Fourteen seek seats on St. Johnsville and Oppenheim-Ephratah board

ST. JOHNSVILLE – When voters in the St. Johnsville and Oppenheim-Ephratah school districts elect a Board of Education for their new, merged school district next month, they’ll be looking at a long ballot of candidates, many of whom have experience serving on a school board or working for a school.

Fourteen residents, including each of the five board members in the current districts, filed their petitions to run for seven Board of Education seats in time for Monday’s deadline. Residents will vote March 19, and the new board will hold its organizational meeting the next evening.

“I’m very pleased with the interest. I’m really glad they all stepped up,” said Patrick Michel, superintendent of Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services, who is helping to lead the transition.

Twelve of the 14 candidates have served on a Board of Education or have significant educational experience, including a current teacher and a retired school superintendent. The candidates include:

Darren Bellen of St. Johnsville, owner of Bellen’s Archery and Recreation and a Board of Education member since 2008.

Glen Blanchard of Ephratah, a bus driver for the Little Falls school district and a Board of Education member for 12 years.

Cindy Breh, a self-employed Oppenheim resident who is in her first year on the school board.

Bruce Carpenter of Oppenheim, a first-year school board member who retired from the school district after heading buildings and grounds and working as a bus driver and custodian.

Patricia Christensen of St. Johnsville, a registered nurse at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Utica who has been on the St. Johnsville board for four years.

Neil Clark, a hydro-electric maintenance mechanic for Brookfield Renewable Power who lives in St. Johnsville.

Ben Conte of Ephratah, who is in his first year on the O-E school board and works as an instructor at Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services and Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

Chad Eggleston of St. Johnsville, a third-grade teacher in Canajoharie who is in his first year on the school board.

Keith Handy of the town of St. Johnsville, a dairy and crop farmer who served on the Board of Education from 1990 to 2005, including terms as president and vice president.

William Lints of Oppenheim, an environmental scientist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Christopher Mosher of St. Johnsville, the board’s current board president and an eight-year board veteran who is a civil engineer with the state Department of Transportation.

Lee Quackenbush of Oppenheim, a retired school administrator who spent 33 years in education, including 10 as superintendent.

Susanne Sammons of Oppenheim, a six-year O-E school board member who is a technical assistant with the Student Development Center at FMCC.

Renee Swartz of St. Johnsville, a registered nurse and director of nursing at the Wells Nursing Home in Johnstown who has been on the school board for two years.

“Just about everybody who is running seems to have experience on a board, and that’s a good thing for residents,” Conte said. “It’s showing there is a lot of interest in this school – and we’re starting from scratch. Policies, curriculum, it’s all new.”

Candidates on Monday drew their ballot positions from a hat. Bellen will be at the top. Mosher will be at the bottom, but he said the positions aren’t as important as the balance that the Board of Education could see.

“It’s nice we have a perfect balance – seven from Oppenheim, seven from St. Johnsville,” Mosher said. “It shows we have good interest, but I think experience is the key.”

The three board members garnering the most votes will earn full three-year terms on the new board. Two will serve two-year terms and two will serve one-year terms before being eligible to run again for a three-year term.