Eight candidates fight for three spots

WNY school board election slated for Nov. 8

Eight candidates are running for three spots in West New York’s Nov. 8 Board of Education race.
They include two slates – the Children First slate, backed by Mayor Felix Roque, and Save Our Schools. Children First includes incumbent board trustee David Morel, Board President Adam Parkinson, and Planning Board member Jose Alcantara. Save Our Schools features Alex Navas, a Town Hall employee, Melinda Saunders, a supply chain manager, and Ron Scheurle, a local funeral home director.
There are also two independents running: John Smith, and Juan Carlos Alvarado, who previously ran for a two-year term on the board in 2014.

Various plans

Pablo Fonseca, a spokesperson for West New York’s Children First educational team, laid out their plans last week.
“One of their topics is, they want to promote S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics),” Fonesca said by phone. “They want to encourage parental involvement with the schools, and they want to support teachers and staff members throughout the district.”
The slate also wants to work on updating school buildings for student safety and improving student success as cost-effectively as possible.

The teachers have been without a contract for over a year.
“One of the biggest issues in the West New York board is the budget,” Fonseca said.
Teachers in the district have been working without a contract since July 2015. The issue boiled over earlier this month when teachers took over the latest board meeting and blasted its members for failing to come to an agreement.
Fonseca says Children First was discussing the issues behind the dispute “as we speak. They are having dialogue with the teachers’ union, with the administration, to try to work out a settlement.”
In other controversies, independent candidate John Smith recently targeted Alcantara over old Tweets he said used profanity and alluded to marijuana. He requested Alcantara — now an assistant at the town’s Tax Assessors’ Office — apologize for the posts, arguing that if he’d done the same thing, others would ask him to step down.
Defending Alcantara, Fonseca said, “Jose is a young man who parents would want their children to grow up to be. What young men and women don’t have times in their lives when they have some problems? That was a couple of years ago. He is a success story-a product of the West New York school system.”
He added that Alcantara is not only a college graduate working on his master’s degree, and has served on West New York’s Planning Board for several years now.
Smith responded to Fonseca by blasting him as a “big politician” whom he respects, but, “at the same time, you need [to] man up.”
Smith said, regarding the social media posts, “You have to have a clean record. You can’t expose that to a child. If a child is gonna look at you to represent that chair, that’s a no-no.”
“In my opinion, as Pablo wants to continue to support him, Mr. Roque wants to support him. [Superintendent of School] Clara wants to support him, good,” he said. “But at the end, can they bring anything to the table?”
The Tweets in question are no longer accessible, as Alcantara has deleted his account.
When it comes to his own plans for the district if elected, Smith says he’d work on bringing education into 2017 and beyond.
“Mostly what I’d like to do is bring to the table: education needs to be up to date — more current,” he said, comparing it to cell phones vs. rotary phones. “Teachers are being unpaid–that’s the biggest issue. When a teacher does not correspond with the education for the children, the children lack. This is why a lot of parents are going with private schools.”
To resolve the teacher contract dispute, Smith says he would negotiate shorter, three year contracts for teachers. “I think the teachers would be satisfied. It would be more off their chest.”
As a parent of a son with ADHD, improving district accommodations for special needs students is personal for Smith. He would like to bring a version of the Special Olympics to West New York special needs kids, to “make them feel more relaxed. I feel we should bring more of that into the community. I’m sure we can have volunteers come in, you know, let them play basketball, football, even if it’s two-hand touch. Make them feel proud. So that way, at the end of the year they can get a little trophy. They can bring their skills up to date.”
Smith ended with one final message to West New York residents: “I hope you pick the right three candidates. I’m all business–no politicians involved.”

The Reporter will run a followup story on the election. To comment, email editorial@hudsonreporter.com and put “West New York school board” in the subject head.

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