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Massena Federation of Teachers hosting school board candidate forum

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MASSENA - Community members will have a chance to meet this year’s candidates for the Massena Central School Board of Education during a forum Tuesday night.

The session, organized by the Massena Federation of Teachers, begins at 7 p.m. at the Massena Elks Lodge, Bowers Street.

Five candidates are vying for two seats during the May 15 election. They include incumbents Gregory C. Fregoe and Cristen R. Halladay and newcomers Loren Fountaine, Patrick Serguson and Eva Waters.

Joseph Mittiga, MFT’s organizer for the event, said they began holding the event last year to allow community members to meet the candidates as an addition to newspaper articles that had been written about them as well as letters to the editor.

“It kind of became letters to the editor. Sometimes candidates were going back and forth in there. We came up with the idea last year as a way to hear where people stand on the issues. The recommendation was made to Chad (Simpson, MFT president) by another union president from another school. We though it might be good to give them one place, one time and one forum to state their views,” he said.

Last year’s inaugural forum featured nine candidates who were running for two board of education seats. Questions were submitted from the community to a panel consisting of one administrator, one teacher, one parent and one student. The district’s website was also used to gather questions from the community.

“I talked to (Superintendent Roger B. Clough II) this year about following same format. He said he didn’t want to be part of it and didn’t want administrators to be part of it. Last year we used the website to gather questions from the community. He didn’t want to do that, which is a shame,” he said.

Instead, Mr. Mittiga came up with the questions this year.

“They’re all fairly generic and open-ended, nothing specific and nothing meant to trip them up. We’re going to rotate who the first person is to answer the first question,” Mr. Mittiga said.

He said he’s the only one who knows the questions, and Tuesday night will be the first time they’ve been heard by board candidates.

“I have not talked to anyone about those questions. Last year the superintendent, administrators, parents and students all worked together to pick questions,” he said.

Last year, each candidate was given an opportunity to make an opening statement. Then they took turns answering questions from a panel, with candidates alternating in answering the first question. They then had an opportunity to make a closing statement.

“The format is just a bit different than last year. Last year there were nine candidates and they were only given 30 seconds to answer questions, which really is not a lot of time,” Mr. Mittiga said.

This year, he said, candidates will have two minutes at the beginning of the forum to introduce themselves.

“This year there is going to be two minutes at the beginning where candidates can introduce themselves, give a little bio about their background, their family, their education, their work history, that sort of stuff,” he said.

The candidates will field 10 questions each, with a minute to answer each of them.

The forum will wrap up with each candidate receiving two minutes to make a closing statement.

Until last year, it has been several years since the district had held a board of education candidate’s forum. They were previously organized and moderated by the district’s Parent-Teacher Association.

Norwood-Norfolk Central School will have a similar forum for its candidates at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the high school library. They have two candidates for three seats - incumbents Thomas W. Scott and George D. Fulk.

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