New York State Senator Marc Panepinto of Buffalo held his last district-wide roundtable discussion with several schools superintendents Thursday in the Kenmore-Tonawanda Union Free School District. But it served as a first roundtable session for Senator-elect Chris Jacobs, who will take over in the 60th Senate District next month.
Panepinto created a series of on-going conversations after he was elected in 2014. Held quarterly, Panepinto said the sessions helped him gain critical input on education issues.
“Putting my finger on what I think is the pulse of the most important thing that we do in the state – is educate our youth,” stated Panepinto. “I’ve brought superintendents in my district together. I’ve got nine school districts. We’ve got four of them here today. We’ve been meeting quarterly since February of 2015. It’s really about getting a dialog to see how the state can assist them with education funding.”
Jacobs embraces the sessions. "I just thought it was a great idea," remarked Jacobs. “One of the main problems, I think in Albany, is losing sight of what the needs are in the districts they serve and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen here. It certainly didn’t happen when Senator Panepinto was in and I would like to continue that,” stated Jacobs. “I can be a better senator with on-going dialog with the superintendents.”
Panepinto said he learns something new each time he has held the roundtables.
Four of nine school districts were represented at Thursday’s meeting. Kenmore-Tonawanda Schools Superintended Dawn Mirand attended. Mirand stressed the need to have contact with the district senator.
"I think it was just a peaceful transition, working with one senator to working with another. We basically reviewed the issues,” Mirand said. “There is a lot of unknowns year to year. We try to anticipate the funding we will receive, but we don’t really know. The conversation here today helped focus on what support the senator can give to us in our local district and help us have a more consistent funding.”
Also represented at Thursday’s district roundtable was Michael Cornell, Superintendent of the Hamburg Central Schools, Dr. James Newton, Superintendent of Tonawanda City Schools and Robert McDow, Assistant Superintended for Grand Island Central Schools.
Superintendents from Buffalo, Frontier, Lake Shore Central and Orchard Park Center Schools did not attend the session.
Funding remains a key school district issue, specifically the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA).
Jacobs said he is hoping to expand the roundtables and establish sessions for teachers and parents.
“So I get the perspective of those constituencies too,” remarked Jacobs.