MILTON

Milton School District officials have long said their schools are crowded.

The school board ballot will be congested, too.

Eight candidates are running for three spots on the board. The district will need to hold a primary Tuesday, Feb. 20, to narrow the field to six contenders before the April 3 election, Administrative Assistant Kim Krause said in an email.

Two incumbents, Shelly Crull-Hanke and Brian Kvapil, are running for re-election. School Board President Bob Cullen, who has served six terms, is stepping aside.

Kvapil is finishing his first year as a school board member. He was an outspoken critic of the district’s 2016 facilities plan to build a new high school, and he formed his own advisory group that recommended expanding current buildings instead.

After an $87 million capital referendum failed narrowly in November 2016, Kvapil was elected to fulfill a one-year board vacancy the following April.

He continued advocating for less costly solutions to Milton’s crowding issues once elected. When the board decided to go back to referendum last fall, Kvapil was the lone dissenting vote.

He is seeking re-election because there is “unfinished business” when it comes to Milton’s facilities, he said.

“We need to prioritize what we need to fix as far as the ADA, safety and the school district facilities and get them up to where they should be,” Kvapil said. “That’s still going to be the number one priority because nothing’s getting better just doing nothing.”

Crull-Hanke was elected to the board in 2015 after running unsuccessfully the previous year. The Gazette was unable to reach her for comment Tuesday.

Newcomer candidates include Tony Astin, Joe Martin, Diamond McKenna, Brent Miller, Harvey Smith and Gabriel Szerlong. At least one of those six will earn a school board seat because of Cullen’s decision not to run for re-election.

Astin told The Gazette on Tuesday he felt he would be a good representative because he has three kids who attend school in Milton. He’s never been on the board before, but as vice president of the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce he feels he has a strong connection to the community, he said.

If elected, his main priority would be “a willingness to listen to ideas,” he said.

Martin ran unsuccessfully for school board in 2012. He was active in citizen groups that advocated for referendum passage the past two years, and he served on a facilities advisory committee about a decade ago, he said.

While he believed Milton’s two failed referendums were viable solutions, he understands the majority of district voters feel differently. The two sides need to find middle ground, he said.

“Having done the background work I’ve done, I’m still convinced of the need,” Martin said. “Obviously, voters didn’t choose that, but we’ve got to find a path forward.”

In a December press release announcing her candidacy, McKenna said she and her husband recently relocated their business to Milton because of the school district’s strong reputation.

Szerlong said in an email he wants to balance the needs of residents who have children in the school district and those who do not. He would try to ensure all voices are heard while still providing the best education possible.

The Gazette was unable to reach Miller or Smith for comment.

UPDATE: This story was updated at 9:40 a.m. Jan. 8 to include Szerlong's comments.

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