Six candidates are vying for a pair of vacancies in Tuesday's North Tonawanda school board election.
One incumbent and five challengers will be on the ballot during the election and budget vote. During their regular meeting and budget hearing this week, the North Tonawanda Board of Education allowed each candidate a few moments to introduce themselves and discuss some of the things they'd like to accomplish if elected.
• COLLEEN ANGELHOW: Incumbent Angelhow has been a North Tonawanda resident for 27 years and has raised three children in the city, all of whom has passed through the NT school system. She's a worked as geriatric social worker for 30 years and she's finishing up her fourth year as a school board member.
Angelhow said she's always embraced volunteerism, noting that she's been active with a number of community programs and organizations, including as a board member for the North Tonawanda Football Hall of Fame.
As for her record on the school board, Angelhow said she's been involved in the passing of four budgets, all under the tax cap, and has been a part of carrying out the district's $39.5 million capital improvement project over the last couple of years. She said she aims to base all of her decisions regarding school business on facts and what is best for the students.
• STEPHANIE BARMANN: Barmann is a full-time mother of 10, and with that much experience working with children, she feels she's has a lot to bring to the board table. The life-long city resident said she's had a child in each of the district's schools except for one, and said that she regularly volunteers within the district.
She also noted that, as a city homeowner, she would always act in the interest of those who pay school taxes if elected. She also advocated for additional emphasis and raising graduation rates and focusing on helping students get through rough times that often lead them to consider dropping out.
Barmann said she'd also like to address bullying. She said it's been an issue in the district since she was a student in the 90s and that students shouldn't have to worry about fights breaking out in the cafeteria. She suggested promoted the idea of encouraging students to commit "random acts of kindness" and starting "no child eats alone clubs."
• CODY BRAEGES: Braeges was not present for Tuesday's candidate meet-and-greet. According to a press release announcing his candidacy, Braeges, 20, is a 2017 graduate of North Tonawanda High School and is studying business administration at Niagara County Community College.
If elected, Braeges said he'd like to focus on giving students more of a voice by listening to their concerns and acknowledging their struggles. He also advocated for better preparing students for life after high school.
"I want to bring awareness to the many struggles students face today," he said. "We should be listening to them more. I don’t believe that after high school you are fully prepared for the real world. When I left high school, I still had many questions. I didn’t know anything about how credit cards or loans worked. I didn’t even know how to do up a resumé. Education needs to be constantly improving."
Braeges also commented on the issue of bullying in his press release, saying that the district needs to focus on reducing bullying and caring for the mental health of its students.
• COLLIN HOLYCROSS: Holycross himself was not present at Tuesday's forum, but his wife Amber Holycross was on hand to read a statement on her husband's behalf. Holycross is a teacher at St. Benedict School in Buffalo.
His wife said that Holycross has lived in North Tonawanda for most of his life and was a student in NT city schools. In his statement, Holycross said that his background as an educator and experience working with neighboring public school districts has given him the experience needed to be an asset on the board of education.
He advocated for seeking out small, cost-effective programs that can generate a significant impact within the district. He suggested providing "leadership training" to parents to allow them to better utilize the resources the district offers. He said studies have shown a correlation between parents who are engaged in the district and students who are engaged, which he said leads to better performance.
• JOSEPH MARRANCA: Marranca is a student at the University at Buffalo who is nearing the completion of his undergraduate degree in history education. Marranca is a life-long North Tonawanda citizen.
Marranca said that, if elected, he would like to be a voice for students in the district who have special needs, like his sister Nina, a 2018 NTHS graduate who was born blind. He said the district went "above and beyond" to make his sister's experience in the district a positive one, and he said he wants to work to make sure that continues for other students.
Marranca also spoke of the importance of maintaining a safe environment. He said he'd work to maintain the school resource officer position at the school, which was added last year with help from a state grant.
GABRIELLE RICHARDS: Richards is the owner of the Vegan Grocery Store, a popular Oliver Street market which recently marked a year in business. She's a graduate of the North Tonawanda City School District and holds a master's degree in Germanic linguistics.
Richards served as the student member of the North Tonawanda Board of Education when she was a student in the district and said she learned a lot about what the board does and the issues they have to work on.
She said one thing she's learned as a business owner is how local organizations, like the Oliver Street Merchants Association, need volunteers. If elected, she said she'd like to work on generating awareness for volunteer opportunities that would get students active within their community.
She also pushed for an increased emphasis on options for students that involved learning a trade as an alternative to attending college.
The budget vote and school board election will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Alumni Student Activity Center at North Tonawanda High School, 405 Meadow Drive.