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Previewing BOE races in Auburn, Canandaigua, and Geneva as future of education remains uncertain in NYS

– By Gabriel Pietrorazio

This week contacted all of the candidates who are seeking election to their respective school boards in the cities of Auburn, Canandaigua and Geneva, asking each of them to complete a questionnaire about why they’re running for office and what are the unique challenges that their districts each face with uncertainties mounting due to the COVID-19.

Candidates are given until noon on Tuesday, May 26th to submit their answers for the questionnaire – and soon after, those same responses shall be published only here!

With unique races, here are our previews for the three school board races ahead of Tuesday, June 9th – the statewide school budget vote date.

Auburn Preview: Four Candidates – Three Incumbents and a Political Powerhouse

Inside the Auburn Enlarged City School District, three seats are open, each consisting of three-year terms but four candidates.

Three of the four are incumbents who seek reelection since joining the school board back in 2017 – including, Eli Hernandez, Rhoda Overstreet-Wilson, and the current Vice President Joseph Sheppard.

However, the fourth candidate is not unfamiliar to politics in Patrick Mahunik, a former member of the Cayuga County Legislature as an independent.

Mahunik also served as a member on the Cayuga Community College Board of Trustees and presides as the principal of the Newfield High School in Tompkins County.

List of Candidates:

Eli Hernandez (incumbent), Rhoda Overstreet-Wilson (incumbent), Joseph Sheppard (incumbent), and Patrick Mahunik

Canandaigua Preview: A Classic Head-to-Head

For the Canandaigua City School District, one vacant seat with a five-year term is up for grabs in a classic head-to-head race between a long-time law enforcement professional and a decorated career educator.

Kevin Collea served on the force with the Canandaigua Police Department, spanning 20-years, and worked as a deputy at the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department for the past 19-years.

Collea currently serves as a school resource officer in the Manchester-Shortsville school district, and owns a property maintenance company, KC Services, for 25-years.

A graduate from Finger Lakes Community College, all of six of his children graduated from Canandaigua Academy. 

Julianne Miller serves as the director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life and Hillel adviser for the Office of Spiritual Engagement at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

A graduate from Princeton University and Brown University where she earned her master’s degree in history, Miller has a rooted background as a lifetime educator.

Before arriving to the Colleges, Miller served as a high school social studies teacher in Massachusetts and New Jersey, and taught middle school in Rochester.

Inspired by her faith, Miller has served as a former president of the Board of Trustees at Temple Beth-El in Geneva, where she and her family are members of that temple and the Temple Beth-El located in Rochester.

She and her husband have raised three children, one who is currently a sophomore at Canandaigua Academy, a seventh grader at Canandaigua Middle School, and a second grader.

List of Candidates:

Kevin Collea and Julianne Miller

Geneva Preview: A New Batch, Nine Candidates – One Spot

In a toss-up race for one seat, Michael Ellis seeks to stave-off eight other candidates to retain his status as a sitting member on the Geneva Board of Education.

Ellis, who joined the board back in 2015 for a five-year term aims at keeping his spot against a large outing with a field of candidates.

Most notably, Sarah Cupelli, the newly assistant superintendent for the Auburn Enlarged City School District vies for the coveted spot.

Antonio Gomez, a produce supervisor and manager at Peterson Farms, pastor for the Church of God in Farmington and former appointee to the Geneva Human Rights Commission ran an unsuccessful campaign bid for City Council Ward 1 this last fall in 2019 against current Ward 1 City Councilor Tom Burrall.

RJ Rapoza comes from a versatile background in several higher education positions.

As former adjunct professor at Monroe Community College, former assistant director of Career Services for First-Years at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and former director of Academic Success at Finger Lakes Community College, he currently serves as the co-director for the Manressa Program Le Moyne College.

Brian Finnerty, the owner and manager of Pedulla’s Discount Wine & Liquor Store has entered the race.

Finnerty is also a member of the Geneva Volunteer Fire Department and the Rotary Club, who remains active within the community.

Other candidates include Fred Brockway, a prominent volunteer who is known for his countless charitable works with the Smith Opera House and BluePrint Geneva, among other organizations and causes.

Samuel Cappiello, a former member on the city’s former Board of Ethics Committee and Lisa Pietrocarlo, a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance are both contending for the open seat as well.

List of Candidates:

Fred Brockway, Samuel Cappiello, Sarah Cupelli, Michael Ellis (incumbent), Brian Finnerty, Antonio Gomez, Shelley Higgins-Corbet, Lisa Pietrocarlo, and RJ Rapoza