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East Aurora School Board candidates

Six candidates are seeking three seats on the East Aurora School Board. They are: Jessica Byrnes Armbrust; Daniel Brunson; Judy Malys; Nicole Morris-McLaughlin; James Whitcomb; and Stephen Zagrobelny.

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

1. JESSICA BYRNES ARMBRUST

Armbrust 

As a mother of two young East Aurora students and a 1989 graduate of East Aurora High
School, I appreciate and strongly support our public school system. With a B.S. from Boston
University (Magna Cum Laude) and 10+ years of private sector project management experience, I
have the skills needed to work collaboratively to find solutions to current and future
challenges facing our district.

As a native of East Aurora, I care about the students of our district and see serving on
the Board as an opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives.  In our society we have
the right and responsibility to give back. I have the time and energy to be an effective board
member who is open minded and committed to quality public education for all the children in
our district. The excellence of our public schools helped my husband and me in our decision to
settle our family in East Aurora, and now I want to do all I can to ensure that our schools
continue to offer our children the best educational opportunities possible.

Let's Talk Money

The current EA Board of Education had the arduous task of closing a $1.8M budget gap;
unfortunately, this won't be the last year we face this difficulty.  In this tight economic
time it is especially important for everyone involved in our educational community to come to
the table with an open mind and a desire to balance the needs of all.  I will work tirelessly
to that end.

As we continue to work with budget constraints, I would like to see the Board take a
proactive approach to reducing overhead in ways that have minimal impact on the students.  As
a Board member I would like to see where we can save costs by working collaboratively with
neighboring districts, look into grants that will offset some of our program expenses, and
ensure we are as energy efficient as possible. I will work collaboratively with the rest of
the Board as well as the administration and teachers to find appropriate solutions to all
challenges that face our district.

What about the kids?

Everything we do as an educational community is important for the kids.  My primary focus
as a Board member will be to provide them with the best educational experience possible.  When
it comes to our tough financial decisions, we need to look at what impacts the least number of
children and be fair across the board. Most importantly, before we make cuts, we need to see
where we can be creative about our resources. Additionally, as a district we need to be
mindful of the added academic pressures being put upon our younger students and ensure they
have a proper foundation on which to build a lifetime of learning.

My Primary Goals

-- take a proactive approach to reduce overhead while helping to minimize the impact on the
students

-- facilitate improved communication between key players in the district

-- support teachers and administration in maintaining creativity in the classroom while
integrating  Common Core State Standards into the curriculum

-- ensure adequate support for our elementary and middle school students to enable them to
meet the coming challenges and attain the same success as our high school students of today

Meet the Candidate

Salutatorian of EAHS class of 1989

Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston University's College of Communication

10+ years private sector project management experience

Served for 3 years as Treasurer of East Aurora Preschool Center

Wife of Joe and mother of Greta, age 8 and Spencer, age 5

2.  DANIEL BRUNSON

Brunson 

I have lived in the East Aurora community for over 40 years, spending most of that time as
a teacher and school administrator. Helping to build a tradition of excellence in our schools
has been my goal. It has been my privilege to serve on the Board of Education for the
past nine years, currently as Board President. Meeting challenges with  problem solving and
consensus building has been my approach as a board member. I believe strongly in open public
debate on educational issues.

Community service is my personal commitment. I am a member of the Kiwanis Club, Aurora
Players and Vice-President of the East Aurora Educational Foundation.

East Aurora is an exceptionally fine school district, due in large part to supportive
parents, hard working students, dedicated staff, and to a community that is proud of, and
stands behind its schools.

Business First ranks East Aurora third among 97 western New York districts. I appreciate
the opportunity to continue to serve the community as a member of the Board of Education,
striving to build upon our tradition of excellence while working hard to keep spending levels
affordable for the taxpayers.

3. JUDY MALYS

Malys 

As a recently retired East Aurora teacher I bring 21 years of creative problem solving
experience in education to the field of current candidates. I have a grandson in the high
school and one at Parkdale and another in the wings! I have taught third grade to eighth grade
and coordinated the former gifted and talented program at middle school level for five years.

I had always planned on volunteering when I retired and the school board is the perfect
opportunity to both volunteer and use my personal expertise. I have a clear and current
understanding of what is necessary to meet federal and state educational standards. I believe
I bring to the equation a profound sensibility of what it means to be educationally sound.

The financial times in which we find ourselves are unprecedented. I know we will have to
consider further efficiencies. I'd like to see us be as creative about this process as
possible by engaging our collective expertise.

