NISKAYUNA: Board member starts strong

Less than a day after being elected to the Niskayuna school board in May, Deb Oriola was sworn into office and attending her first official meeting.

Her swearing-in was a family affair, with her fifth-grade daughter, Kate, four other young girls and one of her neighbors seeing it firsthand.

It wasn't really planned that way, but it became a lesson in how government works, and they could tie in the whole election process with the results, she said. "I thought it was a terrific civics lesson for these young girls to see the actual process."

In the month since being sworn in, Oriola has been to two more school board meetings, a Rosendale Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization meeting, kept up with her job as a program manager at the University at Albany's School of Public Health and spent time with her active family. That whirlwind pace hasn't let up yet.

"It was a quick transition, but everyone on the school board and in the administration was very helpful in trying to make sure that it was a smooth one," Oriola said in a Monday, June 11, interview.

"They wanted me to be able to vote at that first meeting after the election in May, and they wanted me to have the opportunity to get up to speed where the district is at. It has worked out well so far," said Oriola. "It has been a lot of reading, but it really is about what I expected."

Oriola is one of two new board members voters elected to the board at a time when the school district is grappling with the details of a major facilities renovation project that includes dramatic changes to the physical layout of the high school.

On Wednesday, June 13, district officials anticipated awarding contracts to construction companies for the first phase of the project but no final decisions have been made about who will perform the bulk of the work.

Adding to the changes at Niskayuna, board president Barbara Mauro is slated to step down from that post at the July 9 organizational meeting.

"I'm very protective of everyone who is on the board and want to make sure that things run smoothly," Mauro said. "I will stay on the board, but I won't be the president anymore. We have generally followed a policy of having people move up based on their seniority, and Dave Hudson is the next in line.""

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