Two express interest in Auburn school board leadership posts | Education | #Education

The current president of the Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education is looking to remain in that post, but a new board member is eyeing the vice president slot.

At last week’s school board meeting, Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo asked which members were interested in leadership positions for the 2022-23 school year. Current president Ian Phillips said he was interested in continuing in the role, and Danielle Wood expressed interest in the vice president position, which is currently held by Dr. Eli Hernandez.

Phillips, an employee with the New York State United Teachers union, first joined the board in 2018. He was voted by a majority of the board to be president last year.

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After Phillips expressed his intention to pursue the presidency again, Pirozzolo asked if anyone else was planning on running for a leadership slot, and Wood expressed interest in the vice president role. Hernandez, the current vice president, said he supported Wood.

In a text message, Phillips told The Citizen he wants to keep leading the district’s fight for a fair amount of foundation aid for the district.

“We’ve made good progress in getting our fair share of funding from the state. I’m really focused on that job to set our students and staff up well into the future. If we can achieve that we can both deliver for our students but also keep the burden on local taxpayers under control,” Phillips said. “Our advocacy work at the state level is something I’m proud of and we have a great mix of new energetic board members and experience — I’m hopeful that I can help harness these strengths to deliver for our students.”

Wood originally came onto the board in 2019 and successfully secured reelection for a new three-year term earlier this year. In an email to The Citizen Thursday, Wood talked about why she is seeking the vice presidency.

“I was interested previously in running for a leadership role on the board. After completing my first term, I have gained a lot of knowledge, and am eager to continue to keep learning. For the last three years, I’ve been committed to working hard by attending our regular meetings, committee meetings, and anything I am able to district-wide. I care a lot about our community and truly enjoy my seat on our board, and would work hard to support our students and staff as Vice President,” Wood said.

Hernandez, coordinator of data management for the Syracuse City School District, has been on the since board since. He was the vice president for the 2020-21 school year and was voted into that role again for the current 2021-22 school year. Hernandez told The Citizen Wednesday that he wasn’t interested in the president or vice president spots for the upcoming school year, and he said he feels he can take “a real role” in different school board committees.

He added that he feels Phillips has been doing “a phenomenal job” as the president and described Wood as “a worker” and cited her efforts on various committees.

“It is right for her to take on that leadership role and then be able to roll that out and say, ‘OK, who’s doing what, who’s doing this?’ And I think that it’s great for her to be in that leadership role and I can be a mentor if she needs me to,” Hernandez said. “I think we’re in a good place.”

The board’s reorganization meeting, where the leadership spots will be officially voted on, is set for 4 p.m., Thursday, July 7, at the Harriet Tubman Administration Building, 78 Thornton Ave.

• The district acknowledged two outgoing school board members and the board’s current student representative at Tuesday’s meeting. 

Current Auburn board members William Andre and Jeff Gasper, who chose not to run again, and student representative Kiearalyn Mathis, were recognized by Pirozzolo. Andre and Mathis were physically at the meeting, while Gasper attended remotely.

Pirozzolo praised Gasper, who has been on the board since 2016.

“Mr. Gasper, I want to thank you so much for all that you’ve done for the children and for the staff here in Auburn, in our community. We very grateful for everything that you’ve done,” Pirozzolo said. “You’re a very genuine man, very caring, and we’re going to miss you greatly on this board of education.”

Andre has been on the board since 1999, Pirozzolo said. Pirozzolo also said that Andre will continue to represent Auburn on the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES board, so he “still be reporting back to us probably quarterly next year, so we’ll be able to still see his face throughout the year next year.” Pirozzolo thanked Andre for all of his work.

“You have made a lot of decisions, you’ve accomplished so much (for) so many children, generations. We are very grateful for you serving on our board of education all these years,” Pirozzolo said.

Mathis, a high school senior, joined as the student representative in September. She was the student representative for the year, as a proposal for a student representative was approved by community voters in June 2020. The student liaison can’t vote or participate in executive sessions but can be involved in discussions. That proposal for a student representative was approved again by the voters earlier this year, and is set to last every two years.

Pirozzolo told Mathis that the district is appreciative having a student on the board, “because you ground us, right, tell us what’s going on in the minds of our students.” He added that all of them are there for the students.

“You help us make sure that we don’t lose that focus. With that, I’m so thankful that you sat on the board of education. I hope you can use this experience as you move on to college and other endeavors, but we are very thankful,” Pirozzolo said.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.



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