NORWICH – Four candidates will be vying for the three board of education seats up for grabs in the Norwich City School District’s budget vote and school board election on May 19. At 6 p.m. tomorrow, voters will have an opportunity to meet these individuals and hear their stance on issues faced by the district at a Meet the Candidates Night sponsored by Norwich’s PTA Council in the Middle School Choral Room.
According to PTA Council Secretary Victoria Mitchell, the event gives district residents a chance to learn more about each candidate and help them make an informed decision on election day.
The three board of education seats up for grabs in the upcoming election are those currently occupied by Joe Stagliano, Sally Chirlin and Perry Owen. All three have entered their names in the running for re-election, as has former board member Mark Hollifield.
According to Mitchell, each of the four candidates was provided with a list of predetermined questions in advance. These questions cover a broad range of educational and district specific topics, she said.
On Thursday evening, each candidate will randomly select two questions “out of a hat.” They will then have three minutes to speak on the topic they selected, Mitchell explained, after which the other candidates will have one minute each to add their take on the issue.
“Everyone gets a fair chance to respond (on each topic)” she said.
Chenango County District Attorney Joe McBride will moderate the event.
The PTA Council’s Meet the Candidates Night will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the Middle School Choral Room. Light refreshments will be provided.
Joe Stagliano is completing his first one-year term on the Norwich City School District’s Board of Education. Originally from Herkimer, Stagliano relocated to Norwich with his family in 2006. He currently has two children enrolled in the district.
Stagliano has worked for NBT Bank since 1999. He currently serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer. His responsibilities include oversight of information technology, operations, facilities management and purchasing. In his position, he said, he oversees nearly 200 employees and is responsible for managing a budget roughly equivalent to that of the Norwich school district.
Stagliano said he decided to run for the school board last year because of his children. “Having kids in the district, I wanted to get involved,” he explained. He believes his experience working with budgets of the district’s magnitude and handling contract negotiations has made him an asset to the board.
Stagliano is proud of the district’s accomplishments over the past year, namely in settling both the support staff and teachers contracts, rising test scores, the Middle School moving off the SINI list and developing a fiscally and academically responsible budget. But there is still work to be done, he said.
The board currently devotes much of its time to “putting out fires,” he explained, but he would like to see it work toward greater stability as a board and a “truer vision” for the district.
“We need to focus on academics, student activities and recognizing and rewarding teachers,” he said. “I want people to be proud of going to school in Norwich.”
Sally Chirlin is an area native and graduate of Norwich High School. She is currently finishing her first one-year term on the Norwich City School District’s Board of Education. She and her husband Don, a retired Norwich teacher and former school board member, currently reside in North Norwich.
Chirlin is a retired educator from the New Berlin Central School district, where she taught remedial reading and writing. She has also taught at the college level as an adjunct English professor at SUNY Morrisville’s Norwich Campus.
Her community involvement has included a position on North Norwich’s town board and she currently serves on both the town’s planning board and the Chenango County Planning Board. She is also involved with SUNY Morrisville’s Liberty Partnership board.
Chirlin said she initially ran for the school board because she was “concerned about the welfare of the district.” With her professional background and community involvement, she said, district staff and community members find her approachable. She describes herself as “motivated” and not afraid to ask tough questions.
Of her first term on the board, Chirlin said, “It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had for no pay.” But despite the bumps in the road, she hopes voters will support her so she can continue her efforts on the school board.
“I enjoy being involved and seeing something happen,” she said.
Perry Owen is currently serving out the remainder of the school board term he was appointed to in August of last year. Originally from Wales, Owen and his wife Venetia have lived in the Norwich area since 1980.
The couple chose to remain in the area following his retirement from first Procter & Gamble and then from his position as Executive Director of the International Society for Clinical Densitometry, a non-profit organization concerned with bone density and skeletal health.
“It’s a great place to live,” said Owen, in a September interview. He has been actively involved in helping to improve the community which he has called home for nearly decades. He currently sits on the Chenango County Planning & Development Committee and was active in the fight against the controversial New York Regional Interconnect project, which threatened local communities.
“It has been a privilege to serve the students and the community where they live and my desire is to continue to serve,” Owen said.
Owen said he believes a strong school district is the key factor to attracting business and industry to the area. During his tenure with the board, he has tried to encourage more cooperation between the district and local businesses. He has brought forward cost savings ideas, such as moving to a paperless system.
“If elected, I will continue to pursue my vision for the well-being of this community,” Owen said.
Mark Hollifield has lived in Norwich for the last 48 years and is a 1977 graduate of Norwich High School. He currently resides in the City of Norwich with his wife. For more than three decades, he has worked for Golden Age Apartments in Norwich, where he serves as chief of maintenance.
Hollifield has previously served for two terms on the district’s board of education, from 1992 to 1998. During his tenure, he served as vice president of the board for two years. He is also a past president of the Greater Chenango Jaycees and a graduate of both Leadership Chenango and Norwich Citizens Police Academy.
When asked why he was again seeking a seat on the district’s board of education, Hollifield said there were multiple reasons.
“I care about my district,” he said. “I care about kids getting a diploma.”
The current school board is divided, Hollified said, which he said contributes to a “morale problem” in the school district.
“If we’re going to improve morale on our board and in our school, we have to start talking to one another,” he explained. He has the ability, he said, to talk to both sides on an issue.