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Board of Education Election

School Board Candidates

There will be two (2) openings for the Board of Education for the June 9, 2020 budget vote. The Board members will serve a three (3) year term commencing July 1, 2020 and expiring June 30, 2023. The candidates running are:

  • Dennis R. Atkinson
  • J. Mario Peña
  • Kristin Schmutzler
  • Jeff Thorp

STUDENTS FROM TONAWANDA HIGH SCHOOL WILL BE MODERATING A "MEET THE CANDIDATES NIGHT" ON JUNE 4, 2020 AT 6:00 PM. MORE INFORMATION ON THE EVENT CAN BE FOUND HERE

APPLICATION PROCESS

Applications can be picked up by contacting the District Clerk via email at dmaxwell@tonacsd.org or by phone at (716) 694-7784 and leaving a message. Calls will be returned within 24 hours on weekdays.

Completed petitions must be filed with the Board Clerk no later than May 11, 2020 at 12:00 Noon.

QUALIFICATIONS FOR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERSHIP
  • Citizen of the United States
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Resident of the district for one school year prior to the election
  • Able to read and write

Candidate Bios

  • **Candidate Bios will be posted here as they are received.

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    Kristin Schmutzler:

    Formal Education

    Bachelors in Early Childhood and Childhood Education - Niagara University

    Masters in Elementary Education - Niagara University

    Occupation

    I began my career as a K-8 classroom teacher at St. Gregory the Great, and continued as a fifth grade classroom teacher at Buies Creek Elementary. I then, chose to stay home to raise my children. Presently, I am employed as a substitute teacher at St. Francis Early Childhood Center.

    Family

    I have been married to my husband, Bryon, for 15 years. We have three ambitious children, all of whom attend public school in the City of Tonawanda.

    Community Affiliations

    I have served on the Tonawanda Central PTSA Executive Board for 7 years, and currently hold the position of treasurer. I have been a weekly volunteer in the schools/classrooms since 2011. I am a City of Tonawanda graduate. My sons are a part of a local Cub Scout pack, where we actively take leadership responsibilities. Also, my husband and I coach and help out at T.A.L.L.

    Experiences

    I have served as a school board trustee for the past 3 years. Within those years, I have been actively engaged with school events, committees and board of education workshops/programs. I was recently awarded the Erie County Association of School Boards’ Shining Star Award for my service and participation. I have collaborated with other WNY school board members and administrators. I have met with local Senators and Assemblymen to advocate for public school and our school district. Before being voted onto the board, I had sat on the Superintendent Interview Committee, the Budget Advisory Committee and the District Wellness Committee.

    Reason for running

    I am running for the Board of Education because I am passionate about the students, families, educators and the future of the City of Tonawanda Schools. I want to make sure that we continue to make the decisions that will move our children forward. The experiences that I had as a student in Tonawanda is what has fostered my love of the classroom, and I want to ensure that all students are given the same opportunity to enjoy learning. I am confident that my experience, leadership, involvement and commitment will continue to be asset to the Board of Education.

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    Dennis R. Atkinson:

    What is your educational background?

    I graduated from Hamburg High School in 1967. I have a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in education from UB and a master's degree in educational administration from Canisius College.

    What is your occupation?


    I am retired but worked in several different occupations over a long career. I was a medical and scientific photographer for the UB Medical School for twelve years and then, for the next twenty, ran a small business (a photo lab and multimedia production company) that employed about a half a dozen people. I went back to school in 2001 and became a high school teacher, then an educational administrator/manager until my retirement in 2019.

    Tell us about your family.


    I have been married to Clare Westra since 1970. Clare is a THS graduate who worked at DeGraff as a registered nurse until her retirement. We have two children, both of whom attended Tonawanda CSD schools from kindergarten through their graduations from THS. Melinda is a teacher in the Sweet Home School District and Scott leads a team of computer software developers for a bank in the Washington, DC area. We have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

    What are your community affiliations?

    I am a member and officer of Niagara Dive Rescue, a volunteer organization that provides water safety services for hydroplane races and other events.

    What experience do you have?

    I was a member of the Tonawanda Board of Education from 1992 through 1998 and served for two years as vice president and one year as president of the board. It was that experience that persuaded me to return to school and become a teacher. I taught English at the Harkness Career and Technical Center to students pursuing vocational programs (auto tech, computer networking, etc.) Later, as an educational administrator, I was the manager of testing and of the educational data warehouse for the Western New York Regional Information Center. I and my team of about fifteen people were responsible for all of the high school New York State Regents and Grades 3-8 ELA, Math, & Science tests for the 89 school districts we served. Much of that work involved helping teachers and administrators analyze test results to improve student understanding and performance.

