OSWEGO, NY – A local man hopes to give this area something it hasn’t had on the NYS Board of Regents – an advocate.
According to John Sheffield, the NYS Board of Regents has two positions open: Merryl Tisch’s At Large position and Anthony Bottar’s spot. Bottar is the regent for the 5th Judicial District, which includes Oswego County as well as Onondaga, Oneida, Jefferson, Lewis and Herkimer counties.
“On Sunday (January 3), someone reached out to me, asking me to throw my name into the hat and make a case for a regent position,” Sheffield told Oswego County Today. “It was really humbling because I really admire and respect the person. Then others also contacted me about it.”
In the week that followed, much occurred.
He didn’t know a teacher could run. However, it turns out teachers can; principals, superintendents and school business officers can’t.
The application deadline has passed, but more teachers might have jumped in, he noted.
The long-time teacher in the Central Square School District contacted several people that he trusts around the state and they all said, “John, you have to do this,” he said. “The support was overwhelming. So, I ran it by my wife and kids for their support. I couldn’t do it without the support of my school district (Central Square).”
There are monthly meetings in Albany once a month – back to back, Monday and Tuesday. If you’re going to be a regent, you have to be at these meetings.
Being a NYS regent is not a paying position …there is no financial gain.
“After additional discussion with, and encouragement from, my wife and adult children, I felt that this is a call I cannot ignore,” he said.
He has also spoken with his board of education.
“I spoke to every BOE member with my proposal to submit my name for a Board of Regents position. I also had a face to face meeting with my superintendent. I informed them that I could not pursue this unless I had their support and the support of the community,” he said. “They voted unanimously to support me.”
He’ll be reaching out to the other districts as well.
“This isn’t just good for Central Square. It would be something good for the whole county. Economically we’ve been devastated, our unemployment numbers are high, a lot of our school districts are just getting by,” he said. “We’ve never had a voice on the board. For this area, these counties, we’ve never had a voice. It’s an opportunity that we have here.”
But, what can one person do?
Sheffield admits that he doesn’t know exactly. But quickly adds, “Here’s what I do know that I can do. I am a pretty good listener. We’ll have eyes and ears in the room during policy decisions. We’ve never had that before. It’s a five –year term. Most people, who know me, know I’m not going to sit quietly for five years. It starts with one. And then, maybe, one becomes two. And two become four and four become eight – we have to start, we have to make our voice heard.”
His hope is to educate those on the Board of Regents who never have been in education to understand “what it’s like where the rubber hits the road for people like us.”
There are about six members of the board who have a good variety and depth of educational experience and they get it, he added.
“But there are nine of them who are business people or lawyers who have no idea what it’s like for us. I want to give voice to just the every day guy,” he explained. “My concern has always been for the kids. The kids are always number one.”
There are educators and administrators afraid to speak out regarding the way things are currently, he said.
“That’s wrong, that’s just wrong. This may be our only opportunity to have a voice in the room. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t at least try,” he added.
He’s spoken with a wide variety of parents of differing backgrounds, principals, superintendents, teachers, women and men throughout the state, region and school district.
“My official application of interest has been submitted and I am officially in the pool of candidates. There’s no guarantee I’ll survive the vetting process,” he said. “Many have already said they will support me in this endeavor and I humbled by their support. I will do my best to obtain this position. On that you have my word.”
All he wants is to be face to face with the people who make the decision. “If they don’t want to choose me, fine. But, get me face to face with the people who make the decision, that’s all I ask,” he said.
Carpe diem is a Latin phrase that means seize the day.
“Rarely does an opportunity such as this present itself when it matters most. More and more in today’s world it seems that people like us, communities like ours, rarely have an opportunity to truly seize the day in the scope of state, national, and global events. Much has been taken from us, and our children,” he said. “We have to seize the day for our children, our communities.”
For more information, friend him on Facebook. He will have a website soon.