By CASEY CROUCHER
Four candidates are vying for three open seats on the Greater Amsterdam School District's Board of Education in this month's election. The terms are for three years.
Three incumbents: current board president Nellie Bush, current vice president Kent McHeard, and Peter Pritchard, whose terms are expiring this school year, are seeking re-election. Newcomer Andrea Prusky also filed a petition.
Bush, a retired educator of 43 years, said she wants to serve on the board for a second term because it's an "honor and a privilege."
"My primary reason for working on the school board is to be an advocate for student achievement," she said.
Bush's daughter is an elementary school teacher in the district but she said that has nothing to do with her reason for serving.
She considers a position on the board a very serious responsibility.
"I was an educator for such a long time; it's not something I can let go of just yet," she said. "I think it's important to realize this isn't a position to be taken lightly, and you have to be on top of your game because the future of our children is in our hands."
Bush retired as assistant superintendent of the GASD in 2009. Before that, she served as principal and teacher.
If re-elected, she said she plans to be "fiscally responsible," however, "there is no crystal ball" to determine how a budget will turn out.
"The only thing certain when creating a budget is to make sure it's balanced," she said.
She said the biggest issue in the school district is the rate at which the teachers are required to learn new methods for their children.
"It's the teacher's responsibility to teach the children," she said, "but if the teacher doesn't continue to improve, then they'll decline, and this happens in every job. However, children are so technologically savvy that it's challenging to keep up with them, and the methods being used to teach them are always advancing. It's difficult for our teachers to keep pace without proper guidance."
McHeard, a minister at the First Reformed Church in Rotterdam, wants to serve a second term because he's "dedicated to the children and education."
He said Common Core struggles in the school district influenced him to step in and run for another three-year term.
"The core curriculum is difficult for parents and children to understand, and the teachers haven't been properly trained to do it," he said. "I want to figure out ways to help smooth out these issues."
His wife is a teacher at William B. Tecler Arts in Education Magnet School, but it does not affect his reason for wanting to be on the board.
"I voted against a proposal her name was on. We're independent thinkers and her job has nothing to do with my decision to be on the board of education," he said.
McHeard wants to help the district's taxpayers any way that he can and wants to continue serving on the board because his record speaks for itself.
"I'll continue serving with honesty and diligence to help better the educational lives of the students," he said. "I'm going to trust that my record on the board of education is sufficient."
Pritchard, the director of business development at AWSTruepower, said he has a vested interest in the district because he has a son in the high school, a daughter in the middle school, a youngster at R.J. McNulty Academy for International Students and Literacy Magnet School, and his wife is a teacher at McNulty.
"I hear from the working bee end of things, so I think my input is necessary on the board," he said.
Pritchard said he's been instrumental in the board's good decision-making.
"I think I have an investment in the district that is well-known, and I personally think I add value," he said. "I think I'm a big influence in better decision-making and if the residents of this district know the positive impact I've had, then they'll re-elect me to the board."
He wants to see the board become more transparent and objective.
"Right now, we're performing well, and people need to see it," he said. "The board needs to become more transparent and continue being objective with their decisions."
Prusky, an advertising executive at Port Jackson Media, publishers of The Recorder, also said her children are the driving factor in her decision to run for the board.
"I'm an active mom," she said. "I have three boys in Tecler and two step-daughters at the middle school, and I've noticed things in this school district that need attention."
Prusky said the school board needs "strong, independent voices," and she believes she's the woman for the job.
"I live in this community. My decisions affect me as much as they affect the voters, so I want to speak for the voters," she said. "I'm not related to anyone that works in the district. I'm just an active mom who wants to stand up for what's right."
She's taking the election seriously because she wants to have a voice for the concerned parents.
"Yes, I have friends that are teachers in the district," she said, "but this isn't about them, this is about the students."
She said the current board has too much of a "power pull."
"Too many people on the board are like marionettes with others making decisions for them," she said. "There needs to be an independent thinker, like myself."
District residents can vote on school board candidates during the budget vote May 20 from noon to 9 p.m.