Geneseo Central School
Six running for three Geneseo school board seats
The Geneseo Central School Board has three expiring terms, seats which will be filled in the May 15 election.
In the field of six candidates, just one — Craig Phelps — is an incumbent, and he by only one year, having last year been elected to fill the partial term of a resigned board member.
The open seats have two full three year terms — and one partial two year term. Each voter may cast up to three votes for different candidates.
The candidates receiving the two highest vote tallies will win the full terms. The third highest vote getter will win the two-year-term seat.
The candidates have outstanding credentials and a passionate willingness to serve, as the following profiles will reveal:
David Dwyer and Michael Tenalio team up
David Dwyer and Michael Tenalio are running in the election as a two-member team sharing common interests and concerns. The pair have a decade of administrative experience, working together as former members of the Geneseo Town Board.
“We had a good deal of success there and thought we’d be able to transfer it to another municipality,” Dwyer said.
“I leaned a lot about school taxes while talking to people about town issues,” Tenalio said.
“There are many people in this community who see no distinction in the various taxes we pay: town, village, county, water, fire, lighting district. They are simply asking, ‘Help us with our taxes. Be creative. We understand there are needs in the community, but help us under stand what’s critical and what can be adjusted.’ David and I think we can help the school board in that regard.”
“We have some of the greatest teachers there are,” Tenalio stated. “We are going to be strong advocates in support of the teachers, the administrators, the bus drivers — all those who have given us a great school.”
Tenalio cited two areas where he believes the present board and administration could use help: project management of present and future bonds, and looking into shared services which could be of benefit to everyone.
“It’s going to take a team of people to accomplish this and I feel we have the skill set to bring this to the Board,” Tenalio continued. “We did this on the town board with the village and the county, from the perspective of buildings and services.”
Dwyer believes he can play an important role on the board as a bearer of institutional memory. “In the last couple of years the board has had an unusual amount of turnover, losing some very veteran people, most noticeably the tragic passing of Rosemary Teres, as well as a key administrator who took a job in Monroe County,” Dwyer reflected.
But Dwyer himself has been involved with the school successively as student, bus driver and transportation department head for 50 consecutive years.
“I think I can help the board with decisions based on history, so we don’t reinvent the wheel or make mistakes made 25 years ago,” Dwyer offered, adding, “And I’d like to be a champion for the support services – transportation, cafeteria and maintenance — who seem to lack a champion at the moment.”
“We have to do something about a school bus garage, maybe with a neighboring district,” he suggested. “A bus facility is the biggest capital need in the district,” Dwyer opined, noting that state aid for such a transportation projects would be a generous 70 percent.
Citing the past history of his own Kiwanis and local other organizations assisting school projects and needs, Tenalio said, “We’ve done a good job there and would like to continue. Being on the board would foster that, and perhaps identify where some needs are so that, if the school cannot afford to do it, maybe some others could.”
“We think we can help the board make good decisions,” Dwyer summarized. “We’ve got the background and are ready, willing and able.”
David Dwyer is a native of Geneseo, GCS graduate, and SUNY Geneseo graduate with a BA degree in history. He is retired from a career of 25 years as the GCS director of transportation, has 25 years service as an elected Town of Geneseo councilman, and has 40 years of service with the Geneseo Fire Department.
Michael Tenalio is a former trustee and mayor for the Village of Livonia. He and wife Debbie (a GCS bus driver for 20 years) have two daughters and three grandchildren — one in GCS first grade and one starting GCS in 2013. He holds a BS degree in Economics and international Business from SUNY ESC and has 30 years career business experience. He has served ten years on the Geneseo Town Board and is a 12 year member of Geneseo Kiwanis.
Al Dietrich has lived in Geneseo for 42 years. In December he retired after a 17 year career as Livonia Central School busines administrator. Before his careeer at Livonia, Dietrich was in financial management at Frontier Telephone for 22 years, doing cost analysis, budgeting and purchasing. Al and his wife Lynn have a daughter Emily, who graduated from GCS in 2005.
Dietrich holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Purdue, a master’s degree in business administration from the U of R, and a certificate of advanced study in school business administration from SUNY Brockport. He was a U.S. Navy supply officer and Vietnam veteran circa 1969-70.
