May 17, 2013

Four seek Ti School Board seats

BY LOHR McKINSTRY Press-Republican

---- — TICONDEROGA — Four people are seeking to fill three Ticonderoga Central School Board seats up for election.

Incumbents R. William Grinnell, Robert Palandrani Jr. and Mark Russell and challenger Tracey Cross-Baker square off in the election, to be held noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, at the High School and Hague Community Center.

The terms are for three years, and the top three vote-getters will take the seats.

The Press-Republican asked the candidates what they’d like to see the district accomplish if they’re elected. Here are their answers:


A lifelong educator, she said she has devoted her career to helping students at all levels prepare for success in school, life and work.

“I am a candidate for the Board of Education because I believe it is essential to have parent and student input in critical decisions that face the School District.

“Going forward, district priorities should include: ensuring an affordable yet comprehensive educational program for all students; improved communication between the school, families and taxpayers; and proactive efforts to address the funding challenges ahead.

“It will take creative thinking, fiscal responsibility and dedicated community collaboration to address these timely issues. I welcome the opportunity to represent our taxpayers and families and to support our students and staff to ensure this district remains a strong and innovative school for years to come.”


He supports the Adirondack Initiative, which seeks to improve the state’s funding formula for rural school districts.

“I am seeking re-election to the School Board to further the momentum of the Adirondack Initiative, developed by the Ticonderoga District. We now have well over 20 other districts and municipal groups, towns, villages and counties that have joined with us in supporting our position.

“I feel this resolution, when presented to our state leaders, will result in significant changes in how rural schools are funded.

“The current funding (state) aid formulas are very inequitable for the Adirondack Park districts and put our students at a distinct disadvantage with students in the rest of the state.

“This organized effort is long overdue, and I will do everything I can to bring this matter to fruition.”


Ticonderoga and Hague’s lakefront areas make the state think the district is well off so state aid is less, Palandrani said, but that isn’t really the case.

“It’s frustrating with the state. They have us ranked with Lake George. But we have a high poverty rate.”

He said the staff made salary concessions three years in a row, but a lack of state aid forced cutbacks in their proposed budget this year.

“It’s not our fault. The system doesn’t work; it’s broken. I’d like to the state to come back and fix our situation. I think it’s at a state level.”

As a School Board member he must balance concerns of parents, taxpayers and staff, he said.

“We’re trying to balance what’s best for everyone without taking away from the children.”


Russell, who’s completing his third term on the School Board, said the district offers many positive opportunities to the community, families and students.

“We need to continue to focus on long-term objectives in programs, facilities, collective bargaining and cost management.

“The district, with board support, must continue to explore and develop shared-service programs like we conduct with Crown Point and Schroon Lake or participate in merger studies with area districts, like the current one with Crown Point.

“We recently completed a building project that greatly improved our school safety, building efficiencies, program opportunities and technology infrastructure.”

He said greater citizen involvement and communications about district issues would help the community.

“During this time of year, there tends to be an increased amount of negative communications due to school budget discussions and details associated with those efforts. In this next term, I would like to see continued improvement with community engagement and district communications to support the long-term objective planning.”

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TRACEY CROSS-BAKER Town: Ticonderoga. Age: 44. Education: Ticonderoga High School graduate; bachelor's degree in government and sociology, St. Lawrence University; master's in higher education and student affairs administration, University of Vermont; advanced studies certificate, school counseling, SUNY Plattsburgh. Occupation: Director, Center for Career Development, SUNY Plattsburgh. Civic organizations: Chair, Distinguished Young Woman of Ticonderoga Scholarship Program; member and past president, Ticonderoga Parent-Teacher Organization; St. Mary's Folk Group; National Association of Colleges and Employers; College Student Personnel Association of New York state; Ticonderoga Elementary School Playground Committee. Family: Husband, Stuart; children: Douglas, grade 7, and Chloe, grade 3. R. WILLIAM GRINNELL Town: Ticonderoga. Age: 66. Education: SUNY Canton, two years. Occupation: Building contractor, retired. Previous School Board experience: Ticonderoga School Board, 15 years, 1984-96 and 2010-2013. Civic organizations: Ticonderoga Elks, Ticonderoga Masons, Ticonderoga Little League. Military service: U.S. Army National Guard. Family: Wife, Laurie; three grown children and one son, Lucas, in school. ROBERT PALANDRANI JR. Town: Ticonderoga. Age: 47. Education: Queensbury High School. Occupation: Marina owner. Civic organizations: Knights of Columbus. Previous School Board experience: Ticonderoga School Board since 2004. Family: Wife, Pamela; four children: two adults, one in High School headed to college and one in Middle School. MARK RUSSELL Town: Ticonderoga. Age: 52. Education: College of St. Joseph, bachelor's degree; North Country Community College, associate's degree. Occupation: Northeast region manager, Customer Technical Service, International Paper. Civic organizations: Ticonderoga Country Club Board of Directors; Youth sports volunteer, coach and umpire; Knights of Columbus. Previous School Board experience: Ticonderoga School Board since 2004. Family: Five children: three grown, graduates of Ticonderoga High School, and two in High School.