Nineteen of the 21 candidates for the new Ilion-Mohawk School District Board of Education were on hand for Thursday’s forum at Herkimer County Community College and nearly 200 residents turned out to hear what they had to say.
The forum, sponsored jointly by the Mohawk and Ilion teachers associations, gave each candidate two minutes to introduce him or herself and offer a few remarks. Then Mohawk Teachers Association President Shelly McCarthy, who served as moderator for the forum, invited questions from the audience. The candidates were presented in the order in which they will appear on the ballot for the March 27 election.
Jeffrey Sperl, of 59 Walnut St., Mohawk, was elected to the Mohawk school board laste year and said he has received all of the necessary training to serve on the board. He is a 1991 graduate of Mohawk Central School and he and his wife, Sara, have two children in Fisher Elementary School. Sperl served for nine years in the New York state Army National Guard. He is the contract administrator and manages shipping/receiving and inventory for Fiberdyne Labs. “All the programs I was part of, I want to be there for childen in the future,” he said.
William Lennox, of 133 Hidden Pond Road in Ilion, is a graduate of Ilion High School. He was a partner and pharmacist in Lennox Bros. Pharmacy for 36 years and a partner in the Lennox/Day Construction Co. for 22 years. He has never run for school board before, but said he became interested when his wife, Barbara, served on the community advisory committee for the merger study and he attended meetings and ended up serving as chairman of the Board of Canvass. “I really want this to work,” he said. He cited his business background as being a plus in dealing with the financial challenges the new district will face and said the new board would have to be “very diligent” in handling the merger incentive funds.
M. Bridget McKinley, of 187 Elm St., Ilion, is a certified adult and family nurse practitioner and has worked in the health care field for 31 years. “This is an exciting time for our kids,” she said, adding that she would bring enthusiasm to the board and would work to see that the incentive funds are used appropriately. “The next few years there will be a sharp learning curve for everyone involved, she said. “I see this as an opportunity to bring back hope and faith in public education.” McKinley is employed at SUNY Oneonta providing primary care to students at the College Health Center. She and her husband, Kevin have two children.
James Vitale, of 375 W. Main St., Ilion, a member of the Ilion school board since 2009, commented that he hoped the meetings of the new school board would be as well attended as the forum. He and his wife, Kimberly, have four children who will be enrolled in the new district. Vitale is a college professor at Mohawk Valley Community College, where he has taught since 1997 and has been involved in coaching. His wife also teaches. “There will be challenges,” he said, but added he is looking forward to promoting student success.
Page 2 of 4 - Matthew Shedd, of 10 Sunset Ave., Ilion, said he and his wife, Stacey, have three children, ages 13, 9 and 5. He said he wants to help provide a quality education for his children and other children in the new district. As a corporate officer for a local insurance company, he said, “I know how to work with people and I know how to work within budget constraints.” He said he has seen the impact of funding cuts on local schools. “I have seen quality people lose their jobs and programs cut,” he said.
Jennifer Pedersen, 141 E. North St., Ilion, is a 1995 graduate of Ilion High School and served in the Air Force. She and her husband have five young children. “I’m very vested in this merger,” she said. She has served as a substitute teacher for more than two years and has served as a parent member of the Committee on Special Education since 2009. She pledged to serve and support the new school district. “Our children’s future would be my only agenda.”
Lori Sementilli, of 47 Columbia St., Mohawk, is a current member of the Mohawk school board, having served on the board for 10 years, including two terms each as president and vice president. She has worked for Herkimer County for 27 years, the last two in the probation department and said she is well-versed in Civil Service law and union regulations. She and her husband, Dave, have a 26-year-old son, who graduated from Mohawk. “I’m dedicated to providing the best possible education to our children,” she said.
Stephen Coupe, of 25 Forge Hill Drive, Ilion, has been a member of the Ilion school board since 1997 and is the current board vice president. He works for the Carbone Auto Group and is general manager of the Utica/Adirondack Harley Davidson dearlership. “I was involved in the original Ilion-Mohawk merger study,” he said. After the study, at the encouragement of the school superintendent, he ran for school board and was elected. “I’ve been involved as a student or a board member since kindergarten,” he said.
Fred Schell, of 288 Mason Road, Mohawk, a graduate of Mohawk Central School and Herkimer County community College, is the owner of Better Homes & Transport lnc., a business he started from scratch. He and his wife, Anne, have two sons in high school. Schell has been involved in Pop Warner football and is a member of the Mohawk Audit Committee for the school district and the Mohawk Community Club. He promised to put his business experience, work ethic and attention to detail to use if elected to provide a fair education to the district’s children.
