Meet the 6 candidates for Watertown school board

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 4:45 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - School budget votes are Tuesday. School board members will get elected too. We hear from the 6 candidates for the Watertown school board.

Three of seven seats on the Watertown City School District’s Board of Education are up for grabs.

Board President Jason Harrington is the lone incumbent on the ballot. Harrington first announced he would not run again, but changed his mind after hearing from parents.

“A lot of the message was that they appreciate the culture change that happened over the last year with myself and Mr. Richardson in the top positions. Going forward with three seats open they wanted some consistency and familiar faces on the board,” he said.

In all, six candidates are running. For a majority of them, their top priority is teachers or the lack thereof.

“We don’t have enough teachers. We heard our union president state that we have core teachers that are missing - English, math, science. We don’t have some of our additional programs, like music and art, we don’t have enough teachers,” said candidate Milly Smith.

“We had a meeting with the teachers union, and that was the biggest thing I took away from that meeting was that we are short-staffed. Children are sitting in study halls when they should be in other classes but there are no teachers,” said candidate Kelly Bragger.

{VO} Along with staffing, there are safety concerns.

“First and foremost, my main concern is the safety of our students and the safety of our staff. I think Watertown does a good job of that right now, but I do think there is some room for improvement there. We want to make sure that when we drop our kids off at school in the morning, that we get them back the exact same way we dropped them off, in the afternoon,” said candidate John Cain.

In addition to staffing and safety, communication is where some candidates feel things can improve.

“Communication, that’s big. People need to be able to go and speak and have their thoughts and their desires and their concerns addressed,” said candidate Tina Fluno.

“I feel that the teachers’ voices aren’t being heard. The students’ voices aren’t being heard. They’re not being addressed in the ways they should be addressed,” said candidate Damita Smith.

The top two vote-getters will earn a 3-year term on the board.

The third highest vote-getter will finish out a term of a member who recently resigned; that seat goes until next June.

In addition to voting on candidates, people will vote on the district’s school budget. It’s a $92 million spending plan that increases spending by 10 percent.