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June 3, 2020 - 9:45am

Five questions for board of education candidates: Byron-Bergen Central School

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, byron-bergen central school district.

The Batavian has reached out to school board candidates in Genesee County to get their answers to five questions prior to voting on June 9.

At Byron-Bergen Central School, three people are running for two open trustee positions – incumbents Tammy Menzie and Amy Phillips and challenger Lynn Smith. The terms are for three years, beginning on July 1.

The questions are as follows:

1 -- What is your position on your school district’s proposed budget for 2020-21? What parts do you support? What parts would you change if you could?

2 -- Are teachers in your district compensated adequately?

3 -- With what we know now about COVID-19, should schools reopen in the fall?

4 -- Are you satisfied that your district responds to parents’ complaints and concerns in a way that ensures the parents know they have been heard?

5 -- What two books published since The Enlightenment have influenced you the most?


1 -- I support our proposed budget. I support our strong educational program. In 2020 we were ranked among the Best High Schools. I support student involvement in extracurricular activities. We want to produce college and career ready graduates that are involved in our community. I also support the school bus proposition because we receive approx. 90 percent state transportation aid on the purchase. The part I would change is to be able to provide our community members with a long-term fiscal idea about the level of state aid that actually will be granted by our governor to each district.

2 -- Yes. Compensating our teachers adequately is important. If we want high quality educators for our students, we must offer them appropriate compensation. If we do not, we may lose them to other districts.

3 -- I think we will return. However, "school" might not look the same. First and foremost, we have a responsibility to student and faculty safety and we should follow all of the health guidelines recommended. There will be more health and sanitation measures. I do worry about students' learning gaps and their social and emotional well-being from several weeks of remote learning.

4 -- The lines of communication between our district and our families is always open. This pandemic has really shown what our district and community are made of. They have come together in true partnership and our students are the focus.

5 -- I enjoy reading about strong women. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton and I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb are among my favorites.


1 -- Given all the circumstances and constraints that the school district is under I believe the budget that was developed and presented to the community is a very good option. I fully support the budget as presented. If I could change one thing it would be the guarantee of aid that we would be receiving from the state. This is the first year that there will be periodic checks by the Governor at which time aid can be adjusted, which makes budgeting for a year very difficult.

2 -- I believe we have had positive interactions and great success in negotiations with all our constituent groups.

3 -- Realistically, we will have to wait and see what this summer holds and what the recommendations of the CDC and governing bodies are. Personally and professionally, I would like to see students and teachers back in the classroom. I have been teaching middle school science for 22 years and miss being in school with my students and feel schools offer so much more than an education. They offer opportunities for connections and opportunities that are not easily replicated in remote learning. That being said safety is my number one concern.

4 -- I believe parents are given a fair and ample opportunity to express concerns and be heard. As in any case there is always room from growth and improvement as different situations arise.

5 -- The two books that jump out to me immediately are books that I had the opportunity to read with my children and include Bud, Not Buddy by Christian Paul Curtis and Restart by Gordon Korman. While the books are fantastic, the chance to read them with my children and share in the emotion of the book and share the message the books send make them very influential to me.


1 -- After reviewing the budget presentation on the Byron Bergen School District website, it appears the district is moving forward a thoughtful and reasonable budget. I am in support of the goals the district has outlined, particularly the health & safety of students, providing support/training for staff and the continuation of the district’s capital improvement project which started in 2017. I wish I could change the financial forecast for our district to one that is certain and reliable. While it appears the district has proposed a solid budget for 2020-21, the impact beyond this next school year is yet unknown. Additionally, what adds to the uncertainty is the governor’s spending reduction plan which could potentially remove state aid from districts if the state’s revenue and expenditures exceed 1 percent.

2 -- When it comes to compensation, most families probably wish they had a little extra in their pocket, particularly during these recent times when many families are experiencing a loss of income, jobs, etc. Teachers work hard to plan, instruct, support, manage, and tend to children’s whole health in school. Because the district and teachers’ union have agreed to the teacher’s contract and salaries, we can only assume teachers are being adequately compensated. I cannot speak to whether or not teachers feel compensated adequately however I would think that districts benchmark teacher salaries and adjust for salary increases appropriately/fairly.

3 -- What we know now and what we may know two to three months from now will look different. These are uncertain times and while districts/schools have begun thinking about what school will look like in the fall, the decision whether schools will open is one that is made by the governor and still remains unknown until we know the path this virus takes over the next several weeks.

4 -- I can speak to my experience as a parent of a 5th grade Bee in the district. I feel fortunate to have built relationships with staff and teachers in the elementary building. This collaboration has been vital to supporting my child during his school years and will be just as important as he continues into 6th grade and beyond. I do feel as though lines of communication are open and have been able to work collaboratively with his teachers at supporting his learning and expressing what is working and any concerns that I might have. In fact, kudos to the district/administration and teachers, during these last several weeks! Communication has been consistent in informing parents of updates, expectations and opportunities for students.

5 -- It’s hard to pick just two! The first that comes to mind quickly is: Everything I Know I Learned in Kindergarten, these “Golden Rules” about sharing, taking turns, being fair and nice, being respectful and aware of others are critical when we teach and model these for young children and they are the foundation of what makes us well-rounded adults!

The other, a colleague recently gave to me this past Christmas and is titled A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness. This book came to mind as I am writing this because during these last several weeks this “pause” during the pandemic has forced families to stop, take time, be in the present and balance this new way of being at home, finding fun in simple things and connecting.

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