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October 15, 2018

Oswego BOE Candidates Questioned


The candidates answer questions from the public Tuesday night. From left are: Bill Meyer, James Bell, Amy Callen, Fran Hoefer and Kathleen Allen.

The candidates answer questions from the public Tuesday night. From left are: Bill Meyer, James Bell, Aimee Callen, Fran Hoefer and Kathleen Allen.

OSWEGO, NY – The five candidates running for a seat on the Oswego City School District’s board of education faced a variety of questions Tuesday night.

Fran Hoefer, James Bell, Bill Meyer and Aimee Callen were joined in the OHS theater by current board president Kathleen Allen who is running as a write-in candidate.

The first question was: What makes you the best candidate?

Meyer pointed to his experience as a former board member and transportation supervisor for the district. He was also a union president and had experience dealing with budgets.

Bell noted that as a parent of a child in the district, he wants to help ensure all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Also, as a businessman, he has had experience with budgeting and making hard decisions, he added.

Callen said as a parent, she too would be very passionate about helping the board. She also has experience in the education field, working with teachers and administration. All that put together would give her an advantage, she said, adding that she is trustworthy and a very good listener.

Hoefer, another former board member, said he cares about the kids and the community.

Allen cited her six years on the board, the last three as president, as experience. She said she could look at the big picture and look at what’s best for the students, taxpayers and everyone.

The candidates were asked how they would prioritize the components that make up a quality education.

The focus needs to be on education and the social well-being of the children, Bell said.

Education was also Callen’s focus. Children need to have access to all studies, including music, theater, clubs and different learning styles, she said. “We need to figure out a better way to provide more” for the students, she added.

The number one priority is to provide a quality education, Hoefer said. That means putting the best teachers in the classrooms. Time on task is also important, he added.

The biggest priority is the children of the district, Allen said.

You have to look at all of the aspects of the education process, Meyer said. And also, sports and clubs.

“Everything is important. And I don’t know if you can make one more important than the others,” he said.

The candidates were asked to identify a problem in the district and offer a solution.

According to Callen, the community needs to work together. “I think that’s one of our biggest goals,” she said.

There are many people in the community with a lot of experience and she would urge them to come share it with the district.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can reach out to others who have gone through this,” she explained.

“The biggest problem we have in this community is greed, straight up,” Hoefer said. “I cannot believe our employees will not make any concessions to benefit our children.”

Beverly Hills is educating more children for $16 million less, he added. “We have to change the way we’re doing things,” he said.

The sports cuts in the current budget plan were cited by Allen. She explained how they got together to brainstorm ways to make the cuts less painful.

“I always found that the communication was the biggest problem,” Meyer said. As a board member, he said, he’d work to increase communication between all stakeholders in the district.

Bell said the lack of revenue for the district is a problem. They need to reach out to other sources besides the taxpayers. They should also seek help from the elected state officials, he added.

The next question was would the candidate’s respect confidentially in certain matters.

Confidentiality equals secrecy and the board should operate in the open, Hoefer said. The district is shrouded in secrecy, he added.

“People have a right to know what their government is doing and how they are doing it,” he said.

He would keep secrets, if required to, he said. But there are strict rules as to what is and isn’t confidential, he added.

“We are very, very careful about what we can discuss in open meetings and what needs to be in executive session,” Allen said.

Meyer agreed. “Confidentiality is very important during negotiations,” he said. Then, “after the dust has settled,” things can be brought out into the open, he added.

Bell said that he’d abide by the confidentiality requirements.

Callen agreed. “At the end of the day, I am a trustworthy person,” she said. “I want to serve the community. I will do the right thing.”

The candidates were asked their views on class size.

More teaching happens when the class size is small, Allen noted.

Meyer agreed that smaller class sizes are better for the students.

Smaller class sizes are better, Bell agreed. He’d leave it up to the teachers as to what the optimal class size should be, he added.

You can’t just say what is the best size, Callen explained, because there are so many components. Some, older, students might do well in larger classes and some teachers might not perform as well with more students, she said. “So it is a combination of a lot of things,” she said.

In an ideal world, smaller class sizes are better, Hoefer said.

However, he said, “A lot of things are more important than small class sizes. I’d rather have my child in a large class with a good teacher instead of a small class with a bad one,” he said.

The candidates were asked what they bring to the table to help the district face a potential $4 million budget gap next year.

Meyer pointed to his experience working in the district and having worked on other budgets.

