CAIRO — Six candidates are running for three open seats on the Cairo-Durham Central School District School Board in the May 17 election, as three incumbents run alongside three challengers for a trio of three-year terms. The election will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Cairo-Durham High School Distance Learning Room.
Holder Dale Handel is a Cairo-Durham graduate and father of four Cairo-Durham students.
“I’m a local business owner and taxpayer,” he said. “I learned firsthand how powerful good schools are in nurturing and supporting students. Schools do more than just cover the curriculum, manage classrooms, and prepare students for life after high school. Good schools help students feel accepted, safe, and loved. Many of our students struggle with many challenges at home, which inevitably affects their ability to concentrate and succeed in school. This makes the role of schools in creating safe and loving spaces even more critical. It also means that we need to look at the education system in context.
“One thing I hope to bring to this race is to focus on how Cairo-Durham works to determine how students show up or don’t show up at school. Teachers cannot do this work alone. It is important that the families of our students have stable housing, food security, health insurance, employment, mental health treatment services, etc. The community school movement is a good start to solving this problem, but we need to think bigger, starting with how schools are funded.
Tonya Warner Frickey
Incumbent Tonya Warner Frickey grew up in Acra and attended Cairo-Durham Elementary and Middle School until moving to Kinderhook in Columbia County. After graduating from Ichabod Crane Central School in 1988, she attended Potsdam College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English writing and communication. Pursuing a career in teaching, she later earned a master’s degree in secondary education from Russell Sage Graduate School and a master’s degree in information science from the University of Albany.
In 1995, Frickey began his career in San Antonio, Texas, teaching high school English and social studies. In 1996 she accepted an English teaching position at Vanderheyden Hall in Wynantskill. A year later, she began teaching English at Germantown Central School, where she remained for five years. In 2000, she was elected to the Taconic Hills School Board and served for two years before accepting a position as an English teacher at Taconic Hills.
After teaching English for 21 years, she has taken on a new position as the Middle and High School Library Media Specialist in Taconic Hills. Additionally, she is an adjunct instructor at Columbia-Greene Community College and the University at Albany. Last spring, she was elected to the Cairo-Durham Board of Education and served as its newest member for the 2021-2022 school year. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her three children. She and her partner, Robert Orin, live in Round Top.
Holder Todd Hilgendorff graduated from Cairo-Durham in 1998, then earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Cornell University and a Masters of Education from College of St. Rose.
“I worked in education for 17 years,” he said. “For eight years I taught middle school science in the Guilderland Central School District. Since 2013, I have worked in education leadership at the Greenville Central School District, first as a principal of secondary school and then in my current role as Director of Curriculum.At the same time, I enjoyed being responsible for Rotary’s youth exchanges, as it was a way to create links between the school and the community. Education is not only my profession, but also my passion. I come from a family where education has always been important. As a member of the Cairo-Durham School Board, I am a third generation board member following in the footsteps of my mother and grandfather who both served on the Cairo-Durham board at different times.
“I enjoy building school-community relationships and developing programs to meet the different needs and interests of our youth. I am proud to be part of our board and appreciate the different perspectives we bring to the table while sharing a common goal of making Cairo-Durham the best it can be for our students. As a resident of Round Top, I hope to be re-elected as a member of the Board of Directors so that I can continue to use my expertise and knowledge in education to serve as part of a team dedicated to the continuous improvement of our school.
James H. McManus III
Challenger James McManus is a lifelong resident of Cairo.
“I grew up in Acra and currently live in Round Top,” he said. “I graduated from Cairo-Durham in 2001. After high school, I earned a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Maritime College and a merchant marine license from the US Coast Guard. I was also commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy Reserve. I’ve spent the last 16 years going to sea as a merchant navy officer. During this time, I married my wife Felicia and we welcomed two children into this world who both attend Cairo-Durham Elementary School.
“In September, I retired to focus on raising and advocating for my children. When I started this journey, I never imagined myself running for the school board, but the events of those last few years have forced me to take the lead as a parent and question some of the decisions made by the school district. I would like parents in this neighborhood to find their voice. I would like to help make Cairo-Durham a place where we are proud to send our children.
Challenger Cheryl Moore grew up in Otsego County and attended the University of Albany, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Education.
“My partner has been teaching at Cairo-Durham Elementary since 2002, and we moved to Cairo in 2015,” she said. “We have been so touched by the outpouring of support and kindness from our neighbors and friends here, and have felt at home ever since. In 2019, I earned a master’s degree in learning with emerging technologies from Empire State College, while working as an instructional designer and educator at the State Employees Federal Credit Union Institute for Financial Wellness. Our daughter will be graduating from Cairo-Durham High School in June. I have been an active parent and volunteer since 2002. I am interested in serving on the board of directors to make positive contributions to district leadership as an advocate for parents, students and employees.
“Our district needs to build trust, collaboration and a shared desire for excellence among board members, families, students and administration. My strengths include valuable leadership, project management and communication skills, as well as critical thinking, teamwork, compassion and high quality work standards. I need to support impactful public education by: reducing leadership turnover; establish a partnership between the board, staff and the community; raising standards of education and professionalism. There is talent in Cairo-Durham, but there are systemic issues and miscommunications blocking progress. I want to mend the cracks so we can live up to our motto “Expect Excellence”.
Challenger Dermot Gavin is a lifelong resident of Durham.
“I graduated from Durham Primary School in 1996,” he said. “I have a BA in History from Virginia Military Institute and a MAT in Social Studies from Russell Sage Graduate School. I taught 9-12 social studies for 9 years before transitioning to full-time active duty with the New York Army National Guard as an infantry officer. I am currently a Major and Operations Officer for the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“Tara and I have two sons who attend Cairo-Durham Elementary School and a daughter in middle school. We want to help continue capital, academic and athletic improvements in Cairo-Durham. As a member of the Cairo-Durham School Board , I plan to use my experience as an educator and combat leader to ensure that all children in Cairo-Durham have the best educational experience.