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Four candidates seek two Eden School Board seats

Two incumbents and two new candidates will be on the ballot for the Eden Central School District School Board election on Tuesday (May 21).

School Board President Steven P. Cerne and Trustee Kristen D. Pinker seek to remain on the board, while challengers Patricia M. Krouse and Paul R. Shephard look to unseat them.

For Cerne, staying on the board allows him to see through the job he and the current board started.

“We’re just starting to turn the corner on performance,” he said. “We want to see that through.”

Cerne, 48, who has served on the board for five years, touts what he said is a “changing culture in the district.”

“We’re driving performance, setting goals and building a budget that supports the goals,” he said.

The board was able to hire a new superintendent and maintain a 2 percent tax rate increase without cutting any programs, Cerne said.

Pinker, who is nearing the end of her first three-year term, cites the problems on the board when she first joined. With her collaborative style, she said she was able to enact a code of conduct for the board.

“You don’t see conflict like we’ve seen before,” she said.

Like Cerne, she said the board worked hard to hire a new superintendent, and tried to involve the various stakeholders in the community in the hiring process.

The board has also improved in terms of transparency, Pinker said.

“We have meeting videos,” she said. “People can watch the video the next day if they can’t make it to the meeting.”

Along with improving transparency, the board has also tried to improve community involvement through advertising when meetings are happening and moving the meetings to the auditorium from the cafeteria, where it is easier for people to hear what is happening, Pinker said.

With two children currently in the school district, Pinker said she has a “vested interest” in staying on the board.

“I’ve learned a lot in three years,” she said. “There’s a lot of work to do. I think I’m in a good place to keep things moving.”

The board has made some unpopular decisions, including the elimination of Assistant Principal Pat Menkeina’s position for next year. While Pinker “wishes it didn’t have to happen,” the board has to find ways to balance student interests with financial constraints, she said.

Moving forward, Pinker would like the district to find ways to become more technologically savvy, without relying on state funding.

“We have to do it ourselves,” she said.

For challenger Patty Krouse, a stay-at-home mother who works a part-time job as a health and wellness consultant, improving communication between the school board, the teachers and the community would be one of her immediate goals.

“I feel as though there is no communication,” she said. “I’m willing to have discussions, whether it’s my opinion or not, and discuss possible options.”

Krouse, 44, said more time and research needs to be put into the decisions the board makes. For instance, the elimination of Menkeina’s position should have been researched more, she said.

“They did not research that at all,” Krouse said. “They have no idea what they are getting rid of.”

The current board runs too much like a business, Krouse said, and she would like to change that.

“It’s not just always about the bottom line and the money,” she said.

Krouse is campaigning with the other challenger, Paul Shephard, in the hopes that they both win a seat on the board.

“If you fill two positions, you have a better voice,” she said.

If Krouse is elected to the board, she said she will be a fair and honest negotiator.

Shephard, a lifelong Eden resident and graduate of Eden Junior-Senior High School, sees himself as an advocate for students. That’s the role he’d take on if elected, he said.

“I want to speak on behalf of students,” he said. “Strong education for strong students.”

The current board doesn’t listen to the community, Shephard said.

“The board, they’re not listening to what we’re saying as far as the cuts they’ve made,” he said.

Safety in the buildings is a concern for Shephard, he said, with the reduction of one of the assistant principal position next year.

“Discipline issues are hard to address with a lack of administrators,” he said.
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