Daniel LaLonde, of 73 Charles St., Ilion, has been a member of the Ilion school board for 14 years and a member of the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES board for nine years, currently serving as vice president. He was a professional firefighter/cardiac care technician with the Ilion Fire Department before suffering a career-ending injury in 1992. “This is the dawn of a new educational community with new traditions and memories for the students, parents and teachers,” he said. “There’s no room for negative attitudes or personal agendas,” he said.
Page 3 of 4 - Deborah Schoff, of 151 Brook St., Ilion, is a graduate of Ilion High School and has been employed as a teacher in the Herkimer Central School District for 24 years. She and her husband, Richard, have two children, ages 10 and 12. Schoff said she has experience with state mandates and has been an active member of the contract negotiations team. She pledged her “integrity, dedication and commitment to the board,” adding that the board will have a responsibility to the students, taxpayers, teachers and staff to ensure that children are “career and college ready and to provide for the advancement of all the children.”
Walt Roginski, 499 Shoemaker Road, Mohawk, said he served on the Mohawk school board for 13 years and was president in 1994 when the Jarvis School burned. “Our students only missed one day of school,” he said, adding that Ilion had allowed Mohawk students to share its facilities. “Today we are partners in moving education into the future.” He said it will be important to select the best administrators and department heads. Roginski and his wife, Shar, have four children. He retired from the Otis Elevator Company in 2011.
Robert Berger, of 254 E. Clark St., Ilion, is a 1976 graduate of Ilion High School and graduated from Herkimer county Community College in 1984 with a degree in psychology. He served in the Navy for 24 years, 10 on active duty and 14 in the reserves. He is currently employed as lead electrician at the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. where is was a former chief union steward. “It will be important to equip the new school district with all the tools it needs,” he said. He added that fiscal responsibility will be key. “If you have $1 to spend, that’s all you spend,” he said. Berger spoke of the opportunities offered. “Everyone’s input is important.”
Vicki Judd, of 194 Ferncliff Road, Mohawk, an Ilion graduate, said she and her husband, James, a guidance counselor in the Little Falls school district, chose to return to this area to raise their three children. Coffin has worked at IBM for almost 18 years and has served on the Mohawk school board for the past two years after serving as vice president of the PTO and working on the CAC for the four-school merger study. “It is going to be a challenge to get ready for September,” she said, but added, “We can do this.”
Orlo Burch, 44 Highland Ave., Ilion, has lived in Ilion for 20 years. He and his wife, Alyssa, have two children and he works for Steet-Ponte Ford Lincoln Mazda. Burch described himself as being very dependable and said he has been involved in youth sports and helped with Boy Scouts. While he has not served on a school board, he has served on the Ilion Housing Authority Board and has experience in collective bargaining negotiations.
Bonnie Coffin, 71 S. Fifth Ave., Ilion, has served on the Ilion school board for seven years and said she is looking forward to the merger. She and her husband, Bill, have three children. She said she is in good company with the other candidates. “This is a very exciting time,” she said. “This is a win-win and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Page 4 of 4 - Thomas Goldin, 27 Harriet Ave., Ilion, has served on the Ilion school board for 12 years. He said he has been involved since the start of the merger process. “I look forward to going through to the end,” he said. An Ilion graduate, Goldin holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from SUNY College at Buffalo and is employed at Remington Arms as the supervisor of security and firearms compliance.
Robert Bronner, 2993 State Route 168, Mohawk, served on the Mohawk school board for nine years, from 1993-2002. He said he and his wife, Beth, chose to live in Mohawk because they liked the school district and their three children graduated from Mohawk and went on to college. He said that with recent cuts in school programs, a young neighbor child would not have had the same opportunities as his children did without the merger. “Now the two communities have come together and will share as equal partners and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Edward Jackson, 118 Brand St., Ilion, is an Ilion graduate and he and his wife, Shelly, have five children, four in the school system and a 3-year-old who will be entering the school. Jackson noted that he also attended church in Mohawk for many years and has ties to both communities. He said he voted for all of the various merger plans that were put forth. “It think this is a great opportunity for all the kids. He cited his 17 plus years of experience in industry and working with budgets.
Two candidates were unable to attend.
Hans Hendrick, 452 Eberline Road, Mohawk, studied human services at Mohawk Valley Community College and is the owner of Hendrick’s Demolition and Salvage. He and his wife, Tammy, have two children.
Melissa Reed, of 602 Spinnerville Gulf Road, Ilion, and her husband, Shannon, have 5-year-old son. She works at the Belfield Insurance Agency in Waterville and is a licensed insurance agent and a notary public.
“I’m thrilled at the turnout,” said McCarthy. “Our goal was to keep this positive and give everybody an opportunity to speak and give the public an opportunity to ask questions.”