Bell said it was his ability to work with other people and get things done.

Callen said she works very well on a team and collaborate with others. “We need to reach out to other people so together as a community” we can get things done, she added.

“The problem isn’t we don’t have enough money. The problem is where the money goes,” Hoefer said. “We need to look at what is really costing this money. Our wages and benefits are flat out unsustainable.”

Allen said she’d communicate openly with the taxpayers.

“A lot of what gets out there is half-truths,” she said.

As a parent herself, she wants what’s best for the district, she added.

The candidates were asked why they wanted to be on the board.

Bell said that he that he wants to help.

“I don’t want to be on the outside criticizing someone else’s decision. I’d rather be in the tick of it,” he said.

“I want to help. And, to make a difference; make our school district what it should be,” Callen said. “I’m not one of those people who sits around and complains. In want to be in there and do the work.”

“It’s a terrible job. I don’t want to be on the school board!” Hoefer said. “I’m running because I feel I need to.”

“I can handle conflicts, challenge. My heart is for the kids of this district and I want to continue to fight for them as I have for six years,” Allen said. “I think our board has worked very, very well together.”

Meyer said he wants change the attitude in the district; make it so that people aren’t afraid to share ideas and talk about issues.

“There is a lot of good people who work in this district and have great ideas. Some of them are afraid to come forward. I don’t want to see that.”

Candidates were asked to comment on residents saying they can’t afford “just a little bit more” in taxes.

Callen said she agrees with the statement. The district just can’t keep going the way it has been, she said.

Hoefer said he couldn’t afford just a little bit more taxes. What’s happening is the district is taking a slightly bigger piece of a slightly smaller pie.

Doing that wouldn’t solve the problem, Allen noted. Not everyone can afford it, she said.

Meyer applauded the superintendent for presenting a revenue based budget. Any tax increase should be as small as possible, he said.

“I think everybody has reached their threshold, Bell said. “I think we’ve had enough. I don’t think we can sustain any more.”

Polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on May 17.

The election districts of the Oswego City School District are as follows:

Election District No. 1
Location of polling place: Scriba Fire Station, 5618 State Route 104 East, Oswego
Boundaries: Ward 10

Election District No. 2
Location of polling place: St. Paul’s Church, 50 E. Mohawk St., Oswego
Boundaries: wards 2, 4 and 6

Election District No. 3
Location of polling place: Grace Elim Church, 340 W. First St., Oswego
Boundaries: wards 1, 3, 5 and 7

Election District No. 4
Location of polling place: Oswego Town Hall, 2320 County Route 7, Oswego
Boundaries: wards 8 and Ward 9 (Description by streets, alleys and highways, etc.)

For more information, contact the district clerk at (315) 341-2001.

16 Responses “Oswego BOE Candidates Questioned”

  1. RT
    May 4, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Fran Hoefer for school board!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Mark
    May 4, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Fran Hoefer will get my vote. The fact of the matter is that the athletic programs needed to be cut because of the salaries involved. There needs to be a bulldog at the negotiation table against OCTA. The salaries are out of control

  3. Steve
    May 4, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Bill Meyer is running again. That’s funny.
    He quit the board last time for the transportation job (which he failed at and had to quit)
    What job in the district is Bill looking for this time?

  4. muin
    May 4, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Fran Hoefer is at it again! He has a vendetta against the teachers (and from the sound of it any District employee). He fails to mention any of the past concessions that the employees have made to help the District.
    The employees (including the teachers) have taken zero raises and have agreed to increases in their costs for insurance. Fran Hoefer even stated in this article that he doesn’t even want to be on the Board! Give him his wish and vote for anyone else!

  5. Chris
    May 4, 2016 at 10:03 am

    Fran Has my vote for sure. Bill Myer is a joke!!!!

  6. Ryan
    May 4, 2016 at 10:13 am

    “muin”…change your handle to “ruin” because that’s what all the over-taxation has done to Oswego in support of government greed over the years…you people make more than enough money off the few taxpayers left here and I doubt highly you pay anywhere near for health insurance what I have to pay out of pocket working in the private sector!

  7. Male Oswegonian
    May 4, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Yes, please spare us the perpetual Hoefer and his program to make teachers low-wage employees with little security.

    If society values education, teachers should be treated like middle-class professionals.

    If there are economic issues, there are still large nuclear plants and other profitable corporate entities that could and should be taxed more.

