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The Telegram
  • Wanna be a school board member? Train, work, learn

  • On May 21, voters will head to the polls to decide on the 2013-14 school budgets and choose school board members to take office July 1. But there’s a lot more to being a board of education member than just getting elected. The job includes training, difficult decision making, strict guidelines and ethics to follow, and numerous man hours.

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  • Almost a year after her election, first-time Clinton school board member Amy Franz has learned a lot.
    Franz described keeping the state law book at her side and referencing it many times, especially in the beginning.
    “This whole year has been a learning process,” said the 49-year-old Clinton resident. “You learn so much about not only your own school district but about the state and requirements that you wouldn’t necessarily know until you are in that position.”
    With two years left in her term, Franz now knows her stuff.
    On May 21, voters will head to the polls to decide on the 2013 - 2014 school budgets and choose school board members to take office July 1.
    Of the 28 districts in the Mohawk Valley, 12 of them — or 43 percent — have contested races and a total of 62 area candidates will vie for 81 seats.
    But there’s a lot more to being a board of education member than just getting elected.
    The job includes training, difficult decision making, strict guidelines and ethics to follow, and numerous man hours.
    “There is a lot of responsibility that goes with being a school board member,” said Charles Borgognoni, executive director of the Central New York School Boards Association. “You represent the community. You represent the taxpayers within your community as well as the students.”
    “It’s a lot of hours, and sometimes a very thankless job. It puts you out in the public, which is not always easy,” Borgognoni said. “You can’t have a functional public school system without folks stepping up to the plate and participating.”
    To run, candidates must first file a petition with 25 signatures from district residents. The applications are then reviewed by the school district to ensure the candidate meets the New York State School Boards Association and the New York State Bar Association requirements.
    Qualifications include being able to read and write, being a qualified voter of the district and a district resident for at least a year prior to the election.
    Once selected, the newly-appointed members are required by law to attend two trainings within their first year of office, Borgognoni said.
    One is the general government training, which includes rules, responsibilities and other duties, he said. The second is fiscal training, which includes going over fiduciary responsibilities such as budgeting.
    “Board members typically put in between 20 and 40 hours a week, as well as going to meetings,” Borgognoni said. “The fiscal responsibilities for school districts are very important and require a lot of work and attention. This is all a volunteer job.”
    Louis LaPolla has been on Utica City School District Board of Education since 1997. By the end of his current five-year-term, he will have served for 20 years.
    Page 2 of 2 - LaPolla, the board vice president, brings 16 years of experience teaching in Utica, as well as being Utica mayor from 1983-97, and being on various boards including the Municipal Housing Authority.
    “I think you’ve got to know education and know the community before you even attempt to run for the school board,” LaPolla said.
    His experience helps him on the board, and to know the community, he said.
    “I serve on the school board because I think it’s a way of giving back to the community,” LaPolla said. “It’s very time consuming, the hours are long and the pay is nothing, but you do the best you can because you want to see the community grow and prosper.”
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