Incumbent, 4 others seek 2 Peru School Board seats | Local News


PERU — Five candidates are vying for two five-year terms in the Peru Central School District.

Kathleen Wyckoff chose not to seek re-election; Kim Mayer is looking for another term on the board, with Sarah Mitchell, Graham Niles, Steven Peters and Scott Thurber also vying for seats.

The vote is set for noon to 9 p.m., Junior/Senior High School gymnasium.

We asked each candidate the same two questions:

What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what possible solutions would you propose? 

Here are their replies:

Kim Mayer: “Safety is the biggest issue facing our district today. I believe we need to hire a school resource officer, as well as securing our main office areas to limit access to the general school population until they have been cleared.

“However, there are more issues facing the district as it relates to safety. We typically talk about dealing with issues of violence coming into our schools but there is an increase of violence within our school. The social emotional needs of our students need to be addressed. Today’s students experience trauma at a level not seen by previous generations, and it affects how they learn and function as a member of society.

“Our staff needs training on how trauma affects our students, to understand the nature of the actual trauma and ways to teach our students how to cope with that trauma.

Sarah Mitchell: “The dramatic increase in health insurance premiums resulting in a dwindling fund balance is the biggest issue facing our district. The proposed budget reflects a $1.6 million increase in health insurance premiums and over $600,000 being allocated from our reserves. This is not sustainable. I have been regularly attending School Board meetings, and it is evident that this excessive increase is directly impacting the programs that we will be able to provide for our students next year to remain under the property tax cap.

“If elected to the board, I would be an advocate for our district and the other 16-member component districts of the Clinton Essex Warren Washington Healthcare Consortium to continue to explore cost saving measures. I would ask the district to examine the cost-benefit analysis of a self-funded health care plan. I would also encourage our board to contact our state legislators to attempt to increase the current 4 percent carry-over fund balance limit each district can have to 5 percent.

“This would reward our district for showing fiscal restraint throughout the school year by potentially having a larger balance to utilize when we need to weather unforeseen increases such as another double-digit health insurance premium rate hike. The needs of our district, staff, and student could then be sustainable without additional burden to our taxpayers.”

Graham Niles: “There are always things to work on but as I travel around and talk to people, they are concerned that the board only listens to the teachers. I’m a big advocate of the teachers but I want to support everyone.

“It’s important to listen to community members, too.”

What is the biggest issue facing your district, and what possible solutions would you propose?

Steven Peters: “Budget stabilization is the largest issue that I see at Peru. The financial fluctuations need to be addressed by seeking out long-range planning opportunities. Small corrections now can prevent large corrections later — this is fundamental to sound budgeting.

“We have to continually seek ways to reduce operational spending through proper investment and capital planning. A successful school district will be the one that surgically trims the budget and stays vigilant on operating expenses. Small changes across a number of budget lines can save entire teaching positions.

“To do that, we should be using technology to reduce expenses. If students are getting iPads, then expenses for paper should be reduced substantially. We can also leverage our capital projects to reduce expenses. Every project we do should definitively show a reduction in operating expenses.

“If we need a new heating system, it should be as efficient as possible. Continually seeking ways to innovate and lead in the educational environment is paramount to success. If we can create a smooth and less stressful environment for our teachers, then they can focus on their core mission of educating each student to meet or exceed their potential. I believe that starts and ends with a sound budget and sound budgeting policies.

“I have a decade of experience with large, multi-million dollar public-sector budgets and experience in managing public facilities, programs and projects with data-driven decisions. This is what I believe Peru needs right now. (As City of Plattsburgh superintendent of recreation), I managed operations of the entire department with a yearly operating budget of $1.4 million. I led and supervised over 50 employees annually, developed long-range capital planning initiatives, and fostered partnerships with area organizations.”

Scott Thurber: I believe the biggest issue facing our district is unfunded state mandates. NYS establishes mandates and then they fail to help the school districts with future funding for those same mandates. The districts are then left every year at budget time trying to fund those same mandates without state assistance. I would lobby our state representatives for continued support of these mandates. I would also recommend the district seek other funding, like grants, to help offset budget shortcomings.

KIM MAYER

Age: 58. 

Occupation: Physical education teacher at Champlain Valley Educational Services in the Special Education Division.; assistive technology evaluator and trainer with Adult Career & Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation.

Education: Bachelor’s degree, SUNY Cortland; master’s degree, SUNY Potsdam.

Civic organizations: Town of Schuyler Falls youth soccer coach.

Government experience: Five years on the Peru Central School Board, incumbent, president; teacher’s union treasurer, and also served as vice president, president; Institute for Learning Centered Education Board of Directors.

Family: Wife, Tonya Robinson-Mayer; three children — two seventh-graders and a senior in the district.

SARAH MITCHELL

Age: 37.

Occupation: Advanced EMT Critical Care for CVPH covering the Peru and Keeseville fire districts.

Education: Peru Central School graduate, bachelor’s degree in biology from SUNY Plattsburgh.

Civic organizations: Past Peru Fire Department volunteer firefighter and EMT; past Peru Nursery School Board, 10 years, served as membership chair, vice president, president; treasurer, Peru PTO, seven years, past vice president.

Family: Husband, Timothy; two children, an eighth-grader and sixth-grader in the district.

GRAHAM NILES

Age: 31.

Occupation: Wealth manager at Niles Asset Management.

Education: Brushton-Moira Central School graduate; economics degree, St. Lawrence University.

Family: Wife, Jamie; one child and expecting another soon.

STEVEN PETERS

Age: 40.

Occupation: Village administrator, Village of Rouses Point; co-owner, Adirondack Coast Events, a running race and event timing company designed to assist charities raise funds through running races; instructor at SUNY Plattsburgh for nine different courses.

Education: Master of Arts in Liberal Studies: Administration and Leadership, B.A. in Speech Communication, SUNY Plattsburgh.

Civic organizations: Strategic Tourism Planning Committee for Clinton County.

Government experience: As Rouses Point’s chief executive, oversees and coordinates village departments, employees and appointed officers; enforces regulations, ordinances, resolutions, local laws and code; coordinates and plans major projects and leads initiatives in community development and grants administration; former City of Plattsburgh superintendent of recreation.

Family: Wife, Erin Peters; son in fourth grade, daughter in first grade at Peru Central.

SCOTT THURBER

Age: 51.

Occupation: Teaching assistant, Beekmantown School District.

Education: Criminal justice degree.

Civic organizations: Farm Bureau member; former member of the Loyal Order of the Moose, Saranac LK; former member of SVFD.

Family: Wife, Tricia; five children in blended family. Stepson graduates from Peru High School this year.



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