Six candidates running for three seats on the Williamsville School Board all approve of the direction the school district is headed, but some of them have different visions for change.
Foreign language in elementary schools, better athletic fields and more vocational programs were among the ideas floated during a candidates forum held by the district’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association Council on Thursday.
“We’re staring down some pretty tight financial straits over the next several years,” said Peter U. Bergmann, who is running for a full term after being appointed to a seat last year. “First and foremost, we need to maintain what we have.” Bergmann, who is president and CEO of Sisters Hospital and has three children in district schools, was one of four candidates who said they want to see foreign languages taught in the district’s elementary schools.
“Language is very important because it prepares students for the future,” said Mohan S. Devgun, a professor at SUNY Buffalo State who was first elected to the board in 2010.
In addition to extending the district’s language programs, Devgun said he would like to see the district expand projects to optimize operations, including the use of the Six Sigma efficiency program and solar technology. He also wants the district to create better collaborations with higher education.
Carrie Kahn, current board president, said she would like to see languages taught from kindergarten to 12th grade and said she would like to see more ways for students to earn college credits. “We have an outstanding fiscal long-term plan,” said Kahn, executive dean of workforce development at Erie Community College. “It’s not what I would like to see, it’s that we should support the district in the implementation of that plan.”
Michael Kane, a lawyer who graduated from Williamsville North in 2006, wants to build on what the district has already done, noting that schools have had to tighten their belts as state financial aid has failed to keep up. “We’re starting to see that state aid come back,” said Kane, who is running for his first term. “With the right direction, we can start to make the education better, enhance what’s already one of the best educations in New York State.”
Anthony J. Lafornara III, a teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools who has three sons in Williamsville schools, said he would like to see the district continue to grow its technology programs, and he praised an initiative in which all fifth-graders will have access to iPads next year. He would also like to see the district add more vocational programs.
“We still need to lead the way,” said Lafornara, who is seeking his first term. “And infuse some more wellness, not just physical wellness, but mental wellness for all students.”
Thomas J. Navarro Jr., a lawyer running for his first term, said he would like to see the district improve its athletic fields and said he would like foreign languages to be taught at an early age in the district’s schools. “I believe foreign language is critical to a well-rounded student and provides another opportunity for students to excel,” said Navarro, who has a fifth-grade child in the district.