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Serguson, Fountaine: Massena voters want change

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MASSENA - Two newcomers overwhelmed their competition Tuesday in the race for two seats on the Massena Central School Board of Education.

Patrick Serguson received 1,220 votes, while Loren Fountaine had the support of 1,094 voters.

Incumbent Gregory C. Fregoe finished third with 403 votes, newcomer Eva Waters received 331 votes and incumbent Cristen R. Halladay received 322 votes.

The race had been viewed by some in the community as a referendum on the job performance of Superintendent Roger B. Clough II. Mr. Fregoe has been supportive of Mr. Clough’s leadership of the district, while Mr. Serguson and Mr. Fountaine had been critical of the superintendent’s actions.

During a candidates’s forum last week, Ms. Halladay had told audience members that she would not have a problem if voters cast their ballots for Mr. Serguson and Mr. Fountaine. She was one of three school board members that received a letter from Mr. Clough’s attorney earlier this year warning them of possible consequences if they violated the superintendent’s job protection rights.

Mr. Fregoe and Ms. Waters did not participate in the forum, which was organized by the Massena Federation of Teachers.

Ms. Halladay had served three years on the board following her election in May 2009, while Mr. Fregoe was completing his first term on the board following his election in May 2007.

Mr. Serguson thanked the community for their support, noting he had heard many concerns from residents over the past few weeks since he made his candidacy official.

“I think the voters reflected what the community has been telling me for the last few weeks - a displeasure with the current administration. I’ve heard it for a lot of weeks. The numbers are showing the support I’ve had for the last few weeks,” he said.

Mr. Serguson, a sergeant with the Massena Police Department, will take his seat during July’s reorganizational meeting. He said he’s looking forward to working with fellow board members.

Among his first priorities, he said, would be accountability.

“I think everybody needs to be accountable. I think we have to start from the top. I think we need to let principals runs the schools and let teachers educate and do their jobs,” he said.

Mr. Serguson said he was happy that fellow newcomer Mr. Fountaine would also be taking a seat on the board in July.

“I’m more than happy to be going on the board with Loren,” he said.

Mr. Fountaine, a labor relations specialist with New York State United Teachers, said he’ll be ready to start tackling issues when he takes his seat.

“I think the community is very disenchanted with the direction of our district. It was pretty clear the people wanted change,” he said.

He said one of his priorities will be to help smooth the tensions between the community and the board of education.

“We have to stop taking sides. It has to be middle of the road. We have to work with everybody. My goal is to heal the relationship with the community and make responsible decisions for the kids,” Mr. Fountaine said.

He said they also need to mend the district’s image.

“You can’t pin all of the problems on one person,” he said.

On the bright side, Mr. Fountaine said, “Massena is doing very well” as evidenced by its “silver” ranking in U.S. News and World Report’s latest annual review of high schools in the United States. Massena High School placed in the top 5 percent in the United States, ranked 1,073 out of 21,775 high schools, and 137 out of 1,165 New York high schools, placing them in the top 12 percent state-wide.

Mr. Fregoe, code enforcement officer for the town and village of Massena, suggested there would be changes with the new faces on the board.

“The taxpayers got what they wanted - a school board controlled by teachers. That’s democracy,” he said.

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