North Colonie School officials are looking to address the needs of its future students — and quickly. Kassie Parisi/Spotlight News
COLONIE — Two candidates are running for one open seat on the North Colonie Central School District Board of Education.
While both candidates — incumbent Paula D’Orazio and newcomer Timothy O’Connor — are in favor of bonding to make structural improvements at the district, they have differing opinions on a school board member’s role.
“I’m very proud to have been able to do this, and to do it for 15 years,” said D’Orazio, the board’s vice president who is looking for another five-year term. “I work with a great group of administrators who are forward looking and who have the North Colonie community at large in their best interest.”
O’Connor, an attorney living in Menands, didn’t outright criticize the administration but said the school board is — or should be — a separate and distinct check and balance.
“My characterization of the current school board is that it is a rubber stamp for
the administrators,” he said. “I know people like and respect them. They are intelligent, devoted individuals but I will not be a rubber stamp. I am an independent thinker and I am trained to evaluate and ask questions and that is what I’ll do if I get elected.”
D’Orazio said she was in favor of the $196.4 million bond voters rejected in
December 2016 and voted to put the $106 million bond to a referendum on May, 16.
“We went back to the public and the administration and the architects and everyone involved went back to work and put together something that we hope will pass,” said the current board vice president. “I’m going to be optimistic about that. It is in the best interest of our students to educate them in the skills needed in the 21st century.”
O’Connor echoed similar sentiments, and said the time is right for the bond given the enhanced state aid that will not be available if the proposal is rejected by voters for a second time.
“I recently visited Shaker and I saw some of the same buildings and hallways and lockers and other things that were there 45 years ago,” he said. “There are certain school districts where there is a huge tax rate per capita, but in North Colonie we have a large tax base and we can afford to do some things, particularly now that we have the available state aid.”
D’Orazio said her involvement in the school board is a progression of being a parent with elementary school children in the North Colonie School District. Over the last 15 years, she said, North Colonie schools remains among the top of the 73 districts in the Capital District and she is “proud of the number who graduate with regents and advanced regents’ diplomas.”
She has taken an interest in curriculum development in her tenure on the board and that specialization, she said, will be more important when – and if – the new facilities are built.
“I’ve dedicated 15 years on this board and have been part of the decision making process,” said the 60-year-old former speech pathologist. “This is my job. It’s a part of my life and I take this commitment very seriously. I am Looking forward to continuing what I have been doing for 15 years. I enjoy doing it and I take it very seriously.”
O’Connor said he would focus on getting students more involved in the education process and would like to give something back to the community. He also said there should be an emphasis on other career opportunities than a four-year degree.
“What’s emerging now in the schools is you have supers, boards, teachers and a growing phalanx of adminstrators and in that process students can get alienated,” said the 58-year-old Shaker grad who now teaches a class at UAlbany in addition to having his own law practice.
“You can’t have a board solely focused on everyone getting a four-year college education. Just look at the degrees and certifications and knowledge you can get out of a community college like Hudson Valley.” While D’Orazio said she has one of the best attendance records of any board member, O’Connor said he did attend a board meeting last year but so far has not been to one this year. Polling is open on May 16 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Goodrich Building on Fiddler’s Lane.