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April 20, 2021: Seven candidates seek election to four board of education seats

On May 18, 2021, residents will elect four members of the Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District Board of Education. Voters will fill four vacancies: three three-year terms and one two-year term. Seven candidates are seeking election to the four available seats. The three candidates with the highest number of votes will fill the three-year terms. The fourth-highest will fill the two-year term.

Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at J-D High School, 6845 Edinger Dr., Syracuse. More information about the proposed budget and the vote is available on the Budget and Finance web page.  

The board of education candidates are listed below in the order they will appear on the ballot.

Jalal Zoghby

Jalal Zoghby, of Woodberry Lane, Fayetteville, is seeking his first term to the J-D Board of Education. He is a 15-year resident of the district, and he and his wife Eileen have four children: three at J-D High School and one at Moses DeWitt Elementary School. He attended high school at Saint Joseph School in Lebanon and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in international business from Syracuse University through Utica College. He is a self-employed licensed sales representative providing insurance and financial service through a State Farm Insurance office that he runs with his wife. He has coached J-D Little League softball and JDYAA girls basketball and for the past 19 years taught religious education at Holy Cross Church.

Candidate Statement

Professionally I listen every day to people’s concerns, needs and help them find solutions. As an immigrant, I understand that culture and diversity is what makes up our community. When working with clients, not everyone responds in the same way. I carefully deal with people on their terms, so we can work together to solve problems. This is how I approach raising my children. As a father of four with a special needs child, I quickly understood that every child has different needs. I will use this knowledge and life experience in making decisions that can affect the J-D community. 

Kelly Austin

Kelly Austin, of Ledgewood Drive, Jamesville, is seeking her first term on the J-D Board of Education. Austin is an 11-year district resident. She and her husband Michael have four children, three at J-D High School (Grace, Georgie and Gabby Paparo) and one (Luke) at J-D Middle School. She graduated from Anthony A. Henninger High School in Syracuse, earned an associate’s degree in mathematics and science from Onondaga Community College and studied environmental science and biology at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She is currently employed at HDR Inc. as a geographic information systems (GIS) analyst focusing on desktop mapping in the environmental/hydropower sector. She is a volunteer for JD Little League, JDYAA Basketball, Operation Graduation, and chair and volunteer for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation One Night Gala.

Candidate Statement

As a mom of four children currently in the school district, I feel confident in my community connections, experience with our educators and student/teacher needs. I have participated or assisted in organizing events at each of the school's campus through chorus, band, basketball, little league, gymnastics, track and lacrosse. Given the ages of our kids, I am aware and have experienced the curriculum at the K-12 grade levels and feel I could offer valuable, fair insight into the board's agenda.

Rev. H. Bernard Alex

Rev. H. Bernard Alex, of Newfield Road, Syracuse, is seeking his first term on the J-D Board of Education. A 19-year district resident, he and his wife Jahnjae have four children: two are Cicero-North Syracuse Central School District graduates and two are J-D High School graduates. He is Bishop Senior/Pastor at Victory Temple Fellowship Church in Syracuse and director of ministries for its Ministry Outside The Walls community outreach and development program. He graduated from Bishop Grimes High School, earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English education language arts from Tuskegee Institute University; and a Doctoral Degree in theology from St. Thomas Seminary. He served on the J-D Strategic Planning Council, which focused on developing the district’s 2021-25 strategic plan. He is currently a Town of Dewitt Police Commissioner. 

Candidate Statement

I am committed to assist in efforts to ensure that all students of our district are given an opportunity to grow, develop, receive a sound and well rounded education; that the culture of our district reflect the rich and wonderful diversity of our community. I am committed to bringing my passion, love for our community and insight that will equip our students to leave J-D with the tools and heart to successfully face the world. I have a grandson at Moses Dewitt so I am fortunate to have generational experience with the district, yet a vibrancy for change and advancement. 

Ruth Arena

Ruth Arena, of E. Genesee Street, DeWitt, is seeking her first term on the J-D Board of Education. She is a 12-year district resident, and she and her husband Douglas have three children: two at J-D Middle School and one at Moses DeWitt Elementary School. She is a LeMoyne College adjunct lecturer in dance and is responsible for writing curriculum, teaching courses, choreographing shows and mentoring students. She is also a faculty member at The Ballet & Dance Center where she teaches technique classes, contributes to curriculum and policies, mentors students, interfaces with families and choreographs performances. She attended Capital High School in New Mexico and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in dance from University of Arizona and a Master of Arts Degree in teaching artistry in theatre and dance from Wayne State University. She is involved in the Moses DeWitt Parent Teacher Group, is a faith formation teacher at All Saints Church and a choreographer and producer for National Water Dance. 