    What is your reason for running?

    Education is the most important service that a community provides to its citizens. This year we will face an unprecedented challenge in financing our schools. I can help the board and administration address that difficult task. I understand the educational system and am very familiar with school budgeting. I would like the opportunity to add my voice to the process.

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    Jeff Thorp:

    What is your educational background?

    I received my Bachelor Degree from SUNY Geneseo and Masters Degree from Buffalo State in Mathematics Education. I have been a middle school teacher for fourteen years.

    What is your occupation?

    I am a middle school math teacher in the city of Buffalo. In addition to teaching, I have worked as my schools Data and Testing Coordinator, Technology Coordinator, and teacher mentor during my tenure.

    Tell us about your family.

    My wife, Amanda, and I have two children ages 5 (Kindergarten) and 8 (3rd Grade). Both of our children attend Riverview Elementary. I grew up in the Town of Tonawanda while Amanda grew up in the City of Tonawanda. We have lived in the City of Tonawanda for the past decade where we and our children have loved attending and participating in many activities our great community provides.

    What are your community affiliations?

    I’m a member of the Tonawanda PTSA where I have helped coordinate and volunteer with fund raising.

    I am also involved with the COT Neighbors United group where we help organize events for our community.

    What experience do you have?

    As a teacher, I have worked with parents, teachers and administrators for my whole career. I’ve analyzed educational reports and data for years. Along with most educators, I have continued learning educational best practices through numerous professional developments each year. I have also trained other teachers in math education techniques and using technology in the classroom. During the past few months, I've had the hands on experiences in remote learning. I have shared in many of the challenges and successes our students and staff transitioning to remote learning and have good insight into what our district is working with in this turbulent time. I feel I'm in a unique position to lend my knowledge and experiences to assist our Board of Education in it's decision making.

    What is your reason for running?

    I want to help make sure all of our children receive the very best and most well-rounded education that we can provide. A well-rounded youth becomes a valuable community member. I’d love to have the opportunity to learn from and work with our current board members to continue to improve our city and give our kids the best education they can receive. I believe with the experience and passion that I possess, I would be a valuable voice to add to our Board of Education.

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    J. Mario Peña:

    Formal Education


    I graduated from Humble High School in 1992. I attended both University of Texas in Austin and Lone Star Community -North Harris for three years of undergraduate studies.

    Occupation


    I have held management and specialized positions in the retail and service industries for over the last 20 years. I am currently a Wine Education Coordinator with the Premier Group which just celebrated it’s 50 year anniversary. Before that I worked with an innovative wine retail start up as well as Sommelier in fine dining settings.

    Family


    Laura and I have been married for 9 years and she’s the reason we are here as I am from Texas. Our son Liam is attending Fletcher Elementary and is part of the leadership group there, where he can be found speaking to assemblies and excelling in his favorite subject of Math. We consider raising our son to be our greatest calling and occupation.

    Community Affiliations


    I consider my family and I to be the new face of the City of Tonawanda as we just bought our home here in 2018 and we’ve hit the ground running. I regularly attend BOE meetings and helped canvass for the TONA2020 referendum last year that I am proud to say passed overwhelmingly. Liam even went door to door with me. After attending the Pop Up Playground Fort Building Event last fall we joined COT Neighbors United to help make a positive difference in the community. Laura and I are also involved in the PTSA, Friday Foundation and the Tonawandas Historical Society. We believe in getting involved and volunteering.

    Experiences


    My experiences are simple ones. Adaptability, serving people and tireless work ethic are the experience I will bring day in and day out. From my humble beginnings, to recently moving across the country and now with Covid19, I have always been adaptable. Like many parents I am now guiding Liam through his schoolwork and I am proud to say he is excelling and everyday we find challenges and turn those into victories. I have spent nearly three decades serving people in various industries and now I realize the greatest service we can engage in everyday is service to our community. If chosen to serve on the BOE by you I promise to represent the students, educators and community members tirelessly.

    Reason for running

    I am a new face, a new voice, excited and full of energy to dedicate my time and effort to the community I have chosen to call home, the City of Tonawanda. I have hit the ground running and met so many great friends and neighbors and I look forward to meeting many more of you because I want you to know I am here to serve you, and to serve our community. My door is always open and you can count on me to reach out to you because together all of our schools and the Warrior Tradition will continue to improve for all.