Thursday, 28 March 2019 14:14

Saratoga Springs School Board Election Candidates are Prioritizing Community Communications

Photos provided.

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Three candidates running for the Saratoga Springs City School Board (SSCSD) plan to prioritize open and comprehensive communication between the schools and the community.

Heather Reynolds, John Brueggemann, and Natalya Lakhtakia are all running independently, with different priorities, but with the common approach of enhancing communication.

This year’s board of education elections has drawn a lot of community attention as of late, due to the community discussion around the number of Security Resource Officers (SRO) in the school district. 

“We (SSCSD) are over a half a million dollars in deficit right now. We don't have the budget to hire anyone. Part of our deficit is because we hired the SRO at the middle school,” says Reynolds.

While the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) makes a recommendation of one per thousand students, the NASRO website also states that instead of arming school faculty staff, that funds be made available through the state, federal or local funding to provide SROs.

“If you look anywhere in the capital region, no one is close to that,” said Reynolds. “To me, that's an important data point as well. Are we inherently more dangerous than Clifton Park that has two, or Niskayuna that doesn't have any?”

Reynolds is running for re-election, as she currently holds a board seat as a trustee and voted against allowing grounds monitors to carry their personal firearms during the school day, as they were in violation with state law. While school safety is of the utmost importance to Reynolds, there are other facets of education and safety that she intends to focus on.

"Schools are safer when everybody has the same message,” said Reynolds. “Everyone needs to have the same message as a community in order for that to work.... kids need to feel connected, that they belong, there's an adult in that school that cares about them.”

Brueggemann, a 25-year resident of Saratoga Springs is a Sociology professor at Skidmore College and has three children in the district public schools. He aims to use his adaptable and diplomatic nature to rebuild the trust and community relations that he believes has dissolved between the board and the district’s constituents in recent months.

"When you have trust, when you have relationships, everything gets easier,” said Brueggemann. “Once you have a strong trust and community relations, all this other stuff is more easy."

Lakhtakia is a Speech Pathologist who uses her skill set to enhance and aid the communication of students in public school systems. Lakhtakia also agrees that there is a need for improved communication between the schools and the community. 

“Our community needs to know what's going on, on a larger scale. I think that the district is doing a lot of really good and amazing things that the community doesn't know about,” said Lakhtakia. “Communication can only every make us better.”

A high concern that Lakhtakia would like to bring awareness to, are the dangers of vaping in schools and the mental and physical safety concern it poses to the students.

"I think that should be the biggest focus anytime we talk about kids - is how can we help them be safe, how can we help them be well rounded, how can we make sure they can handle the stressors of their teenage life,” said Lakhtakia.

Lakhtakia supports the recent addition of an SRO to the district, based on a presentation given by NYSIR, as she heavily believes in following expert opinions.

In the race for the two seats available on the board is Ed Cubanski, Dean Kolligiann sponsored by Saratoga Parents for Safe Schools (SPFSS) and Connie Woytowich who has rescinded her endorsement from the SPFSS and is running independently. The board of education elections will take place on May 21.

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