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Retired social studies teacher questions GOP only political visits to Massena schools

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MASSENA - A retired social studies teacher said she believes the Massena Central School District should be allowing equal time for elected officials and candidates - Republicans and Democrats - to visit the district.

But, school officials said, members of both parties have been invited, and they’ve had visits from those who chose to accept the invitation.

“It was an open invitation,” Superintendent Roger B. Clough II said.

Retired teacher Sandra Zappia shared her concerns with board of education members Thursday night. She said in her 26-year career, when making political invites for her Participation in Government class, she has always been instructed to ensure both parties were represented.

She questioned why the same principle wasn’t applying to visits by sitting elected officials or candidates for elected positions.

The district recently hosted visits by Republican Congressional candidate Matthew A. Doheny and Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Utica.

Mr. Doheny and Mr. Clough joined high school students for lunch, where students raised their concerns about the Hunger Kids Free Act mandate. The program, which offers a healthier meal, has not met with success in local school cafeterias, where students are arguing they’re not getting enough food to fuel them through the day.

Mr. Griffo had also visited the district earlier this month, but it was for a meeting with several area superintendents, including Mr. Clough; Thomas Burns, St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services; Darin Saiff, Parishville-Hopkinton; Doug McQueer, Hammond; Patrick Brady, Potsdam; and Dave Glover, Morristown.

They had shared their concerns with the senator about budgets, state aid, the Hunger Kids Free Act, consolidation and unfunded mandates.

School board President John R. Boyce said that he didn’t have a problem with some of the visits. He suggested that it was appropriate for “sitting” incumbents such as Mr. Griffo to visit and hear concerns that he could address as a lawmaker.

Board member Michael J. LeBire suggested that, in order to ensure both parties were represented, they alternate their visits. For instance, since Mr. Doheny has already visited, they could extend an invitation to his opponent, Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and not extend another invitation to Mr. Doheny until Mr. Owens had visited.

While Mr. Owens has not visited Massena Central recently, he has made stops in other districts. He recently visited the Potsdam Central School District, where he also heard concerns about the Hunter Kids Free Act mandate and also met with students.

More recently, Mr. Owens visited Kennedy Elementary School in Ogdensburg on Thursday to view renovations taking place at the school.

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