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Three residents seek Carthage school board seat

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GREAT BEND — Three people are running to fill the Carthage Central School District school board seat vacated by Terry E. Freeman for the next two years.

After Mr. Freeman resigned in August because of “ethical differences” with the other board members, the Board of Education chose Brian K. Serota, who is running to retain the seat for the rest of the term, as his replacement. Kent D. Burto and Michael Hancock are also contending for the position.

Mr. Serota served in the Army and transferred to Fort Drum in 2003. After he retired in 2010, he settled in Black River, where he continued raising his two children. He said he believes his time serving in the military helped him adjust to being a board member for the last school year.

“I spent time being exposed to many different areas and situations,” he said. “I can analyze problems. I can provide courses of action.”

He said his strength is how he sees the bigger picture. He does not consider himself a “yes man” but said he believes board members are true in their intentions. He admitted there have been obstacles this year but said that was how he got the opportunity to serve on the board.

“I don’t think anyone has lost sight of the kids,” he said.

Mr. Serota was a project manager in the Army. While he did not serve on any of the district’s committees because he joined later in the year, he helped make brochures for Carthage Central’s $34 million capital project.

His wife, Cindy S. Serota, is a third-grade teacher at Black River Elementary School. His children, Meghan L. Serota, 18, and William Serota, 16, attend Carthage High School.

While Mr. Burto has not been on the Board of Education, he served on the district’s Finance Committee this year. He also has served on the Jefferson County Board of Legislators for 12 years and chaired its Finance Committee. He was a trustee and deputy mayor in the village of West Carthage for 15 years. He has lived in the Carthage area all of his life. Both he and his son, Kyle, graduated from Carthage High School; Kyle is an elementary school teacher in the Boulder, Colo., school district.

“I feel that with my background and experience over the past 25 years, I’ve become an asset to the board,” he said. “I understand the importance of education.”

Mr. Burto is a real estate associate broker with Hunt Real Estate and the owner of Lube Express Detail and Wash and Riverside Car Wash in Carthage.

He said he is dissatisfied with the board’s rejection of the Finance Committee’s recommendation to keep the tax levy flat next year.

“I think it’s important to bring everyone together,” he said. “Certainly, that would be my intention.”

Mr. Hancock is also a lifelong Carthage-area resident and a graduate of Carthage Central School. He is the only one of the three who has worked for the district.

Mr. Hancock served four years in the Navy before working in the district’s bus garage for 30 years. He does range maintenance at Fort Drum.

“A lot of it was just to give people another option,” he said of his reason for running. “I worked for the school for 30 years, so I have a pretty good perspective about what goes on.”

He said board members get too involved in personal matters and are creating problems. In his current position, he has accepted a two-year wage freeze and said school personnel should do the same as state aid continues to get cut.

Anne Rohr and Joseph A. Colangelo are running unopposed for other seats on the board. Residents may vote on the district budget and board candidates from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the high school library.

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