CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — School board elections are being held on Tuesday in communities throughout the Capital Region. Some of the campaigns are hotly contested and unlike any school board elections in recent memory.

David Albert, spokesperson for the New York State School Boards Association, says his organization is seeing many new first time candidates running for school boards.

“So we have a combination of more first-time candidates seeking positions on school boards. And fewer incumbents running. And that could be for a number of reasons,” said Albert.

During the pandemic, mask mandates, the COVID-19 vaccine, and social issues sometimes transformed typically sedate school board meetings into protests. Some feel deep seated anger or frustration over these issues could be playing out during school board elections.

“I’ve never seen any school board race like this. Ever,” said Seema Rivera, the President of the Guilderland Board of Education. Rivera is not running this year as she is in the first year of her third term. But right now, in her community, there are 10 candidates vying for three board seats and a fourth seat that was left open after a recent resignation. She feels that national politics and misinformation has opened the door to a culture war within small town elections.

“You know if I don’t get involved. Or, if other people don’t get involved, we have people with bigger agendas coming and pushing that on our kids in school,” said Rivera.

Nicole Gendron is a conservative candidate running for the Averill Park board of education. She is running for the first time. Gendron is one of eight people running for three open positions in her Rensselaer County community. “I decided to get inside the school board race primarily for my children and my family and my community members.”

David Albert advises voters to research the candidates and the issues they stand for. “Get to know who the candidates are. Find out their platforms and just make an informed choice when you vote.”