By Anastasia Gelardi
On Tues., April 7, 2015, the Batavia School Board Election welcomed two new members to its board and re-elected one. John Dryden, a former social studies teacher at Batavia High School, received 62 percent of the votes in the election as a new candidate.
This year’s School Board Election in Batavia included eight total candidates, with only a three chair availability. These three seats went to Cathy Dremel, who was re-elected, Chris Lowe and John Dryden, who are new to the school board.
This election attracted more voters than it has in a couple of decades. 3,701 citizens voted at this year’s election. That’s 18.4 percent of Batavia’s population. Because people were allowed to vote for three candidates, a total of 10,338 votes were counted. John Dryden received 2,302 of these, making him the candidate with the most. Chris Lowe, the candidate with the second most votes, received 700 votes less than Dryden.
¨Dryden’s story has become almost national,¨ said Scott Bayer, a current social studies teacher at Batavia High School, and good friend and former colleague of Dryden’s. ¨The story of his retirement from the high school and the other stories regarding him and the school district are very compelling to people, making them more interested in the school board politics.¨
John Dryden taught social studies courses at Batavia High School for 21 years. Much of the controversy between him and Batavia Public School District 101 began in April, 2013 when he informed students that they had a fifth amendment right to not potentially incriminate themselves while taking a survey at the school regarding drug, tobacco, and alcohol use. The district claimed to be attempting to identify students that needed help.
This story was a headliner both locally, and nationally. In October, 2014, Dryden made the decision to retire from teaching in the district after being suspended from teaching for three days without pay because of what the district felt was an ¨unauthorized¨ lesson.
¨John wasn’t planning on retiring, he wasn’t ready to, it’s not a choice he would’ve wanted to make at that time and in that way,¨ Bayer said. ¨He brought so much benefit to the department and we were much stronger when he was here.¨
A couple of months after retiring from his teaching job, Dryden decided to run for the Batavia School Board.
“The teacher’s association has been talking about running retired teachers for school board for some time. It is difficult to get anyone to step up to the plate though,”Dryden said.
“I realized that I was going to continue to lose every battle I was fighting with the administration about what would be taught and how, as long as I was in the classroom. I can continue to fight from the school board in a better position.”
Dryden received support from former students as well as Batavia High School alumni during the campaigning process.
“I think he will make a great school board member because many students and parents of the school were positively impacted by his teaching and parents are often supportive of their kids,¨ said Samantha Fricano, a sophomore at Batavia High School and former student of Dryden’s.
Dryden’s slogan was “Putting Students First” during his campaign.
“The primary message to the community was that we have to put the students before any other competing interest,” Dryden said. “I have the advantage of having been in the classroom here for 21 years and I know how things actually work – or don’t.”
Although Dryden has retired from teaching at District 101, he will now be apart of its school board. I asked Dryden how he felt about the future of his chair on the school board.
“I think the community understands that I will fight for policy that will benefit the students, and I believe that the community knows I will put the student’s interests before my own.”