There will be two (2) openings for the Board of Education for the May 18, 2021 budget vote. The Board members will serve a three (3) year term commencing July 1, 2021 and expiring June 30, 2024.

Candidate bios will be posted to this page as the vote date approaches. The following individuals (in alphabetical order) will appear on the ballot:

  • Renee Gilbert

  • Alicia O'Donnell

  • Heather Sternin


View the recorded Meet the Candidates Night video below:

**NOTE: All viewpoints expressed are those of the candidates, and do not reflect the policy or position of the Tonawanda City School District.



Heather Sternin

What is your educational background?
I hold a Master's degree in Special Education and am also certified in Social Studies 6-12.

What is your occupation?
I am a retired teacher. I taught at Niagara Academy (an alternative school) for Orleans-Niagara BOCES for 30 years.

Tell us about your family.
I was born and raised in the City of Tonawanda. My spouse and I moved next door to the house I grew up in so that we could take care of my Mother after my Father died. 14 years ago my nephew came from Texas and I was appointed his legal guardian. He attended Tonawanda Middle and High School making us a 3 generation family of Tonawanda graduates.

What are your community affiliations?
I have participated in many volunteer and fund-raising activities in the City of Tonawanda and surrounding areas. Some of these include the St. Francis food pantry, the St. Francis Service Fair, Harzfest, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Tonawanda school supply drive, and the Family Justice Center. I have also coached girls sports and was a volunteer basketball coach at St. Francis.

What experience do you have?
I am serving my second term on the Tonawanda School Board. During that time I was involved in the search and hiring of a new Superintendent and third year as Board President. I was part of the Board that was able to complete plans and secure funding for the Fletcher School consolidation project. I was active in the dissemination of information that allowed the referendum for this project (Tona2020) to pass.

What is your reason for running?
Foremost, I am a great supporter of education. I think it is important that ALL children in Tonawanda have access to a strong, diverse educational program. Tonawanda is a small community that faces many changes and challenges. I have been proud to help our schools rise to the challenges. I feel that I offer a unique perspective to our Board. I am a graduate of the City of Tonawanda School District and was the legal guardian of a student in the district. As a former teacher, I understand how school districts work, as a past officer in the Teacher's Association at Orleans-Niagara BOCES I understand those goals and principles. I am retired and share the concern of other retirees and senior citizens about the costs of living in and maintaining a home on a fixed income. I have enjoyed giving back to my community by serving on the School Board and would like the opportunity to see the capital project (Tona2020) to completion. I would also like to be a part of transitioning our schools to post pandemic status.

Renee Gilbert

What is Your educational background?
I graduated from Tonawanda High School and attended Niagara Community College.

What is your occupation?
I work as an Administrative Assistant at St. Francis Early Childhood Center. I also supervise the after school program for the students in our district at St. Francis.  On the weekends I am a waitress at my daughter’s BBQ restaurant.

Tell us about your family.
My husband and I have 4 beautiful children that have all attended the City of Tonawanda School District. Victoria , Gabrielle, and Jordyn have all graduated and our son Lucas is currently in 10th grade. We also have 2 grandchildren.

What are your community affiliations?
I am the Director of the City of Tonawanda Youth Board . The Youth Board offers scholarships to seniors who are Tonawanda residents.The Youth Board also offers a week long sporting events for middle and high school students.

I am a charter member of the Friday Foundation. This foundation was formed to offer adults with disabilities the opportunity to enter the workforce. We are in the final stages of opening a coffee shop that will allow adults with disabilities the chance to gain life skills in the workplace.

I am a member of the St. Francis of Assisi Early Childhood Advisory Board.

I am currently a Board of Education Member.

What experience do you have?
I have been a Board of Education member for the past 3 years. I have had the opportunity to serve on the Policy Committee, Audit Committee, Code of Conduct Committee, and a liason to the PTSA. I was able to collaborate with other board members, administration,and teachers to work towards one common goal.

Serving on many boards and committees throughout the years, it has given me the opportunity to work with all different types of personalities, intern creating wonderful teamwork skills I can continue to apply on the Board of Education.

What is your reason for running?
I have enjoyed serving on the school board the last 3 years. As a board member, I have sat on many committees where I have represented the board. I’m looking forward to seeing the TONA 2020 project completed. I am so excited to see such a modern building in our district that will allow for our students to thrive in their education, while having all of the perks of the new bells and whistles.

I am interested in getting more involved in the Erie County Association of School Boards. I am so motivated to start advocating for students at this level. I have learned how important it is to meet and speak with our local politicians. Our voice needs to be heard and understood.

Our district continues to move forward always having our students best interests in mind at all times. Despite this difficult year the teachers and staff continue to do an outstanding job .

Volunteering in different organizations throughout the community has brought so much joy in my life. I have loved meeting so many wonderful people. Continuing on the board will allow for me to expand my volunteering journey and continue to advocate for ALL children. 

Alicia O'Donnell

What is your educational background?
I attended high school in Rochester, NY at School of the Arts, where I graduated with a Regents degree. I went on to study interior design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC before returning to Monroe Community College in Rochester to study Liberal Arts.

What is your occupation?
I am currently a stay-at-home parent for my three children. Prior to that, I worked in corporate settings, which I think brings a different skill set to our current Board. I ran a branch of a call center where I was responsible for all aspects of branch management, including staff development and accountability, achieving client goals, and maintaining expenses. I also worked as an account executive for an employment agency where I recruited, interviewed, and evaluated qualified applicants.

Tell us about your family.
My husband, Jared, and I are both transplants from out of the area. He is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and I grew up in Rochester. We have lived in City of Tonawanda for 15 years. Our son, Aiden, is in 5th grade at Fletcher Elementary, and our son, Evan, is in 3rd grade with our kindergarten daughter, Bridget, at Mullen Elementary. We love living in this community and often feel grateful we found such a gem in WNY!

What are your community affiliations?
Prior to the pandemic, I was a volunteer in the office at St Francis Outreach, and I am looking forward to returning to that now that the kids are back in school full time. I have been a member of the PTSA for several years and have served as the Box Tops Coordinator for the last two years.

What experience do you have?
Being on the Board of Education would be a new experience for me and I am excited about the training opportunities that are provided by the ECASB and BOCES and look forward to attending those. I have participated on interview panels for teachers and principals in the school district and was part of the Covid-19 Reopening Plan Committee in August of 2020.

What is your reason for running?
With the changes coming in the next few years with the TONA2020 initiative, I would love the opportunity to help see that project through to completion with the best possible outcome for our students. I think as a Board member, being available to the community beyond Board meetings is important; once we resume normalcy post pandemic, it is critical to be involved at school events and games, not just attending the Board meetings only. 


Starting Feb. 9, 2021, applications can be picked up at the Board of Education Office, 100 Hinds St., between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Applications can also be picked up at any public BOE meeting.

Completed petitions must be filed with the Board Clerk no later than April 28, 2021 at 5 p.m.


  • 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