Meet Oxford’s School Board Hopefuls
Published: May 12th, 2011
By: Melissa Stagnaro

Meet Oxford’s school board hopefuls

OXFORD – Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Oxford Academy and Central School Board. The positions up for grabs are those of incumbents Gene Rood and Mary Branham, both of whom are running for re-election. They face opposition, however, by way of challenger Julie Gates.

In the order they will appear on the ballot, those candidates are:

Gene Rood

Gene Rood is seeking his third term on the Oxford’s Board of Education.

“I’d like to continue providing my time, energy and talent towards keeping Oxford Academy & Central School vital and academically strong,” the Oxford native said.

During his tenure on the board, Rood says he’s learned the position is time consuming, frustrating, complicated, challenging and interesting.”

“Being a board member is balancing resources, while still trying to maintain quality programs for students; academically, socially and morally,” he explained. “Being a board member is supporting (and) attending the sports, National Honor Society, Class plays, music and arts programs.”

His favorite part? Shaking the hands of graduating seniors as they receive their diplomas.

In addition to serving on the Oxford Board of Education, Rood sits on the board of directors of the Norwich Family YMCA and serves on the Village of Oxford’s Wastewater Commission.

A professional engineer by trade, Rood is treasurer of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Ithaca Section. Through the group’s student chapter, he occasionally works with civil and environmental engineering students at Cornell.

In the budget issue of the Blackhawk Bulletin, Oxford’s district newsletter, the veteran school board member talks about the “fun” parts of the job, and all that he has learned over the last six years. He also describes his frustrations with the state’s laws and policies concerning education and Albany’s “inability to provide solid fiscal guidance” for schools.

“It has been a very interesting experience and I would like to continue,” he concluded.

Julie Gates

Oxford resident Julie Gates has long been an active participant at Oxford school board meetings. Now the working mom says she’s ready to trade her seat in the audience for one at the board table.

“I have been attending meetings, listening, commenting and communicating with the board and the school district for the last 10 years,” she said. “Now I feel I have time to dedicate to the position.”

Gates herself is an Oxford graduate, having moved to the district when she was just five. She and her husband of 26 years, Lyndon, have two sons, both of whom attend the Oxford Middle School.

“I think being honest, up front and willing to ask questions and communicate questions and concerns to the board members, community, and staff is very important,” she said. “I would like to help do this.”

Gates has long been an advocate for education. On the local level, she is a past president of Pumpkin Shell Nursery School and has served on the Shared Decision Making Teams at both the Primary and Middle School. Since 2009, she has sat on the board of the Oxford Community Youth Center, of which she is currently vice president.

But she has also gotten involved on the state level. In 2003, she testified before the New York State Senate on the importance of early education. Her advocacy efforts earned her a Parent Activist Award from the Emergency Coalition to Save Universal Pre-K, as well as a proclamation from the New York State Senate. From 2007 to 2009, she served as a parent advocate on the Governor’s Children's Cabinet Advisory Board.

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