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Canton teacher seeks Potsdam school board seat

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POTSDAM - Danielle L. Gray, a special education in the Canton Central School District, is hoping to bring a different perspective to the Potsdam Central School Board of Education.

“I decided to run for a seat on the Potsdam board of education because I feel it is time for a change,” she said. “These are historic times for education in New York state, and it is time for a new perspective and a fresh look at how to best meet the needs of our students and community.”

In addition to a fresh perspective, Ms. Gray said she brings 18 years of classroom experience to the board.

“I have had a wealth of educational experience in my 18 years of being a special education teacher at Canton Central School,” she said. “I can offer a perspective from both in and out of the classroom and as both a teacher and a parent of school age children.”

Ms. Gray explained that motherhood gives her a vested interest in what happens in the district.

“I am a mother of three children and have a vested interest in making sound decisions for all students attending Potsdam Central School,” she said.

She also said that she feels her experience as a teacher could be a valuable to the board.

“I have experience with being a team member and having to take the lead when making educational choices for children. I effectively communicate with administrators, teachers, support staff, families and students on a daily basis,” she said.

Ms. Gray also said she will be supporting this year’s budget, even though it exceeds the state’s tax cap limit.

“I support the 2012-2012 budget proposal, despite exceeding the property tax cap,” she said. “We can’t keep cutting positions and continue to provide students with all the programs they need and deserve. Taking money from the fund balance can only cover so much without depleting funds for future use.”

Given the makeup of the community and the fact that despite exceeding the tax cap the increase is relatively low, Ms. Gray said she thinks others will support it too.

“Potsdam is a community that values education, and I feel that the increase is something that is reasonable and affordable for most to keep our schools functioning properly,” she said.

Some people feel that one way to help keep north country schools functioning properly is through mergers or the creation of regional schools.

And while Ms. Gray doesn’t take a strong stance on the issue, she said that it is something that should be explored.

“The ideas of school mergers or a regional school are thoughts with merit,” she said. “With the decrease in enrollment and decrease in funding from New York state, shared services may be the way to go. As long as the options offered are at a lower cost, while allowing students increased program possibilities, these ideas have potential for helping our district.”

Should Ms. Gray be elected to the board, she also said she has several things she would like to see accomplished.

“Potsdam Central has been out of compliance with special education services. I would like to see the noncompliance issues resolved,” she said, referring to the district’s inability to complete state-mandated special education evaluations in a timely manner.

She also said she understands the financial difficulties the district is facing, but would like to make sure that budget cuts do not hurt the district’s students.

“I want to be sure that any cuts or changes made to staffing and programs don’t negatively impact our graduates from being able to compete for college acceptance or hold them back from being ready for the future after high school.”

Ms. Gray lives in Potsdam with her husband, Patrick, and three children, each of whom are enrolled in the district.

She has worked as a special education teacher at Banford Elementary in Canton since 1994 and has lived in the village of Potsdam since that time.

She is a graduate of Canton Central School, earning an associate’s degree from SUNY Canton, a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh and a master’s degree from SUNY Potsdam.

“I want to be a voice for students and families and to represent them at each board meeting,” she said. “I want to be sure that Potsdam Central continues to be a place that attracts families to live and work in the town and village.”

Ms. Gray is one of six candidates seeking three available seats on the board. She will be joined on the ballot by James Hubbard, Mary Ashley Carroll, Sandra D. Morris, Ann M. Carvill and incumbent J. Patrick Turbett.

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