UTICA, N.Y. - The four candidates vying for the open seat on the Utica City School District school board participated in a debate Thursday night.
Voters and community members filled the Oneida County History Center to watch Robert Cardillo, Braedon Nanna, James Paul, and William True debate a number of topics from school safety to teacher diversity to creating better transparency between the school board and parents.
Each candidate was given 90 seconds to answer each question and a 30 second follow-up response time if needed. The candidates were also given two minutes to introduce themselves before the debate, and talk about why they want to take the seat on the school board.
Cardillo has been teaching as an adjunct professor at Mohawk Valley Community College.
"I believe that I understand education because I am an educator, a business professional, and I really have a great passion for these young people I work with each and every day," Cardillo said.
Nanna is a recent graduate of Proctor High School.
"I'm running for a position on the Utica City School District Board of Education because I want to make the board in the district work better for our students and for our teachers," Nanna said. "I believe our students deserve to know that the board is working for them and I believe the community has a right to know what is going on in our school district."
Paul is a parent of a child currently in the school district.
"I believe that our kids deserve a quality education," Paul said. "We really have to push our kids, we really have to give them opportunities to be far better than what they think they can be."
True has worked as an Oneida County Department of Social Services office clerk since 1987.
"Together, you and I, can bring justice to the school system, by that I mean we can give our students, our parents, and our teachers what they truly deserve," True said. "That is why I'm running for a seat on the Utica City School District's Board of Education, to help our children receive a well-rounded education."
The candidates agreed on many of the topics, including needing to receive foundation aid that is owed to the district from the state.
One of the questions asked was what is one of the biggest issues facing the school district that the board can address.
Nanna said accountability issues as well as transparency.
"Make the parents, the teachers, and the students feel like they can actually approach the board," Nanna said. "Far too often they are dismissed."
Paul agreed with the transparency issue.
"I truly believe that this district needs to be more transparent," Paul said. "Far too often, the community feels that something is being hidden from them, far too often they feel as if things are happening without their knowledge."
Another topic discussed was mental health in the district. A question was also asked about what the candidates thoughts were on patrol officers in the schools.
"Many of these unfortunate school shootings have been from people with mental health issues so how do we deal with that," Caridllo said. "If you don't have security, it's going to be a problem, it's problematic. We need to have these young people respect them [officers] and understand that they're there to protect them and I think parents want that protection as well."
True agreed that it is necessary to have patrol officers to protect the students and teachers.
"When I was growing up you were always taught that your police officer is your friend and he's there to help you," True said.
A coordinator of this event says it is important for the candidates as well as the voters to be able to participate in a debate for an election that she says is often overlooked.
"Often times school board elections aren't very highly regarded, I mean people don't much notice of that but every election is important so this gives the candidates who are fully qualified and fully desirous of being on the school board an opportunity for them to meet the public and the public to meet them," Karen McBride said.
The debate was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Oneida County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Mohawk Valley Latino Association.
Luke Perry, a professor from Utica College, was the moderator of the debate.
The election is May 21.
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