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Three board seats contested by four candidates in Morristown

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MORRISTOWN – Three seats on the board of education are contested this year with four people seeking election.

Current Vice President of the Board W. Darrell Merkel and Board Member Mary Anne Bailey are seeking reelection with Mark Blanchard and Larry Kring running as well.

Mr. Merkel, whose five-year term is up this year, said his love of education is the reason for his desire to continue to serving even though it’s a tough time for small schools.

A 38-year veteran of schools in New Jersey, where he served as a teacher and administrator, Mr. Merkel said, “I believe in education and this is my time to give back.”

Mr. Merkel has served as the board’s vice president for the past three years and says he’s “enjoyed being in that position.”

Besides serving on the board, Mr. Merkel also works with students at Morristown in the Rocket Readers afterschool program.

“I do that at the grassroots level and on the board I hope to better the entire school,” he said.

Ms. Bailey is also seeking reelection.

A high school teacher at Carthage Central School and a resident of Morristown, Ms. Bailey said she brings four important perspectives to the board.

The first is as a parent of a 10th grader in the district. She’s also a tax payer in the district and says keeping taxes at a reasonable level is a high priority for her.

As an educator and board of educator Ms. Bailey believes she is bringing perspectives that others might not have.

Recognizing that it’s a challenging time for small schools Ms. Bailey said, “We need to be looking at the things we can change.”

Specifically she said there are good “opportunities that exist to be part of this regional high school or maintain what we have and bring more programs. It’s important to be proactive and not get bogged down by things we can’t change.”

A graduate of SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam, Ms. Bailey was a summer resident of Morristown before moving to the town permanently after high school.

“The board has very simple requirements. You have to live in the district and you have to be able to read and write. I can at least be able to make an informed decision,” she said.

Mrs. Bailey was elected to a one-year term last year.

Mr. Blanchard is no stranger to the district either. Currently a high school teacher a co-president of the Morristown Teachers Association, Mr. is retiring this year and sees the board as a way for him to stay connected to the district.

Originally from Tupper Lake, Mr. Blanchard has been a teacher in Morristown for roughly 40 years. “I feel I’ve got a lot of things I can bring to the table, having worked here a lot of years,” he said.

As co-president of the teachers association, a position he’s held for the past eight years, Mr. Blanchard said, “I’ve negotiated contracts so I have knowledge and experience in those areas. Obviously I have a perspective from one side and I will learn and see the other side if I get elected.”

His time with the teachers association has also allowed him to develop a working relationship with the board and administration. “We’ve had a good relationship with them. I don’t think we’ve have anything adversarial there,” he said.

Another aspect he would focus on if elect is the presentation of the district in the public sphere.

Mr. Blanchard said he hopes “to create a more positive image in our school. We seem to get beat up quite a bit in the media. I think some of that is misinformation. We’ve done a lot of good things here and they seem to get kind of overlooked.”

The final candidate for the board of education is Larry Kring, the husband of current board member Jane A. Kring who has opted not to run for reelection.

A Morristown native, Mr. Kring works at Claxton Hepburn Medical Center as a physician and has two children in the district with a third who is approaching school age.

“I want a solid educational foundation for them,” Mr. Kring said.

But he isn’t walking in without an understanding of the difficulties facing the district. Besides his wife, Mr. Kring’s mother, Melanie Kring, served on the board, giving him an appreciation for what it takes to be on the board.

“I know it’s a tenuous time for the school district in terms of funding,” Mr. Kring said. “I think the budget is probably the biggest limitation for schools. It trickles down to a difficulty in giving a good education to students. It’s important to stretch the money as far as it will go.”

So far Mr. Kring has been “Talking with people in the community and trying to get a feel for where people are at.”

With all the tough decisions facing the board in the coming years, including possible regionalization, Mr. Kring said, “Certainly thinking outside of the box is what we’re going to need.”

Voting will be held in the main lobby of the school from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

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