Areas of exploration might include:

Identifying fiscal conservation through discovery committees made up of parents, teachers
and a board member.

Collaborating with the Boys and Girls club and recreation department to enhance athletics
at the middle school level.

Empowering teacher/coordinators to review curriculum and manage scheduling of events and
games as they did in the past.

Seeking opportunities to procure grants and group sponsorships to support educational
efforts might be a possibility.

Offering the other half-day of kindergarten perhaps though a tuition option, if necessary,
so parents wouldn't need to have their child transported elsewhere to enhance their
kindergarten experience. This would offer greater consistency and quality to the early
educational foundation.

As I just said, I go on record for believing that full-day kindergarten is essential to the
quality educational foundation needed in today's world. A discovery committee of teachers,
administrator, parent representatives and a board representative should evaluate all
programming changes.  These committees would present their findings and recommendations to the
board for consideration.

4. NICOLE MORRIS-MCLAUGHLIN

Nicole 

The East Aurora School District will benefit from my creativeness and innovativeness,
especially in this time of budget cuts. I will find ways to make our district even better
without it costing the district; I have already done this as a community volunteer.  Last year
I planned and organized a community effort to build, fund, and maintain a 1000+ square foot
vegetable garden at Parkdale Elementary.

Through the successful attainment of grants, this project was realized without burdening
the Town of Aurora taxpayers.  The teachers are now able to utilize the Garden to teach
science, math, nutrition, language arts, and history in the Garden. This gives children the
practical, hands-on educational experience that is needed for them to compete globally.  The
Parkdale Elementary lunch program will be offering vegetables and herbs from the garden this
spring, enriching the selection of offerings for lunch.

My background in the Social Sciences allows me to research, analyze and understand what
makes for a great education today. I will examine how other countries achieve higher math,
reading and science scores than the U.S. while spending less money per student than the U.S.
does. Then I will help apply those findings to the East Aurora Union Free School District.
My goal is to make our school district known for its academic excellence and known for
students and staff that make a difference in their world.

Check out my website.

5. JAMES WHITCOMB

Whitcomb 

I am currently 58 years old.  I am a 1971 graduate of East Aurora High School. I received a
B.A. from Denison University in 1975 and received a J.D. from the University of Toledo,
College of Law in 1982. I am admitted to practice law in New York and currently am a partner
with Phillips Lytle LLP in Buffalo.

I am married to Marian Whitcomb who teaches at East Aurora High School. Both my children,
Carolyn and David, attended East Aurora schools from kindergarten to 12the grade. Carolyn is
in graduate school and David is a senior in college.

I am running for my third term on the East Aurora School Board, because the financial
crisis in the state requires leadership in considering how to deal with the impact of the
crisis on the district. The district must put the education of students first and make
reductions, if necessary, in programs and personnel with this mission in mind.

While we are in tough financial times, we must continue to work to improve this district.
This includes recruiting a new superintendent who is both an educational and community leader,
negotiating new collective bargaining agreements with the Civil Service Association and the
Teacher's Association, and when funds can be identified, implementing all day kindergarten. We
must continue look at achievement in light of the changing standards.

I look forward to working with the members of the board, the administration, the teachers
and the community to continue to improve our District. My consistent goal while serving on the
board will be continue to ensure that students who graduate from East Aurora High School are
prepared to succeed in college and beyond.

6. STEPHEN ZAGROBELNY

Zagrobelny 

East Aurora has a long tradition of providing an exceptional public education uniquely
tailored to best meet the needs of our community. As graduates of East Aurora schools, my
wife, Paula, and I now watch as our eight children work their way through the school system.

I am running for re-election to a fourth term on the East Aurora School Board to continue
to serve the community in helping to guide the decisions and direction of our schools. With
ever escalating expenses and ever shrinking revenues, school board decisions increasingly
require thoughtful and knowledgeable deliberation with the ability to make difficult choices
while still seeking to preserve the aspects that make East Aurora exceptional.

In my first nine years on the board, I have consistently demonstrated my ability to devote
the time required for thoughtful deliberation, to regularly visit the schools and attend board
meetings, and to provide balanced and fair representation for all members of the community.

After graduation from East Aurora High, I received a Bachelor of Science degree in
Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University. I became a licensed Professional Engineer in
Virginia, and worked for 10 years as a project manager in budgeting and congressional
appropriations with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

Returning to East Aurora 12 years ago, I moved into computer programming, primarily
building e-commerce applications. Moving into data management for the pharmaceutical industry
six years ago, I am currently managing the application development team as a vice president
with ValueCentric, LLC in Orchard Park.

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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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