The Community News asked all nine candidates vying for seats on the Shenendehowa School District Board of Education one question: Why do you want to be a member of Shen Board of Ed. ?

Eight candidates returned answers to the question. They are listed below.

Meghan Chapin –

My vision for serving on the Board is to be able to serve my community utilizing my education, passion, and professional experience; to nurture what is currently working and create positive change to the areas that need improvement, while establishing an environment of inclusiveness and collaboration with stakeholders.

I have a true heart for public service and investing in the community. During my Master's program, a high emphasis was placed on serving, specifically on a board, with your time and talent. This is a call that I have highly regarded, but realize that serving also needs to be done for something that you have a passion for or else neither party will truly realize the benefits of that service.

As a working mother of three school-aged children in the district and the wife of an educator, I view serving on the board as a great way to continue to invest in a population and community that I am truly passionate about. I also want to further the effort to increase representation of women in local government as a solid voice for women and mothers, especially working mothers represented on the board of education.

In addition to a passion and desire to serve, I am confident that the combination of my education, personal and professional experience would make me a great asset to the board and the district. My entire educational focus has been on government management.  I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a Master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA).

I have worked as a management consultant for state and local governments for almost seven years. During that time I provided change management, strategy development, stakeholder management/engagement, project management, and advisory services to over ten government entities. I want to use these experiences and my unique abilities to benefit my community.

My overarching focus is the success of the students and district. A proven key factor to success is promoting greater stakeholder engagement.  I want to make sure that policies are adapted and amended in a way which truly includes the perspectives of all the individuals which they will impact.

While policies may “look good on paper” I offer crucially necessary capabilities to provide analysis, stakeholder engagement, and implementation strategy to achieve the successful implementation of policy, vision and goals. This can only be done with the solid voice of students, parents, caregivers, teachers, school support staff, administrators, and the community.   

My diverse personal and professional life has taught me the ability to open myself up to listening and considering others' perspectives. "BE HEARD" is proudly posted on my signs because I don't want stakeholders of the district to feel marginalized and unheard. I want them to know that I stand for true stakeholder involvement. I will bring to the board proven resourceful problem solving, my passion for public service, my knowledge of government management, and my ability to hear and learn from others.

Robert Pressly –

During the last three terms on this board, we created significant positive outcomes in terms of educational value and cultural competency for our students and strengthened our organizational and financial position.  I am proud of the significant improvements that we have here and enjoy working with everyone in the district to accomplish this.

Our country needs educational institutions to graduate strong citizens as our society remains divisive and polarized.  Our public schools remain the best way to ensure equality among all.  What we do every day will ensure we make a positive difference from board actions all the way to what is taught every day in every classroom.I firmly believe this endeavor remains a critical arena for our community for those who are willing to invest their time in a voluntary leadership role.

For our district to continue improving, our community needs board members willing to listen, challenge, and build consensus in a public forum.  With a diverse background, balanced perspective, personal integrity and work ethic, I believe I can further contribute to these important conversations. 

Ram Lalukota –

I am a candidate for the Shen Board of Education because I want our community to thrive for our children and everyone else by helping to create an exceptional learning environment in our district. 

I have resided in Shenendehowa District since 2005 and presently have two children who attend the high school.  Through volunteer experience in the classroom and other school programs and in my current position on the Clifton Park Town Planning Board, I have a deep sense of the pulse of our community and the main stakeholders in our education system. That includes parents who want their children to learn and succeed, our exceptional teachers who are providing that learning, and our town which wants us to thrive and nurture our young generation. 

My diverse social and cultural background will be a plus for the BOE, at a time when our district is becoming increasingly diverse and the BOE must embrace this diversity in school programs and our education policy. 

Our school election process, where I would like to see more polling places, must also be improved.  The coming year will be a very important and challenging time.  We must work together with a common purpose to bring our students back to school for in-person learning. My experience as a community adviser helping the regional Health Equity Taskforce will help in that process.

Given my planning experience, leadership skills, and my personal and direct commitment to excellence in education, I can make important contributions to our district as a member of the Shen Board of Education.

Kara Tubbs –

I am seeking a position on the Shen Board of Education because I believe that Shen is the heart of our community, and I feel called to make a difference and ensure the most optimal experience for all students, teachers, and parents. When thinking of what makes an effective BOE member, I want to see someone who is an active community member, has young children enrolled in the district, has education and professional experience in finance and education, and is an independent voice that can represent the interest of all stakeholders. I have all those qualities. In addition, I am currently a preschool teacher and that gives me a unique position to understand the needs of the youngest students entering Shen. I am an involved member of our community and am available to listen to students, parents, teachers, staff members, and everyone who shares my passion for excellence at Shen.

Jason DiGianni –

I seek a seat on the Board of Education because my background in education, successful tenure on the library board and leadership experience in my career demonstrate the skills and qualifications required to be ready on day one to help the district meet the challenges and opportunities on the horizon.

The primary challenge I would like to help with is navigating Shenendehowa out of the pandemic and back to a sense of normal. We must carefully review new guidance to ensure we maintain the safety of our students and staff. The district has done a great job in establishing practices that have made Shen one of the safest places to be in the Capital Region and we must continue with that record. 

As we get closer to normal, we must pay particular attention to supporting the academic, social and emotional needs of our returning students and also acknowledge the needs of our teachers, staff and parents as they, too, transition back. We’ve adopted many new tools and technologies during the pandemic, some of which are sure to stay, and we must make sure we do not leave anyone behind.

