Ten candidates are scrambling for four openings on the North Adams School Board this election.
Bob Thomas, Derek Vrablic, Al Converset and incumbent Tim Ehlerding are squaring off in District 1.
Mark Bulmahn, Cassie Hammond, David Smith, Daniel Strickler, Jim Voglewede Jr. and incumbent Deb Bergman are on the ballot in District 2.
These races mark the start of the school board’s shift away from a system under which township and Decatur city officials appointed members. As part of the transition, the board will expand from five seats to seven.
The top vote-getters in each race will serve a four-year term beginning Jan. 1 and runners-up will start July 1, 2014, and serve until Dec. 31, 2016. School board members receive an annual salary of $2,000.
Thomas said that if elected, he would have an open-door policy for constituents and would do his homework on issues.
I won’t just be a yes’ person, he said. I’ll look at all aspects of it.
He believes one of the board’s priorities should be to do what it can to support the superintendent.
A lot of our job is to make it easy on the superintendent to do his job properly with our assistance, he said.
Vrablic said he wants the school board to work with parents, students, teachers, administrators and local leaders to address the needs of the schools.
The No. 1 issue from my standpoint is community involvement in the school system, he said.
Specifically, he would like the board to tackle the issue of declining enrollment. You have to find out why students are leaving, he said.
Al Converset said that in light of school vouchers, schools in the North Adams system must work to set themselves apart from other schools that could siphon off students.
You’re going to have to show parents why their kids should come to your school, he said.
He said the board should take a more active role working with state legislators on education issues.
Ehlerding, the school board president, said the board should work to ensure that students have the skills needed to join the workforce.
We do a great job for college prep, he said. Where we’re falling short is in the trades, but we’re getting better at it.
He believes the board has done a very good job allocating the funds it has received from the state.
We have cut back over the years, he said. But we are still delivering a great product.
Strickler said that as a school board member, he would truly represent his constituents. I want to do what they want, he said.
He said the board should do a better job of seeking input from the public and communicating its plans.
They don’t explain it, he said. They just tell them, and then everybody gets hot.
Similarly, Smith said he’d like to be a voice for the community on the board.
I just want to make sure we make some prudent, feasible economic decisions that are going to lead North Adams forward, he said.
He feels the school system should focus on preparing students for college and for jobs. If the school system can do better, the community can do better as well, he said.
Hammond said she’s running because she places importance on education and wants to help the school system.
I believe in education, and when I’m involved in something, it’s because I believe in it, she said. I’m very passionate, and I will give my all.
Hammond said the board must figure out why student enrollment has dropped.
We need to do something to get more enrollment, she said. We need to find out what we need to do better.
As a substitute teacher from 2002 to 2004 in North Adams Community Schools, Voglewede said he learned what students’ days are like and the challenges that teachers face.
I want to use my work experience in education to help improve our school system, he said. I want to make sure that every student gets the best opportunities to fulfill their educational potential.
Voglewede said he would aim to make sure tax dollars are wisely spent and would try to use his relationships with county government leaders to help the schools.
Bergman, the incumbent, said she has an understanding of how the board works and wants to keep applying that knowledge.
She would like board members to continue supporting teachers and be very good financial stewards. Cuts are coming at us all the time, she said.
Bulmahn said he wants to be a board member so he can serve area residents.
I’ve got a vested interest in the community and believe it’s time to give back, he said.
He said the board’s priorities should be to just continue to try and give the kids a quality education and yet work on behalf of the taxpayer, also.