Candidate Statement

I believe in public education and the powerful foundation for success it offers students. My professional work as an educator is grounded in asset-based, student-centered teaching practices. J-D is a community rich with diversity and our students, teachers, families, staff, and administrators deserve the support necessary to affirm and sustain diversity in a welcoming environment with high expectations and rigorous instruction. Serving on the school board will allow me to share my knowledge and work collaboratively to build on our district’s strengths. J-D can shine as a leader in educational excellence and an ambassador for true diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Carolyn Souser

Carolyn Souser, of Thunderhead Lane, Jamesville, is seeking her first term on the J-D Board of Education. She is an 18-year district resident. She and her husband Ken have two children, both J-D High School students. She is a Webster High School graduate and earned her Associate in Applied Science Degree in fashion buying and merchandising from SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology, a Bachelor of Science Degree with a major in home economics and a minor in business from SUNY Oneonta, and a Master of Science in Education Degree with a K-12 concentration in family and consumer sciences (FACS) and career and technical education from SUNY Oswego. Due to COVID-19, she stopped working in October 2020 as a FACS teacher for the North Syracuse Central School District so she could support her children's hybrid educations. While her children attended Jamesville Elementary School, she was an active member of its Parent Teacher Group and served as a den leader for Jamesville DeWitt Cub Scout Pack 156. Because of COVID-19 concerns, she is presently not involved on any J-D committees. She is a former board member and sustaining member with the Junior League of Syracuse and a member of the Friends of the Central Library in Syracuse.

Candidate Statement

Watching my husband Ken Souser serve on the school board, I knew I could use my master’s degree in education and NYS certification to help our district move forward in a positive direction. The roles and responsibilities of teachers, administrators, and parents are far greater than they’ve ever been before, which in turn constitutes a greater need for attention in all aspects of the education process. By bringing my knowledge and skills as a teacher to the J-D Board of Education, I am confident in my ability to help navigate our school district and would welcome the opportunity.

Emily Costello

Emily Costello, of Hamilton Parkway, Syracuse, is seeking her first term on the J-D Board of Education. She is a 14-year district resident, and she and her husband John have twin boys at J-D Middle School. She is a senior occupational therapist at SUNY Upstate Medical University  where she helps people who have suffered a stroke or brain injury to regain their independence. She is also a mentor for newly hired occupational therapists, assisting with professional development, evaluating evidence and providing best practice and clinical excellence. She graduated from Tunkhannock Area High School in Pennsylvania and earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in occupational therapy from Kean University. At Tecumseh Elementary School, she volunteered as a room parent and at kindergarten orientation, bus round up and baskets and bingos. Through her employer, she co-organized an October fundraiser and breast cancer walk team as well as fundraising and volunteering at an event for veterans’ organizations and Donate Life Month. To raise awareness of stroke signs and symptoms and money for stroke patients, she volunteers at stroke walks, bowling events, baseball games and a booth at the New York State Fair. She also volunteered for a three-day overnight camp for stroke survivors and caregivers.

Candidate Statement

Recent events this year have motivated me to run for school board. Like others, I have realized the importance of mental health and access to education, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, ability or socio-economic status. Our school is an extension of our larger community, and I would be honored to represent the public on the board. I have dedicated my career to helping others, and it is part of who I am. I know how to listen compassionately, evaluate data, and use my energy to motivate others. Please consider me to represent you on the Jamesville-Dewitt School Board.

Lisa M. McKenney

Lisa M. McKenney, of Wedgewood Terrace, Syracuse, is seeking her first term on the J-D Board of Education. McKenney has lived in the district for 17 years and has one child who is currently a J-D High School student. She is First Vice President - Investment Officer at Wells Fargo Advisors in Syracuse and has been a financial advisor for 25 years. She works with families and business owners to navigate the different financial phases of their lives and to build a comprehensive financial plan with personalized solutions for their specific goals and needs. She is also a  Syracuse University Professional Advisor Network (PAN) member promoting philanthropy. McKenney was the valedictorian of her Milton High School (Milton, Vermont) graduating class and earned a bachelor’s degree in health science from SUNY College at Cortland. 

Candidate Statement

This is a unique time in education. My commitment is to look for ways to safely say YES to all children and their diverse needs. Whether opportunities are in the classroom or extra-curricular, my commitment is to safely challenge our students -- intellectually, socially, physically, and emotionally. I am a team player and solution-oriented, listening to all perspectives before finalizing a decision. I believe the school board's role is to ensure a supporting and enriching environment that allows students, parents, and educators to collectively determine the most appropriate methods to access and leverage the various services and opportunities our district provides.

Scott Ogata- Petition Withdrawn



Dr. Peter Smith, Superintendent

P.O. Box 606
DeWitt, NY 13214

Phone: (315) 445-8300

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