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Williamsville School Board candidates

Five candidates are seeking three seats on the Williamsville School Board. They are: Patricia M. Losito, Stephen C. Munschauer, Michael J. Schmidt, Ronald S. Shubert and James F. Waack.

All the candidates submitted information to the Williamsville Parent Teacher Student Association about why they were running and also responded to the following request from the PTSA: 

"The Williamsville School District is confronting 'one of the most difficult financial challenges faced by school districts in decades,' with a projected shortfall of over $8 million. In light of this financial scenario and as painful and difficult that this may be, what specific non-mandated programs would you recommend cutting or eliminating and which programs would you fight to retain?"

1. PATRICIA M. LOSITO

Losito 

As a mother, nurse, and educator I provide a unique perspective that other candidates do not possess. Not only to focus on the K through 12 years, but beyond, to provide the best possible preparation for all children to compete in this global economy. I am a professor department head of nursing at Erie Community College one of the many responsibilities is the nursing departments budget. This experience will be invaluable in the school budget process. 

Twenty years ago, my husband and I chose to live in Williamsville because of its exceptional educational system. Williamsville children including my own have benefited from the numerous non-mandated programs. Some of these programs include full day kindergarten, music, and foreign language, modified sports, special education needs, and advanced placement courses. I am an ardent supporter of the above programs plus the implementation of the District Technology Plan. When I am elected I will explore modifications that would not have a direct impact on students. As a Director of Nursing at SUNY Erie Community College, I am responsible and accountable for a multi-million dollar budget. I am the only candidate who has fiscal management experience and who has the ability to analyze line item budgets and discern its impact on student learning; a critical skill set needed at the board level.

2. STEPHEN C. MUNSCHAUER

Munschauer 

As current Board VP, I am seeking re-election because I have invested a tremendous amount of time, effort and education to become an outstanding advocate for our community. 

I am extremely proficient in understanding the budget process to ensure our budget reflects the values of the community in a fiscally responsible manner. It is critical to have experience at this time of fiscal and regulatory issues at the state level and changes within the District.

The budget process is never an easy one, but is particularly difficult under the current economic climate in New York State. Williamsville has had astute financial planning over the past number of years and maintained an updated a 5 year Financial Plan that has guided us very well through these fiscally troubled times.

Accordingly, we are in better financial shape than most other district in Western New York and are just now starting to face some of the challenges that others have had to deal with the past year or so.

It is this same type of planning and analysis that we turned to, to get us through our budget process this year and look to do the same for next year. We have established a very detailed and well thought out decision making criteria process with over 20 criteria to weigh over. The process is very thorough and looks at all the criteria with input from multiple levels of professionals and stakeholders.

This year, the only one non-negotiable item, Athletic trainers, was one that I put forth with the further caveat that I did not want to see any program eliminated, if possible, that we should only reduce, as necessary, I believe that it will be easier to reinstate, or reverse the reduction, than it would be to re-establish something that was eliminated.

Fortunately, this year, even with the slight reduction in LOTE, Art, and Home & Careers, we have still maintains those programs, even above mandated levels. It is my hope, that within the next 2 to 3 years we will be able to bring these programs back to at least the current levels.

3. MICHAEL J. SCHMIDT

Schmidt 
I bring the voice of a parent with two young children as well as a taxpayer in our community. I also bring a fresh and energetic perspective on all matters with an emphasis on financial concerns and process improvement ideas.

I have the vision… I am looking to improve, not dismantle the district like we will see next year. I look to the future of Williamsville schools in the landscape of a diverse, fast-paced, world during changing financial times.

I believe in a strong educational core and the variety of special offerings that has set Williamsville apart from other districts. These are uncertain, difficult fiscal times. We have a challenge. I believe we can meet this challenge. Specifically, since this year’s budget is nearly identical to the contingency budget, I would recommend a “maintenance budget” to vote on- one that consists of no program cuts and/or class size increases. The WCSD voters have consistently voted to support our school system, and I would let them have a choice. This budget essentially does not provide a choice if it is voted down. Let the community decide, and not make assumptions on the few that vocalize their opinions.

I have asked our teachers and educators first-hand about what programs they deem as important for across the district in core subjects as well as the music & arts. As they are a front line to our students, we have a vested interest in listening to their concerns.

The following are my recommendations to maintain (or add back in) for next year’s budget proposal:

• Language Other Than English. (L.O.T.E.): I would have fought hard to retain L.O.T.E. for fifth graders for this year as I know once a program is cut, it rarely makes a return. Offering this program to this age group is “unique” to the WNY community and is what differentiates us for the better. One could argue that we should be finding ways to put L.O.T.E. in grades earlier than 5th, not later.

