Three candidates for two school board seats in Tupper Lake
Incumbents pitch stability, newcomer pitches communication
TUPPER LAKE — The three candidates running for two open seats on the Tupper Lake school board all think the district is heading in a good direction, and all three want to be a part of it.
Jane Whitmore and Jason Rolley, who currently serve as the board’s president and vice president, respectively, are running for reelection, saying their experience on the board will be valuable to students.
Korey Kenniston is also running “to bridge the relationship gap between school and community” he sees.
The election is on Tuesday, May 18.
Rolley wants to remain on the board to provide stability in the midst of turmoil.
“We’re doing pretty well considering everything was turned on its head,” he said. “I think we’re going in a good direction and I want to be a part of it.”
He said some students have thrived during the pandemic, but they are in the minority. He hopes to have students in school full-time in the fall.
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t love the remote learning,” Rolley said. “I think the kids are suffering.”
Rolley said he doesn’t see a gap between the board and community. He said parents talk to members all the time.
Rolley is proud of the district’s successes. He said the school has usually had a low dropout rate and he’s happy the district expanded its free lunch program during the pandemic for youngsters under school age, too. He said this benefits the whole community.
Kenniston said he is running because he wants to see some changes in the school district.
He remembers once seeing a sign that said “If you don’t like what you see, volunteer.” He said he took that to heart.
Kenniston said he wants more communication between the school board and parents.
In the past year he said the district has had to make some tough decisions. He agreed with some and disagreed with others, but the issue he felt was that the board did not always communicate why it made certain decisions.
Kenniston believes students should have been back to school in person sooner than they were. He is unsure why this was: if it was a spacing issue or busing issue.
“It’s not my spot to say whether they did a good job or not. I was never in that position. I’m sure they were never in that position,” Kenniston said. “I think they did the best they could.”
If elected, Kenniston said he’ll have a lot to learn about school finances but he said he doesn’t want to see program cuts. He said athletics and art are positive experiences for students and keep them “off the streets.”
Kenniston said he’d like the district to change how it hires coaches. He said school employees get first crack at applying, which he doesn’t agree with. He said the best person for the job should be hired.
“(Coaches) are not held accountable for anything,” Kenniston said.
He said he’d like to bring new ideas and some change to the board. He said without member turnover, a board can “get in a rut.”
Whitmore said she’s running for reelection because she loves the kids and the school district.
“Anybody that knows me knows that I have the best interests of all the students at heart, from the least, the lost, the loneliest, the littlest, the gifted and the successful,” Whitmore said.
She’s the parent of one TLCSD graduate and another who attends the Middle-High School.
She believes the school is doing a good job of turning out graduates experienced in vocations, arts and athletics.
“I’ve seen the best of times in this district. I’ve seen some pretty rough times in this district. I think that we’re heading in a really great direction,” she said.
In the last year the district has seen a change in administration in the middle of a pandemic. She believes the administration has done a good job keeping kids engaged in difficult times.
“There’s no playbook. We’re building the plane as we’re flying it,” Whitmore said. “With the state constraints, I think we’re doing a great job taking care of the whole child. As much pain as the pandemic has brought us, it has taught us a lot of things as well.”
Whitmore said the board has always turned in budgets under the tax cap and believes it is responsible to taxpayers. She was glad that despite the pandemic, the school was able to keep and even add extracurricular programs this year. In other years she said the Green Team or ski club have been cut, but they’re in the 2021-22 budget and ready to start when students can gather again.