As a youngster, Al lived in Batavia and graduated from Batavia High, but since his ninth grade, Dietrich’s family summered on Conesus Lake, in the very home where he still resides. Dietrich was a director for the Conesus Lake Association prior to his carreer at LCS, and has returned to that position with his retirement.
Dietrich delayed his retirement at Livonia for serveral years “because I really just enjoyed the work.”
Speaking of his run for the GCS school board, Dietrich said, “I want to continue to contribute.” He is no stranger to school board meetings, having attended an estimated 350 during his years at Livonia.
“You had to be there. It was important to supply the facts so that the superintendent and board could make its decisions,” Dietrich reflects, adding, “And it was important for the business administrator not to have a personnal opinion because that was not your job.”
With superb credentials, background and experience in public education and financial managment, Dietrich has set his goals, if elected, at (1) maintaining and enhancing Geneseo’s excellent programs, and (2) minimizing tax increases.
“The two go hand in hand,” he said.
Dietrich agrees that the times call for special attention to, and delicate management of, fiscal matters for institutions, businesses and families.
“In the last three-to-five years our county, state and so many individals have suffered economic setbacks — and folks do not expect any strong improvement for a number of years,” he observes, concluding, “That significantly impacts everything. We can’t afford some of the things we use to.”
Across-the-board enrollment decline is another factor drastically affecting local schools.
“People are leaving New York State, and that makes it much more difficult to sustain programs,” he notes. “We have less kids and less of a tax base.”
The solution seems to be sharing and cooperating to a much larger extent, while taking full advantage of the new electronic technologies — notions which BOCES studies are now examining.
“There is going to be a lot more cooperation, talking with each other and trying things,” Dietrich predicts, while realizing, “Our school identities are critical to our communities.”
Chris Ivers, a native of the Ithaca area, came to Geneseo in 1996 as a SUNY student, and Geneseo is where he has decided to stay. Chris and his wife have twin boys who will be starting GCS kindergarten in the fall of 2013.
“I love this community. I love the events. I love just to walk down Main Street,” Ivers asserts.
As chief administrator for the Allegany County Public Safety Facility, Ivers is familiar with the kinds of issues and tasks with which school boards deal: accommodating differing management philosophies while maintaining integrity and ensuring successful outcomes are achieved; working with union and non-union work forces; encouraging a work environment promoting good ideas and team work; completing capital projects on time and on or under budget; and managing local and non-local political pressures while pursuing internally set goals.
“The biggest catalyst for my wanting to become a school board member at this time is that my own children and the children of many friends are or will soon be starting at GCS,” Ivers said, adding, “And, I believe, it is important to serve your community. School board is effectively a volunteer position. As a board member you model [civic responsibility] for your kids at home and for everyone in the community. It’s about going out into the community, paying attention, and being involved and active.”
Ivers is also concerned about economic issues and school functioning within the framework of the two percent tax cap.
“I am concerned that the value of our rural school district could go away,” he worries, noting that many rural schools are on the verge of cutting important programs.
“It’s important that people pay attention and be engaged and speak out when we see this happening,” Ivers suggests, elaborating, “A local rural school adds value to its community. It’s an asset that should be a central focus for smaller communities. If we don’t pay attention, all of a sudden it’s going to be gone and we will be looking at some monstrosity of a regionalized system.”
“Even in these times of economic crisis, Geneseo Central School keeps adding value to this community,” Ivers emphasizes.
“I don’t know if the regional system isn’t the answer,” he qualified, but if it comes, the local constituency needs to be involved in that decision.
Ivers himself is opposed to those who would attempt to dismantle the local school, either through regionalization or through short-sighted tax control which would be destructive to school programs. He believes in “long term investment in our community.”
“You have to invest for the long term.” he said. “Education in the United States is the backbone of democracy. You cannot have a voting population without it having the thinking skills to get out there and engage. We want to be nurturing good, smart kids, locally, on the state level and on the national level. The school’s mission is to provide good citizens for the world.”
“The school board should represent the community it exists in,” Ivers asserts. “A school board member needs to be available and needs to listen to what the people in the community want.”
“Of course, you also need to pay attention to the budgets and how to manage the state mandates and the APPR coming out of Albany, but all the time you should also be listening to the community.”
If elected to the school board, Ivers hopes folks will engage him on Main Street, or while he is in Wegmans, and ‘talk shop’ about school issues.