  8. Margie
    May 4, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Kathleen Allen will be the only vote I cast….mainly because voting for only her gives her a better opportunity to succeed as a write-in vote. She’s the most deserving of the candidates.

  9. Mark
    May 4, 2016 at 10:49 am

    When did OCTA take a concession? They took a 1 year pay freeze back in 2011 but prior to that they had received a 22% raise over 4 years. Still with that one-year pay freeze, the raises they got from that particular contract were more than double inflation.

    The only concession in the current contract was zero raises to coaching salaries. The teachers still received salary increases. No benefit concessions whatsoever. Taxpayers are still picking up 88% of their health care costs. This is unheard of in the private sector.

    Average salary in the OCSD has reached $70,000 for teachers. Not bad for a 9 month job but it is out of line for this community to be able to continue supporting.

    People need to vote NO on the budget to send it to contingency, constrain the tax levy to 0%, and force concessions from the greedy unions.

  10. Ted
    May 4, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Mark: I’m not sure where you’re finding your information. I just googled it and went to seethroughny to look at median salaries. Oswego, while paid well, is by no means at $70k. We are on par with Fulton, APW, and FM. And you have to take the concessions with a grain of salt as OCTA and the District are currently in negotiations and no one is privy to what is being discussed. Insurance will be rectified as that is an obvious need for tax payers and the teachers I’ve spoken with knows this isn’t just going to happen but must happen. Don’t get caught up in the he said she said from both sides as this is a negotiation tactic to rile up the public for both sides. Voice your opinion but don’t spread baseless ‘facts.’ Fran isn’t level headed enough for this job. He would need to listen to both sides and decide with facts and not staunch emotions. He needs to follow rules of conduct, something he’s played in the grey area in the past. I’ve always found it amusing that he is all for the tax payers but wants to help you with your medicare claims which drive up your NYS taxes. What’s good for the goose, isn’t always good for the gander I guess.

  11. Kevin
    May 4, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Ted you are right..70K no.. $64,374 …yes.Now a quick little work on the calculator.If the next wage increase were 2% and they took a freeze.that equals $663,040. Thats wages alone.I think that would help the $364,000 cut to the sports program and then some

  12. Ren
    May 4, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Here we go again, attack the teachers! If you think teachers have it so well then please by all means go pay for your masters degree and enter a classroom where majority of the students do not have the same morals and values they used to due to the lack of parenting these days. Teachers agreed years ago not to make the 6 figure salaries like other professions with masters degrees so they could have a decent pension. If you are up on anything current you would know that now teachers pensions are no better than a 401K. I would love to see the complainers of education spend a week teaching in a classroom and I guarentee you would gain some respect for the profession. 9 months?? Did you forget how to count? It is 10 months teachers are with the students in the classroom and the other 2 months at mandatory trainings or working in the rooms for free because they don’t get paid to prepare the classrooms or get curriculum ready! Yes the district has mismanaged money and our kids should not have to pay for their mistakes but the other issue is our poverty rate is through the roof here and the working class people can only carry the lower socioeconomic people so long. The educated and working class families are suffering because the lower class families are given more opportunities while the working class contiue to pay in their taxes to support these programs. Until parents, community members and the school take responsibility and work together this city will continue in the downward spiral it is in. Why don’t some of you take a look at a district like Mexico where the board is made up of upstanding working class people who respect their teachers as well as the community supports and respects their teachers and see how well things could be run. It is time for people to step up and become accountable! Our children should have more than what were given in school, not less–how sad Oswego!

  13. Concerned parent
    May 4, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    This school board needs some squeaky wheels on it. Fran has my vote for sure, at least he has the guts to fight and he is not ignorant to the secrecy and garbage that goes on here. Maybe the board needs some new blood.

  14. Dave
    May 4, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    As was stated Myer quit the board before to take a job, what is he looking for this time. Allen can’t figure out that you need to collect more than exactly 100 signatures, just in case you have a few bad signatures. She is the board president—–no wonder we are in such bad shape!

  15. Frustrated Mother of Bullied Son
    May 5, 2016 at 9:23 am

    I will vote for the person who will contact me and listen to my story about the lack of punishment for the bullies at OHS.

  16. Karen
    May 5, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    My vote will be cast for Fran Hoefer. His is the first board member who ever enlightened the public the the shenanigans going on behind closed doors with the district. When I went to school there were class sizes of 25+ and we all turned out quite well. So many things need to change with this district and Fran is the one to “get “er done” Good luck Fran.

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