and costly legislative burdens.  Lastly, in these turbulent economic times, the Trustees must be dedicated to creating a brighter future for our children and community.

I feel that I can achieve these goals having worked in the private sector for 23 years in the field of Human Resources.  I've worked on company budgets, strategic plans, created benefit programs and negotiated union contracts.  As for my own education, I received my B.A. in Political Science and M.B.A. from S.U.N.Y. Buffalo.  I understand the unique difficulties and with my previous experience, I feel I would make an excellent addition to the Clarence Board of Education.

Age: 48 years old

Occupation:  Vice President of Labor Relations - Cornerstone Community Federal Credit Union.

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee | djgee@buffnews.com


Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes | tlankes@buffnews.com


Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone | stan@buffnews.com


Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB | dswilliams@buffnews.com

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