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Wellsville Central School Board Election: Three questions for candidate Heather Gill


Vote on Tuesday May 21 for three open board seats

By Andrew Harris

SUN: Would you be agreeable to merging with smaller school districts like Scio, Whitesville and Andover?

GILL: I am not pro or anti merger. In my opinion, merging with a smaller district would be primarily for the benefit of the other district, and Wellsville is able to sustain itself. Growing up in Wellsville, one thing I do understand is the way that each Town’s School is apart of the local identity and culture. The voice of the taxpayers in Wellsville would be my priority if the discussion ever came to the table.

SUN: Wellsville has low test scores compared to the rest of the region according to the latest state reports. There are infrastructure improvements needed in the schools and buildings and grounds (including athletics) and we have a lot of teaching openings. There is also a budget to be done. What are your priorities as a board member?

GILL: There is a lot in this question, I am going to start with what my priorities are, and what motivates me. I grew up in Wellsville, I live in the first house my parents built together, Wellsville is home. Life is not easy here, just about everyone has to work a lot harder than they should to be where they are. Being on the Board of education allows me to Advocate for families like mine, and the families I have worked with as Coach Gill, as a Family Advocate, and the mother of a child with Autism. I want to be part of the solution, and this is a role where I am able to do that well. I have developed a relationship with the administration where I can express concerns and disagree in a productive way, and my voice has had a significant impact throughout the years. I first joined the Board in 2018 with concerns about the way that parents were informed of incidents within the school, and the over all safety concerns that exist in todays day and age. From the first meeting I attended in the early months of 2018, those conversations have continued.

I understand the concern over test scores, but I would encourage everyone to look closer at our students and their achievements. Test scores are just one of many ways to assess a student’s success, and I would argue it is not the best way. I have had the pleasure of meeting our students and athletes throughout the years and they are so much more than statistics. We had students in elementary and high school sending their science experiments into space, Robotics team’s that win at every level, multiple athletic programs with sectional wins advancing them to states (not to mention the fact that most of our student athletes are on honor roll or above). Our OM teams and Lego league teams bring home hardware consistently, and our theatre program is an award-winning program. These kids show up in front of the board with practical real-world skills, creativity, intelligence and class. They are more than test scores.

On the topic of infrastructure and budgets, it’s important to remember that this is an area where the taxpayer has the biggest say. Election day is much bigger than who sits on the board, it’s how your taxes are spent and how your school is funded. Capital projects require taxpayer consent. Capital projects have price tags that usually seem outrageous, it’s important to direct that issue to our state representatives who actually have the ability to change that. Wellsville has gone 11 years without raising school taxes, and in that time, there were several years where the tax burden was reduced. I encourage everyone to come to Board meetings where the budget is presented and discussed.

How do you explain the historic number of candidates?

As I said above, life is not easy here. Parents don’t feel heard, and I can understand that.

Professionally, a big part of my job is helping parents elevate their voices, and to listen to their stories. When it comes to the school, the only direct control we have as a community is the Board of Education, I think it’s entirely reasonable that people who don’t feel heard or valued would want join the Board. It’s exactly what I did six years ago. There is also an understandable misconception that the board is always on the same side as the district on every matter. Part of being on the board is respecting and valuing the privacy of school staff and students, meaning many conversations don’t happen in front of the public. I understand the mistrust that can cause.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that when there is a problem to address, I am the first to speak up, this is true in my role as a board member as well. The wellbeing of each and everyone of your children matters to me, every child deserves the best chance at their full potential. I don’t care what their last name is, or yours, I fight for every child I can as if they’re my own.

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