Craig Phelps was raised in Groveland and is a member of the GCS graduating class of 1983. He has four children, two graduated from GCS and two still attending in fifth and ninth grades.
He is approaching his 20th year as an elected Groveland town councilman. He is also a director on the Genesee Valley Conservancy board.
And Phelps is also completing his very first year as an elected member of the Geneseo Central School Board of Education, having been third highest vote getter in last year’s election and winner of the partial one-year term seat.
Of the six candidates, Phelps is the only one from Groveland.
“We like to think that most of the issues we deal with on the board are not regional in character, but I also think it’s worthwhile to bring a perspective from outside the immediate village community,” he said.
“My perspective did come up as we dealt with some of the busing issues last year,” he noted, qualifying that any great distinction between Groveland and Geneseo as a school community is today probably a non-issue; all school board members serve to represent the entire district — not parts thereof.
On the other hand, as Groveland’s only representative on the school board, Phelps does understand how a Groveland resident might prefer speaking with him rather than an unfamiliar person from Geneseo.
In a time when schools are being asked to be more frugal than ever, Phelps feels he can be a factor in bringing long-established careful spending practices of the town board to the school board.
“Between my town board experience and my experience running my own business, I do bring a different perspective and background to the school board,” he said.
By way of example, in a recent school board discussion about disposing of old buses, Philips, drawing from his experience with heavy equipment, was able to point out that the likely highest value was as scrap.
With a business background in accounting, Phelps currently chairs the school board’s subcommittee on finances.
“I’ve enjoyed this committee work immensely,” Phelps said. “It lets me get much deeper into budgeting than we can do at regular board meetings, where there is so much other business to transact.”
As a finance committee member, Phelps reports that the new, single run bus scheduling shows a significant savings in money — equivalent to the salary of “a teacher or two.”
“I think there were some valid reasons not to like [the single run bus scheduling], but at the end of the day it has worked and the job got done,” he said, adding, “And very few people would choose to have two bus runs over two teachers.”
“The change in scheduling was a tough transition,” Phelps admits, “but most of the issues have straightened themselves out as time went on and things got tweaked. I did hear a load of complaints, but these days my phone has stopped ringing.”
From age 15, when she obtained her first job as a nanny for the Wadsworth family, Mehlenbacher has worked in education-related fields. “I loved kids from a very young age. I wanted to be completely wrapped up in them and made sure I was. My whole world is about children,” she said.
Mehlenbacher holds a bachelors and master degrees in education. She taught school five years in North Carolina and then did full time substitute teaching at York Central School for two years, at various times in grades K through 5. Mehlenbacher presently works registering day care providers for the Child Care Council. For the past two years she has served as Geneseo PTSA president.
“In these years I have seen needs for support go up in terms of helping groups of children who, because of budget cuts, aren’t getting the kinds of money they had been getting,” she said. “I am concerned about maintaining the integrity of all the programs we have at the school; about continuing to give children the same opportunities for program and curriculum — while keeping in mind we have a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers.”
“Being in a rural district, we are going to get hit a little harder and will be having to make hard choices,” she realizes.
Mehlenbacher believes her job background, her service background and “the things that are important to me — children and their education” well qualify her for a seat on the school board.
“It is of utmost importance to me to look out not only for the welfare of my children’s education, but for the education of all the children of this community,” she asserted.
Mehlenbacher emphasizes she has no personal agenda “other than the children” as a specific issue of the moment.
But, as a mother of bus riding youngsters, she shared her personal opinion on that controversial issue — qualifying that, beyond the obvious concern of safety, the bus schedule as an issue pales behind fiscal concerns impacting children and curriculum.
Speaking strictly as a mother, the new single run bus schedule is preferable to the double run. As a working mom who must leave in the morning, the schedule now allows her to see both children off on the bus, when previously she was gone before the youngest boarded the morning bus.
In the afternoon, the siblings return at the same time and so more easily fall into an identical schedule doing homework, having supper and getting to bed — as opposed to one having almost an hour’s head start. And there is the added comfort and security of knowing the older sibling is on the same bus, looking out for the younger sibling.
Additionally, all extracurricular activity is better placed and simplified in one time slot — all after school — as opposed to having some things, like chorus, in the morning.
“But [keeping the single run bus schedule] is not my agenda.” Mehlenbacher clarified. “My objectives are more altruistic. I want to be the voice for the children who don’t have a voice; who don’t have a vote.”