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Wellsville School Board Candidates answer questions ahead of May 16 vote

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Incumbent board members Alan Mosher and Kris Green face a challenge from Kathleen McKinley Murphy

By Andrew Harris, pictured are GREEN, MCKINLEY MURPHY, and MOSHER

The three candidates are vying for two open board seats, voting takes place Tuesday May 16 at the Wellsville High School in the “riverside” lobby from noon until 9pm.

Earlier today we published an over view of the election and the candidates for the upcoming Wellsville Central School board. That board oversees much of the district budget and policy, working closely with Superintendent David Foster. A traditionally, “low-turnout” election, we provide this overview and closer look at the candidates in hopes that you will participate in the election by voting.

Below are the seven questions we asked each candidate with respective responses indicated by last name:

 SUN: It is national Teacher Appreciation Week in a year when teachers are fleeing the profession in record numbers.  Staffing shortages are a big problem for almost all schools.  How can Wellsville address this concern and attract the great teachers?

GREEN: I am so appreciative of those who choose to become teachers and I wholeheartedly believe that our district is fortunate to have the best teachers the profession has to offer.  The dedication and commitment of our educators are second to none, and in turn as board members, we owe them our commitment to foster a positive organizational climate that focuses on their safety, wellbeing, job satisfaction, and professional development, while providing competitive pay and benefits.  By doing this, the district will continue to attract and retain the most qualified teachers and remain an employer of choice for the profession. 

MCKINLEY MURPHY: I think it’s important to showcase what this area has to offer. I also feel that candidate needs to feel there is support from both coworkers and administration.

MOSHER: Having the best educators is a top priority for the BOE.  The last few years of the pandemic have put tremendous pressure on all involved. Our teachers worked diligently through the pandemic to deliver a first-class education to their students despite all the challenges brought on by Covid-19. As the pandemic begins to subside and the local economy improves, Wellsville is in a good position to attract new teachers. We need to make every effort to retain our existing teachers and provide them with the necessary tools to be successful while constantly exploring ways to maintain the high standards of education that is expected at Wellsville. We also will focus on hiring local teachers that wish to stay here and become part of the community.

SUN: School taxes represent the largest portion of property taxes for most residents.  Several Allegany County school districts have been cited by NYS for holding too much money in savings, or having a fund balance in excess of state law. A common perception is that school systems are in an unsustainable cycle of using capital projects to offset fund balances.  With each new capital project, they school system creates increased future expenses that will require tax revenue to fund.  At some point, the school will be unable to pay those expenses without increasing taxes.  Agree or disagree?  Why ?

GREEN: While I do not believe that the NY State threshold for maintaining a fund balance of under 4% is reasonable or remotely adequate to support rural school districts, we must work collectively to incorporate control measures to close large gaps.  I am a proponent of the state increasing this threshold because it would formally allow rural schools the ability to fund needed or unanticipated projects that the state currently does not provide financial aid for.  Regarding perceptions of school systems using capital projects to offset fund balances, a key point to consider is that capital projects are funded by the state at 94.5% and if we do not utilize those funds, other school districts will if we choose not to.  I however believe it is our responsibility as board members to oversee fiscal responsibility and sustainability of all capital projects to determine if the potential impact (current or future) to school taxes is beneficial or not to the education of our students or the financial wellbeing of our district residents.   If reelected, I will continue to oppose tax increases with the ultimate goal of working with our district to actually lower school taxes.

MCKINLEY MURPHY: I agree with this statement. There needs to be more long term planning into the spending of money. If we build this.. what kind of of maintenance are we looking at? An increase in taxes, causes the poverty line to increase. It also causes people to not be able to maintain their property and thus property value decreases.  Then the tax base decreases.

MOSHER: I disagree, the fund balance is necessary in order to cover unexpected expenditures.  Because of this, we must continue to develop and implement effective strategies to provide the best education and best return on taxpayer’s investment.  For example, during the last 9 years a tax levy of 0% or negative increase has happened and I am proud to say that this year we will see a 0% increase yet again. The fund balance allows for ways to finance building projects, programs and security for our district. This helps control tax increases and the key is to have a Board that understands this. We have an administrative team that works well with the board and focuses on maintaining a good budget. We have paid for building projects and are projected to effectively pay for the new one that was just voted in.

SUN: Wellsville Central Schools has one dedicated School Resource Officer who actively works to provide security for our two campuses.  If Wellsville falls vicitim to the epidemic of school shootings will the school board be able to say that they did all they could do to prevent that tragedy? What else could we be doing ?

GREEN: The safety of our students, faculty/staff, and visitors, is my number one priority not just as a board member, but as community member and as a parent of two primary school students and an uncle of four secondary school students. I was honored to have served as a member of the inaugural safety working group where we assessed vulnerabilities and implemented several recommendations to increase the safety and security of our facilities.  However, while I am proud of the measures that have already been put into place to increase safety and security, we must continually evaluate best practices and our options to make our school even safer.  We must continue to focus on not just physical security measures but also on the professional training of our staff to respond to emergencies and on the partnerships with local law enforcement agencies in responding to those emergencies.  Our School Resource Officer does a phenomenal job in providing security for our two campuses, but he is only one person and can’t be in two places at once. Because of this, I am in support of adding an additional School Resource Officer to ensure coverage at both facilities.  Unfortunately, as more and more incidents of school violence occur throughout the Nation, we must focus our efforts on prevention, detection, and response, which require us to keep the security of our schools as our number one priority. 

