Candidates tout experience, beliefs

ST. JOHNSVILLE – Seven candidates are running for three positions on the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School Board of Education.

The candidates touted their experience and beliefs Tuesday at a debate at the OESJ High School.

The three positions up for grabs this year are two seats with three-year terms and one seat with a two-year term.

OESJ has had several disagreements among board members, including placing former superintendent Laura Lawrence on paid administrative leave.

The board placed Lawrence on leave after a 4-3 vote. Information has not been released as to why she was placed on leave.

Lawrence resigned in April, after reaching a settlement agreement with the district.

The board will keep Interim Superintendent Thomas Gallagher on while they search for a full time superintendent.

William Lints and Cheryl Breh are running for re-election to the board. Keith Handy is not running for re-election.

Lints is serving on the school board, filling the vacancy created by the passing of Benedict Conte. He works as an environmental scientist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and is a graduate of Proctor High School, Mohawk Valley Community College and Oral Roberts University.

Lints said he felt the district has made a lot of progress combating issues of absenteeism, dropout rates and other issues with education in the country. Lints praised afterschool programs developed by principals and implemented over the school year.

“We are addressing [those issues] right now,” Lints said.

Breh is serving her first year on the school board and is a member of the district’s personnel, finance and safety committees. A graduate of West Canada Valley Central School, Breh is a past member and board president of the former Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District Board of Education.

Breh said the board could not wave a magic wand and make everything better, but she and the current board have worked to continue this merger.

“We are merging schools, two districts, and it is a lot of work,” Breh said.

Mike Yezierski is a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant and pastor of the Seekers Fellowship in St. Johnsville. He is a volunteer on the OESJ District Leadership Team, helping to devise the district’s comprehensive educational plan. He has one child and two grandchildren attending OESJ High School.

Yezierski said he felt the board should act not just as a school government, but as advisers.

“You provide [faculty] assistance from another perspective,” Yezierski said.

Mary Weaver is a retired registered nurse and was a member of the former St. Johnsville Central School District Board of Education.

Weaver is a member and co-secretary of the D.H. Robbins Parent-Teacher Organization and volunteers at various Little League and soccer events, and is a former member of the St. Johnsville Business Girls.

Weaver said she hopes, if elected to the board, to help look for a superintendent who is an excellent communicator with students, parents and staff.

“This person has a pivotal role in how the school functions on a daily basis and an annual basis,” Weaver said. “I see the superintendent as a leader that helps shape what is going on.”

Stephanie Dye is a substitute bus driver for the Fort Plain Central School District and a substitute teacher for Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services. A graduate of St. Johnsville High School and Herkimer County Community College, Dye has been active in St. Johnsville Youth Recreation, Little League, Big Brothers, Big Sisters and the Global Friendships Exchange Program. She has a son who attends OESJ High School.

If elected, Dye said, she would be willing to speak with parents and anyone who has questions for her regarding a board decision.

“As taxpayers, you have a right to express your opinion,” Dye said.

Jason Romeyn is a stay-at-home dad who has three children in OESJ schools, including a senior and freshman in high school and a fourth-grader. He was employed by the state Office of Children and Family Services until he was injured on the job, and he is now preparing to finish college in the fall. He also volunteers for Little League. Romeyn attended St. Johnsville High School until his junior year and graduated from Johnstown High School.

Romeyn said he wants a superintendent who would be involved in the district, and help bring the school together.

Ty Wayne Stowell is the owner of Stowell’s Pressure Wash and Janitorial Services and works as a security officer at St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam. A graduate of the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School and Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Stowell has been active with the Oppenheim Volunteer Fire Company, the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Lower Adirondack Search and Rescue Team.

Stowell said it is important for members of the school board to maintain a basic organizational structure for the school and to share accountability to the community.

“The unified school district has to function as one, not two different districts and two different townships,” Stowell said.

Board elections will be held Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. at the D.H. Robbins Elementary School and the OESJ Elementary/Middle School.