Hamburg voters chose a familiar face to help end the chaos that has plagued the district for months.
Incumbent Hamburg School Board member Thomas F. Flynn III was re-elected as a rough-and-tumble campaign came to a close Tuesday night.
Also elected was Cameron J. Hall, a senior executive at ValueCentric, an Orchard Park-based technology and data services provider.
The two candidates ran together and were backed by Hamburg attorney and parent Daniel J. Chiacchia, who spoke out at board meetings, endorsed them on his Facebook page and took out advertisements in the weekly the Sun for the two candidates.
“The key to the election is a more educated electorate,” Chiacchia said.
Voters also approved the $62.43 million budget that will result in higher elementary class sizes, elimination of intramurals and restructuring of the guidance, detention and music programs. The budget will increase the tax levy by 4.22 percent.
Board President David M. Yoviene said before the polls closed that he was worried that the budget would be defeated because of the tax increase.
“Hamburg’s increase, 4.2 percent, is high,” Yoviene said, adding that many people stopped him over the weekend to talk about the election.
“I think it bodes bad for the budget.”
But he was wrong, as the budget was approved, 2,383 to 1,186.
Hall, 39, whose two children have yet to enter school, was the top vote-getter, with 2,163. Flynn, a vice president at M&T Bank, garnered 2,050 for his second term on the board.
Candace R. Ditkowski, 41, a homemaker and school volunteer, got 1,051 votes.
Kevin R. Steffan, 35, a math teacher at Pembroke Elementary School, received 792 votes.
Andrew S. Loeb, 58, an occupation manager for the Internal Revenue Service and former board member, got 356 votes.
Gary R. Klumpp, 57, a baseball instructor and clinic director at New Era, received 351 votes.
Many residents said they were voting to put an end to the discord on the School Board and the mayhem in the district. But none of the members of the minority faction was up for election, and none of the candidates said they supported them.
Flynn said the election of Hall “should have a calming effect” on the board. He also said the results show that residents were paying attention.
“They understand what happens when they don’t pay attention,” he said.
Hall said he would like to use his technology background to help the district.
“I think it starts with getting the issues back to running a district rather than personal issues,” he said.
Turnout was brisk throughout the day, with at least 3,569 people voting, more than the 3,241 who voted last year, which was the highest in at least nine years.
As candidates went door-to-door for last-minute campaigning, anonymous fliers were mailed to some voters last weekend. Superintendent Richard E. Jetter took the unusual move of posting a letter on the district website, disavowing the fliers.
“If they can’t control it, they’re going to bring it to its knees,” Yoviene said of whoever sent the mailing.
Yoviene said that despite the attention paid to the district in recent weeks, most people don’t vote in School Board elections. He said he often asks parents if they have ever voted in a school election, and most of the time they say no.
“I hear that 80 percent of the time,” Yoviene said.
The weeks leading up to the vote were marked by vandalism of the superintendent’s cars, and by Steffan announcing his withdrawal from the race because of rumors linking him to the board minority.
Steffan changed his mind about dropping out of the race, after hearing from supporters and talking to Yoviene, the president of another school board and three superintendents.
Steffan said Chiacchia “promoted untruths about me” on his Facebook page. Chiacchia, in a post April 9, said that “rumor has it” that former Hamburg teacher Charles F. Mahoney was supporting Steffan.
“Don’t sign his petition and don’t support his candidacy,” Chiacchia wrote on his Facebook page about Steffan.
Chiacchia later told The Buffalo News that he bears him no ill will, and “kind of” likes Steffan.
Chiacchia also said that the board president had linked Mahoney to Steffan, an accusation that Yoviene said is untrue.
The newly elected board members will join a board that has placed charges of official misconduct against board member Catherine Schrauth Forcucci, who is finishing her first year on the board.
The charges could result in her removal from the board, after the board holds a hearing behind closed doors.
Some saw the placing of charges against Forcucci as an attempt to remove her before new board members were seated July 1. But Yoviene said the timing of the charges has nothing to do with the election.
He said Forcucci’s pattern of offensive conduct prevents the board from properly functioning.
Jetter discovered when he left a budget hearing earlier this month that his Nissan Maxima had been struck by another car in a school parking lot. A threatening note also had been left on his car.
Several days later, Jetter reported that a pickup truck he rented while his car was being repaired had been pelted with eggs overnight while parked in his driveway.