SOMERS, N.Y. – Somers voters will have to decide among five candidates for three school board seats on Tuesday.
To make their decisions a little easier, the Somers Central School District posted video of Monday night’s Candidate Debate Night hosted by the Somers PTA Council and the League of Women Voters.
Incumbents Donna Rosenblum and Ifay Chang will run against newcomers Joseph Marra, Richard Wagner and Karen Frieri in Tuesday’s election. Joanne Iannacchino is not seeking re-election. Residents will also have the opportunity to vote on the school district’s proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Somers Middle School gymnasium.
Incumbent Ifay Chang has the most experience of all five of the candidates running with six years on the Somers Board of Education. Chang has also served as the president of internet companies TLC Information Services and IPO2U.com. Three of his four children are Somers graduates and his youngest is a student at Somers High School. Chang said he’s running for the same reason he ran six years ago.
“I want to devote my semi-retirement time to education,” Chang said during the debate. “Serving on the board, I’ve realized (cutting) is not a very easy task. I think we have to worry about all of the children in the town and this process has to be a give and take and not making a serious impact on the service level.”
Incumbent Donna Rosenblum was appointed to the board in January after Anthony Cirieco resigned. Rosenblum has worked as a market researcher. She has children in eighth and tenth grade in Somers and said she is in a unique position as this marks her first election but she has already served on the board for five months.
“There are many challenges ahead for Somers, including facing difficult budgets and making legislative changes,” she said during the debate. “Making cuts is a very scary thing. We are number 17 of average spending per student [out of 18 in Putnam/Northern Westchester]. We’re pretty efficient right now and it is scary but there are realities and if we have to make cuts I think we will try to make cuts that have the least impact on learning.”
Joseph Marra is a 15-year resident of Somers and has owned his own law practice since 1988. He has a daughter who is a junior at Somers High School. Marra believes his experience as an attorney representing citizens suing school districts and other cases representing school boards gives him a strong background in education issues.
“People are concerned about the tax base and what they’re going to be paying in taxes,” he said during the debate. “We have a silver lining here. At least for the immediate future, the population of the school district is going down. If there are less students, there will be less of a need for personnel and other services. No one wants to cut anything but you’re going to have no choice and unfortunately that might be personnel.”
Richard Wagner, a 14-year Somers resident, said his technological background and new ideas will make a perfect fit for the Somers School Board. One of his ideas is the eight-day challenge, where students would come to school for a few sessions during the summer to make sure they maintain the knowledge they gained in the previous school year to make them more prepared for the upcoming year.
“The taxes that I pay have quadrupled and the taxes quite truthfully are breaking my back and they’re breaking a lot of people’s backs,” “I think we should figure out ways of delivering a more effective education at less cost.”
Karen Frieri, a 12-year Somers resident has worked for more than 20 years as a financial strategist for major companies like PepsiCo and thinks that experience could help ensure the school board presents the strongest budgets while maintaining a high level of education throughout the district.
“More importantly I built strong relationships bringing together diverse interests across multiple disciplines,” Frieri said during the debate. “A lot of my experience built consensus across lines. We really need to strategize very collaboratively with our community, with our teachers and our faculty and really plan for our future.”
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