• Art Education: I am also against reducing the “Art” education requirement from 49 weeks to 40 weeks as “Art” provides a creative outlet and can be viewed as a universal and common language.

• Class Sizes: I would also fight to reduce or maintain current class sizes and not increase them as we will be experiencing next year- all children suffer and lose (from the gifted/advanced to the average to the struggling) with increased class sizes.

· Social Media Education and Safety: I am also a strong proponent for increasing student knowledge and resources on real world / current issue topics such as money matters (saving / credit card problems / debt), social media’s potential problems (Facebook, Twitter, Texting, Internet posts) and bullying.

 The following are my recommendations to cut from next years proposed budget:

· Look at trimming costs that are non-educational first and do not effect students. Further central office reductions should be looked at before anything is cut or reduced.

· I would further look at reducing additional ‘team leader’ positions and if there are not enough ‘volunteers’ to assume the extra time requirements, I would look at assigning the work to the assistant principals.

· Discuss cutting keyboarding classes as it is only a 20 week program. This program takes away from 15-20 math/science classes every year.

I believe the following needs further research and discussion that I would lead:

• Analyze transportation expenses and start discussing UB’s “Kid Corridor Zones” study for the WCSD. There are many ideas that can be put up for discussion to reduce line costs.

• Explore charging a premium for attendance in clubs and co-curricular activities as many parents have suggested.

• Change the budget process and timelines next year so that all educators, parents and community members can have a proactive voice in shaping next year’s budget proposals.

• Encourage the superintendent to supply several budget iterations with various options early in the school year so all stakeholders can be involved early in the process.

Finally, I feel it is important to "listen to learn” on all topics prior to having to take a vote. I have attended PTSA council meetings, music booster club meetings and attended school events, and I am continually impressed at the involvement of our teachers, parents and administrators and the excellence that everyone wants. I will have no preconceived decisions until all sides have had a chance to state their case. I thank you for the opportunity to discuss my ideas in this forum and welcome your support in keep our district #1.

4. RONALD S. SHUBERT

Shubert 

I am seeking re-election due to my keen interest in assuring the children of the District a quality education second to none, while recognizing the need to keep tax increases down. I have lived in the District for more than 47 years having attended both Mill Middle and Williamsville South High Schools. I was elected to the School Board in 2000 and have served as Vice President, President and am currently the Parliamentarian.

Williamsville has a long history of being a cutting edge School District. As a School Board Member for the past 12 years, I am proud of our reputation in the Community for academic innovation and fiscal responsibility.

Now facing a $6,500,000 budget shortfall, as well as a possible property tax cap in the 2012-2013, we must find ways to preserve our programs.

The budget presented by the Superintendent includes a small increase in class size guidelines, as well as some program reductions, but no program eliminations. Both home and careers and art instruction will revert to State mandated levels and although language instruction will not be offered in fifth grade, class time it will be increased in sixth grade. Williamsville schools will continue to exceed the state imposed instructional guidelines for LOTE.

No programming will be eliminated and accordingly, as the result of efficiencies and adjustments, Williamsville expects to retain its position as the top School District in Western New York.

In answer to the specific question posed, I would not support the elimination of any programming, unless absolutely necessary, and fortunately, at this time, no program eliminations are being proposed.

5. JAMES F. WAACK

Waack 

I seek election to the school board because education is my passion. I believe all children deserve to be challenged to their potential. Committed leadership in the district is essential to maintain Williamsville’s mission of high standards for staff and achievement we expect of children. My strong belief in the value of public education, combined with my experience as a teacher, administrator, and volunteer on community boards qualifies me to share in our school’s leadership.

Program cuts are painful and potentially very divisive. Care is needed to minimize division and emotion, and instead focus on student achievement as the basis for elimination or reduction of programming. Once non-direct student areas like administration, physical plant, and bussing are exhausted for savings - a clearly defined - evaluation vehicle measuring student outcomes is needed. A decision-making process that takes into account criteria including: number of students affected, instructional length of time, cost, achievement area tested, etc., serves to diminish emotional inputs into the debate. If conversation can focus on educational results a more reasonable and rational discussion is likely to follow.

Questions of program cuts are painful and potentially very divisive. Great care is needed to minimize emotion and anger in its wake. Once non-student areas like administration physical plant, bussing are exhausted for savings. As programs are assessed for elimination or reduction, it is vital- a clearly defined – evaluation process be developed whose criteria focuses on student achievement. A decision-making rubric with agreed upon parameters such as: number of students affected, instructional length of time, cost, achievement area tested, would diminish emotional inputs into the decision process and instead help keep the conversation focused on defined educational objectives.

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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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