MCKINLEY MURPHY: I feel there is much more that needs to be done. I have heard from several at both schools that they don’t feel administration takes security seriously so how can students then be expected to do that? The SRO is often busy with truancy issues. He certainly can’t be expected to be at 2 school buildings and on truancy calls at the same  time. Are there multiple people with access to cameras? Do they have them up on computer screens as they do their other work? A yearly more intense drill utilizing various law enforcement from this area would help also. Students sometimes need to see them, in uniform, as “we are here to help”, rather than they arrested my family member, etc. An anonymous survey to school personnel on their feelings on security would be a great source to start with!

MOSHER: The BOE is focused on providing the best security possible. It is critical though that funding is available to allow for the necessary building projects which will lead to safer and more secure school facilities.  While schools were never meant to be fortresses, this epidemic of school violence requires us to rethink how we approach security.  We must look at adding new secured entrances, additional cameras, and other security measures to prevent school violence. We assess the security of our buildings through a safety committee, with the goal of increasing training to our staff by working closely with local law enforcement to ensure maximum preparation in the event that an act of school violence occurs. Funding for a new SRO is being researched to see how we can make it happen. The BOE and myself take the security and safety of our students very seriously.

SUN: As the largest school system in Allegany County, should Wellsville be leading the way toward a county school system with one superintendent of schools and perhaps a few deputies ? 

GREEN: I believe this decision is best left up to the Allegany County residents themselves.  While the Wellsville School District has a responsibility to our community to advocate for better educational opportunities and fiscal responsibility, as do other school districts to theirs, I do not think that our District should be the sole leader in paving the way to a county-wide school system. 

MCKINLEY MURPHY: This is something that needs to seriously be looked at. It’s a known fact that if you’re an alumnus you want your school to always be Wellsville Lions! But, decrease in population warrants looking into a county wide school system. Wellsville should take  the lead but I don’t feel Wellsville should have  to cover all costs associated with this.

MOSHER: Thirteen school systems in Allegany county, many with severe budget issues, are faced with cutting sports and educational programs due in part to financial constraints and low enrollments. Because of this, I am in favor of there being a North Allegany County and South Allegany School District. This would allow local schools to stay open and would save millions and provide more educational programs. All school systems must remain effective and identify opportunities for improvement in order to meet future demands. While a comprehensive analysis would need to be completed to evaluate the implementation of a county school system, I nonetheless believe this would ultimately be a win-win situation for education and tax payers.


SUN: What do you say to a parent who objects to sexual content, teaching, or teaching materials just because that content represents the LGBTQ perspective? 

GREEN: I do not support removing content just because it represents the LGBTQ+ perspective. To the contrary, I believe that our LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff deserve representation.  Every person should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their race, color, religion, sex (sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, age, or disability.  It is vitally important that as educational institutions, schools foster inclusive environments where every student is safe to learn and express themselves or their perspectives free from discrimination within the framework of applicable laws and/or guidance.  That being said, I would encourage any parent who has questions or concerns about content or teaching materials to address them directly to our Administration as the District has formal processes in place to address such matters.  If a parent believes the process did not adequately address their concern and wishes to speak with me, I would be more than happy to speak with them.

MCKINLEY MURPHY: Every parent and child deserves to have  their voices heard. It’s important to reach out to teacher first, then administration and  then school board. The matter can be discussed and looked into.

MOSHER: The rights of every person are important to me. While sexual content in books or teaching materials can be a challenging topic to discuss, we must nonetheless navigate those challenges in a transparent and professional manner.  Parents and guardians are key and they need to be involved. The school has a policy which allows a review committee to determine if a book or materials are suitable. The committee reports to the Superintendent and the recommendation is presented to the BOE.

SUN: The current school board is “all-white,” despite the district becoming increasingly diverse.  How can the board attract more minority community members to give diversity a better voice in the future?

GREEN: The District becoming increasingly diverse is a really good thing!  It is my sincere hope that more community members will express interest in running for board positions or volunteer positions within the District.  One of the things we can do as board members is to encourage people to get involved and attend board meetings.  This is not just a great opportunity to become more aware of District business and happenings, it is also an opportunity for community members to get to know the board and for the board to get to know more community members.  I also believe by promoting positive interactions and welcoming differing viewpoints for discussion, minority community members will feel their voice is being heard and in turn may become more interested in joining the board.  I can also say that in my first term as a board member, I have found the board to be very welcoming and very encouraging in sharing ideas, viewpoints, and differences of opinions and thoughts.  It is a great board to serve on.

MCKINLEY MURPHY: I think there needs to be more attention to announcing and encouraging people to attend school board meetings! Community members should feel welcomed and appreciated for attending and any input!

MOSHER: The BOE is made up of dedicated people who want to make a positive impact and ensure the education of our students is the best and our taxpayers get a return.   Any person who meets the requirements can run for the school board. As our population becomes more diverse, it is imperative that minority community members continue to be involved with the BOE.  I welcome any person who wants to  explore running for a BOE position.

SUN: If you could fix just one very specific thing about Wellsville Central Schools during the next term what would it be ?

GREEN: I cannot think of any one specific item that I would fix during the next term.  If reelected though, I am looking forward to collaborating with the Board, Administration, Faculty and Staff, our Students, and Community to provide a safe and secure school which allows educators to prepare our students to be successful, contributing member of their communities through excellence in education.

MCKINLEY MURPHY:  The major thing that needs addressed is the atmosphere in the schools. Teachers and staff need to feel supported . There needs to be better communication, transparency, consistency and  positivity! We need to get back to kids feeling good with going to school and the community proud of our school system! There is nothing that attracts a young family to an area than a strong and  positive school community!

MOSHER: I want to remain focused on my next terms. As problems arise, I want to be able to solve those problems quickly.  The one thing I would like to see is more parent and guardian involvement in the educational progress of their children. We need to succeed together to be able to make this possible.

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