I think Shen’s strong sense of community is one of its greatest strengths. We have such a supportive and devoted community that works so hard to make Shen special. From the Bountiful Backpack program, which provides food and nourishment to our less fortunate friends, to the dedication and work of our 12 (yes, 12!) PTAs and our PTA Council that help with playgrounds, fundraising, scholarships and so much more. Yet at the same time, the Shenendehowa Central School District is incredibly diverse - from broad socioeconomic disparities, to religious differences, and a variety of racial, cultural and educational backgrounds. This diversity is a strength, but it also comes with responsibility to welcome everyone with dignity, respect and the appropriate resources necessary to succeed.

Finally, I will use my passion for education and experience working with others to ensure the district continues to excel - preparing students for success in achieving their goals (however they define them), sparking students’ curiosity about the world and people around them, ensuring fairness and access to all students in the district, and creating good citizens and strengthening the bonds that connect us.

Stacey Pflomm –

I am seeking a seat on the Shenendehowa Board of Education for a few simple reasons; first and foremost because I care deeply about our children and how the decisions that the school board makes will affect them.

Secondly, education has always been a passion of mine.  I taught at the college level while completing my graduate degree in Secondary Education and then went on to be a foreign language teacher in a middle school and high school.

Lastly, I firmly believe in the importance of being involved in public affairs, and I want to give back to the amazing Shen community because it has given so much to our family. 

As a stay-at-home mom to my two daughters, ages 13 and 15, I can honestly say that my motives for seeking this position are pure.  I am not looking to build my resume or further a political career.  I will be an advocate for students and a voice for parents and teachers.  I will always put the best interests of our children over the interests of politics.  I believe politics has no place in our schools.  I will work diligently to effect positive changes for our children as we move forward as a community and put this pandemic behind us.

Please give me the opportunity to serve.

Joseph Weber –

After being appointed to the Board in February, I am seeking election to the Board to continue serving our amazing Shenendehowa community. I have seen firsthand the great work being done by our Board in [of] support our district as it navigates the challenges of the last year, but I know our work is not done. I believe my professional background of serving state and local government entities navigate changing regulations and challenging financial situations to establish policies and programs that best meet the needs of their stakeholders will allow me to best advocate for our students and other stakeholders as we continue responding to the COVID pandemic. As we look to the start of the 2021-22 school year with the hope of bringing all our students back to in-person learning, we must consider the impacts of each option on our students, teachers, administrators, non-instructional faculty, staff, and bus drivers. We must ensure that the safety of everyone in our district is at the forefront of all our decisions. We must also work to provide the necessary supports for the social and emotional wellbeing of all our students and staff throughout the district, whether it be students or teachers coming back to school in person for the first time in over a year, teachers moving back to their normal roles after having served in a different capacity this year, monitors having to manage the increased student traffic with distancing protocols in place, or bus drivers seeing more students return to their routes. As a Board member, it is important that we are actively engaging in open dialogue with all our stakeholders so that we can appropriately advocate for them as the district continues its planning to put COVID in the rearview mirror.

Another priority for me in seeking a seat on the Board of Education is ensuring the current and long-term success of our district. As a parent of three children; a fifth grader, a second grader, and a Kindergartener in 2022, I am invested in the current and future success of our district. This year’s budget was challenging due to a reduced tax cap and the uncertainty around federal funding and the state’s commitment to funding the important Foundation Aid for districts. With the economic impacts of the pandemic still largely unknown, future budgets are likely to face similar challenges. It is important that our district and our Board demonstrate fiscal responsibility to avoid similar challenges encountered by neighboring districts leading to reductions to staffing and programs. I will bring my expertise in helping clients develop financial strategies to support their ability to meet the needs of their stakeholders in both the short and long-term to the Shen Board. I am committed to demonstrating the fiscal responsibility needed to help the district to navigate the current financial uncertainties to maintain programs for our current students without risking the ability to provide for our students in the future. 

Tom Templeton –

I am seeking a seat on the Shenendehowa Board of Education for several reasons. First and foremost, I am a proud Shen alumnus and I want to give back to the district that’s given so much to my family and me. I believe in paying it forward, and I see a position on the board as an opportunity to do just that.

I’ve dedicated virtually my entire career to young people, as a psychotherapist, policy director and behavioral health consultant. I currently own and practice at Templeton Mental Health Counseling, PLLC in Latham. As a mental health expert, I can clearly see the socioemotional impact from the COVID pandemic looming over our children and families despite increasing physical safety and immunity. I witness it literally everyday. Fortunately, young people are resilient, but the resolution to that fallout will require targeted, innovative district-wide policies that I believe, given my background, I am best positioned to help develop.

Next, I believe there are stakeholders whose voices have not been meaningfully considered or have been altogether drowned out, and I think COVID has brought this into sharper relief. We need to remember that the board represents the interests of all stakeholders and that when those interests conflict, a good faith effort needs to be made to compromise so that all parties have a sense that they are being both understood and treated fairly. I’m not convinced that all stakeholders currently feel that way, which is another part of why I’m running.

Finally, I believe we have an opportunity to strengthen and expand our efforts to address diversity and inclusivity at Shenendehowa, and as our nation takes up this mantle, now is the time to do it locally as well.

In closing, I am passionate about public education, inclusivity, and ensuring that all stakeholders’ voices aren’t just listened to but truly heard. It would be my privilege to join the Shenendehowa Board of Education. Thanks so much for your consideration.

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