Longtime B-W School Board Member Bids Adieu
Martin Schmotzer says a tearful goodbye to the school board on Wednesday night.
The always colorful and occasionally controversial Baldwin-Whitehall School Board member Martin Michael Schmotzer said goodbye to the school board and to the public at the end of a regular meeting on Wednesday night.
Schmotzer, who served on the school board from 1987 to 1993 and was later appointed back to the board in 2007, became emotional during the meeting's board member comments time as he reflected on his tenure in the B-W School District.
(Schmotzer was appointed to the board in November 2007 because he had earned the most votes out of all non-elected board candidates in that time's most recent local election. The resignation of board member Jane W. Hunnewell opened a spot for Schmotzer.)
"There are so many good people in this school district," Schmotzer said on Wednesday night. "Until you serve in an elected position, no matter what it is, you will not know the honor and the privilege it is to serve and to try to work for change, work for change on behalf of children.
" ... I gave it all in the time I was here. I'm the only one with a 100-percent attendance record in public meetings and executive sessions. I tell my kids all the time, 'I'm not the smartest guy in the room, but I'm always in the room.' No one's gonna start a meeting without me being there.
" ... I gave it all. In the process, I managed to incite, agitate, infuriate and exasperate almost everybody in this (board) room. And I'm very proud of it because I didn't come here just to sit around. I came here to effect change. I thought this school district needed a shot in the arm in '07.
" ... I tried the best I could, and I think we've accomplished a lot ... I had ideas. We put them into policies. We put them into motions."
Schmotzer turned his attention at one point to student Edward Lippl, the senior class representative to the school board.
"You (Lippl) and so many other children in this school district are the reason you come back and fight the fight.
"There's so many good members of this board ...
"This district's so lucky to have gentlemen like Mr. (George L.) Pry, Mr. (Kevin J.) Fischer and my brother (John B. Schmotzer) on this board. The work, the dedication they do—the abuse they get is so unwarranted, but there's a yin and yang to everything.
"Ms. (Nancy Lee) Crowder (another board member), I know your heart's in the right place. You've got a lot of potential. I want you to reach it. I know you care about children, and I wish you the best.
"Ms. (Diana) Kazour (another board member), you're 3-for-3 (in elections). You're 3-for-3. Good for you.
"Ms. (Laurencine) Romack (another board member), you shall return.
"Robert Frost talked about, in his poem ('Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'), '(And) miles to go before I sleep/(And) miles to go before I sleep.'"
Martin Schmotzer's voice then trembled a bit as he continued to speak.
"I can't tell you what an honor it was, especially as my daughters got older, to sit her with you and to see them grow in front of me. It seems the four years have gone much too quickly.
" ... This district has so much to offer in educational opportunities, extracurricular opportunities and athletic opportunities.
" ... We do so well and excel so well. And there's frustrations. And I have them with you, also. But there's a way to go about sharing your frustration. We don't have to be haters and (express) negativity all the time. We can get up and work together and join together and fight together to get better.
" ... And as Jack Kennedy always said, 'We can always do better. We can always do better.'
" ... If I was effective at all in the last few years, a lot of it has to do with (Board Secretary) Mary Ann Kraus. Let's put it this way: I had the opportunity to vent my frustration on one person on a continual basis—not daily but close—and I don't know anybody who's sharper in life (or) more dedicated to the district. She made me better, and she got the most out of me for this district.
" ... She taught me when I thought I knew everything. She taught me on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis. So I'm indebted to you very much.
" ... I think, as we move along, I won't be here (as a crowd member) on a regular basis, but occasionally, I will make a guest appearance. And it's gonna be fun to get up to the microphone and talk from the other side of the fence in the audience. I think that's our right. That's our duty."
He then turned to the audience.
"It's your duty to make us better.
"So, that's all I have to say. Thank you, God bless, and I'll never forget the experience. Thank you very much."
Schmotzer did not run for re-election this year. He announced publicly in March that he is suffering from two forms of cancer.
After speaking on Wednesday, the meeting's attendants applauded, and Pry, the board president, said the following:
"On behalf of the whole board, for your service, Marty, and Laurencine, for yours, those of us on the board recognize the amount of work, the amount of stress, the amount of ideas and fighting and good stuff and bad stuff. I appreciate you keeping us all to the task."
Martin Schmotzer, Romack and Kevin A. Stiffey are all leaving the board to be replaced by the newly elected Larry Pantuso, Tracy Macek and Ray Rosing. Pantuso, Macek and Rosing will be sworn in at the start of a Dec. 7 board meeting.
Stiffey left the meeting before board member comments time.
"I wanted to thank my fellow school board members," she said, "for giving me this opportunity to sit here with you. Even though we don't always agree on everything, each of these individuals is dedicated to the children in this district, and I do feel fortunate to have been able to be here working beside you."
Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch later on Thursday for more odds and ends from Wednesday night's school board meeting.