Five choices for Saranac Lake school board

SARANAC LAKE – The Saranac Lake Central School board has a choice between five candidates to fill an empty seat at their Wednesday night meeting.

The five candidates for the position are Jon Vinograd, Lisa Paschke, Joan Schaefer, Dennis Dwyer Sr. and LeeAnne Baker. The board will appoint one of them to fill the remaining one year of former board President Debra Lennon’s term.

New school board President Clyde Baker said he wants to make the appointment process “as open as possible.” He said the board knows all of the candidates and doesn’t expect to have individual interviews with each.

Will the board appoint someone on Wednesday?

“Not sure,” Clyde Baker said. “It’s going to depend really on the conversation we will have.”

The candidates are presented below in alphabetical order by last name.

LeeAnne Baker

Baker wrote in her letter of intent to the board that she was “extremely disappointed with the recent decision to hand-pick a new candidate to replace Deb Lennon on the board instead of letting the voice of 250 community members be heard.” She said there has been a precedent set in the past for appointing the next-highest vote-getter in the most recent election when someone resigns. That would have been Paschke. Terry Tubridy, who finished just behind Paschke in the May election, shared the same opinion in a strongly worded letter to the Enterprise editor recently.

“Six people shouldn’t really outweigh 250 people (who voted for Paschke),” Baker said. “She did get 250 votes.”

Baker said she has heard grumbling that the board is “stacking the deck” to “select a person more in line with the prevailing ideology than Ms. Paschke.”

If appointed to the board she would “keep the taxpayer in mind” and “try to present a fair budget” and make sure “the kids interests come first.”

She hoped the board would reconsider and appoint Paschke.

Dennis Dwyer Sr.

Dwyer said he felt obligated to step up and submit his name for the seat. He is currently on the Harrietstown Board of Assessment and Review and was formerly a Saranac Lake village trustee.

“I just thought it was time for me to get involved,” Dwyer said. “I felt I should be a member and not just an outsider.”

Dwyer said his six years of experience as a village trustee will help his transition to the new board.

“I think I can walk in and step into that kind of environment,” he said, “as opposed to an outsider who hasn’t been involved in that type of setting before.”

He said the one-year term felt like “a better fit” than a full term and would give him the time to decide if he wants to run again after his term was up.

Lisa Paschke

Paschke was the third-highest vote-getter for two board seats in the May election. She was a member of the school board for three years.

“I am still interested in being on the board,” Paschke said. “I want to be a part of our educational system.”

Paschke said she did a good job on the school board and always attempts to keep the children first and foremost.

“I’ve also been good to the taxpayers, keeping everybody’s budgets in mind, and that may or may not be the reasons I was not re-elected,” she said.

Paschke said if she returns to the board she will continue to work on switching the faculty over to a less expensive health care plan.

She said there is a “huge learning curve” for someone new joining the board.

“There’s so much to learn and such a commitment,” she said. “I really think it’s advantageous to everybody that there is someone with prior knowledge to be back to the seat. I think having somebody with prior experience is the way to go.”

Joan Schaefer

Schaefer is a retired secretary to the superintendent for the school district and after that she served on the school board for 10 years, including a year as president and six as vice president. She also served on several board committees during her time on the school board.

“There’s much less of a learning thing for me,” Schaefer said. “I got off in 2010, so it’s been four years. This is just a one-year term, actually less than that, so that I feel, with my experience and whatnot, it could be helpful.”

Schaefer said she has been going through the new policies since she has left the board and is looking forward to the possibility she will be appointed.

“I’ve always enjoyed working there,” she said.

Jon Vinograd

Vinograd said one of the assets he could bring to the board is experience. He spent 25 years as a business officer at Sunmount and worked for the state for 30 years. He said he has lived here for about 30 years and had three children who attended the school district.

“You learn a lot with 30-plus years of experience,” Vinograd said. “I understand budgets, and I understand budgeting.”

Vinograd said if he were to be appointed to the board, he would work harder to find shared-service opportunities with other school districts.

“Looking at other districts and seeing if they would want to combine with us is something worth looking at for taxpayers,” he said.