LETTER: On Penn Yan School Board candidates

Letter to the Editor

On Wednesday, May 4, I tuned into a “Meet the Candidates” opportunity offered by the Penn Yan Parent Teacher Group (PTG) to learn more about the four candidates vying for the one open seat on our school board. As a community member, I had several concerns that I hoped to see addressed during the meeting, and am happy to report that after the event, I feel confident in sharing my support for one candidate in particular. 

In my opinion, Kenneth Walker was incredibly well-spoken, supportive of education and educators, and an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools. He spoke several times about the importance of trusting teachers as experts in their fields, about his belief that the PYCSD staff always puts students first, and his awareness of the challenges that students, educators, and administration face every day. In addition to what I heard during the Q&A, I was also able to meet Mr. Walker the previous evening and spoke to him personally about his positions and values. I learned that Mr. Walker's family has become an active part of this community since their move, and heard about his genuine care for the well-being of the community, its students, and his openness to ideas from community members.  To my knowledge, he is the only candidate who has actively been reaching out to our local community and offering opportunities to have important conversations. 

In contrast, there are other candidates for this position who I feel would be incredibly detrimental to the well-being of every member of our district, especially our students and our educators. Brian Shriver -- whose public Facebook profile is riddled with dangerous conspiracy theories and political memes that mock our education system -- did not attend the Q&A, which I hope means he is effectively removing himself from candidacy. Kenneth Kamholtz, who arrived 20 minutes late and wore his baseball cap for the duration of the event, also has a public Facebook profile that is filled with misinformation designed to spark fear and confusion in his followers. I found his responses during the Q&A to be alarming at best, offensive at worst. Mr. Kamholtz was loud about wanting to dismantle the important diversity, equity, and inclusion work the school has been engaging in, and he confusingly insisted that DEI and social emotional learning is a “trojan horse.”  I believe his insistence that “Critical Race Theory” is being taught in our schools (it is not!) is a prime example of his tendency to use words and phrases that he does not understand to try to further his own political and religious agenda. When asked what he thought our school was doing well, Mr. Kamholtz's only response was that “all three buildings are up to date” and “there’s no slime coming down the walls anymore.” 

I encourage all of you to look into the candidates running for PYCSD school board, and I implore you to think about how their values and priorities could impact our school community. Check their public Facebook profiles (Ken-Cindy Kamholtz, Brian Shriver, Kenneth Walker), and visit the PYCSD website to watch the recording of the Q&A yourself. In my opinion, Kenneth Walker has the experience, knowledge, passion, and empathy that make him the best candidate for the open position. I look forward to voting for him on May 17.

Thank you,

Rachel Knapton

Penn Yan

EDITOR’S NOTE: Letter writers are responsible for making sure the information they submit is accurate and factual.