New Your State School Boards Association

Three new directors join NYSSBA Board

by Cathy Woodruff

On Board Online • January 9, 2012

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

NYSSBA begins 2012 with three new members of its board of directors: Michael Ellis (Area 2), Christine Schnars (Area 3) and Willa Powell (Big 5 city school districts).

Ellis and Schnars were both elected by NYSSBA member boards in their respective areas to two-year terms. Powell was appointed by the Conference of Big 5 School Districts to a one-year term.

An election is also taking place in Area 8 to replace Antha Robbins, who plans to step down from NYSSBA’s board. Results will be available on Jan. 27.

Michael Ellis Michael Ellis

As Area 2 Director, Ellis represents school boards in Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties. He replaces Thomas Nespeca of Webster, who was elected president of NYSSBA for 2012.

Ellis chaired NYSSBA’s Resolutions Committee in 2011. He has been a member of NYSSBA’s Federal Relations Network and has participated in NYSSBA’s State Issues Conferences.

Ellis has been on the Bloomfield School Board since 2006. He is currently serving his second year as president. He has served on the board’s policy, budget and negotiations committees.

Ellis is first vice president of the Four County School Boards Association, where he has been second vice president, program planning vice chair and legislative vice chair.

Ellis is an oncology social worker with Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.  He has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Nazareth College and a master of science in social administration from Case Western Reserve University.

Ellis resides in Bloomfield. He and his wife have two daughters and a son.

Christine Schnars - Area 3 Director Christine Schnars

As Area 3 director, Schnars represents school boards in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Steuben counties. She succeeds Delores Ackerman of the Cattaraugus-Allegany-Erie-Wyoming BOCES board in the post.

Schnars has been a member of the Jamestown school board since 1987 and is president of that board. Last year, she began a second four-year term on the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Board. She also is president of the Chautauqua County School Boards Association.

She is the former administrator of Emeritus at Lakewood, an assisted living facility just outside of Jamestown, and is a state Senate appointee on the Citizen Review Panel for Child Protective Services of Western New York.

A graduate of Jamestown High School, Schnars and her husband celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary this month. They are the parents of four adult children and have four grandchildren.

Willa Powell - Conference of Big Five Willa Powell

Powell, of Rochester represents the state’s Big 5 city school districts – Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and New York City and Yonkers – on NYSSBA’s board.

She succeeds the Rev. Gerald Sudick of Yonkers.

Powell, who first was elected to the Rochester school board in 1997, was elected last year to a new four-year term on the board. She has chaired the board’s Finance Committee for several years.

Powell has twice served as president of the Conference of Big 5 School Districts.

Powell has worked as a computer programmer for Chase Manhattan Bank and as an independent computer consultant. She was a personnel officer with the U.S. Army Reserves for  21 years.

She has just completed two years as president of Citizens for Midwifery, a national consumer advocacy organization that promotes midwife care for childbearing women.

Powell and her husband have three daughters, including a married college graduate, a college student, and a high school student, and a son in elementary school.

Born in Ottawa, Canada, she graduated from Hammondsport High School in Steuben County and received her bachelor’s degree in CPA accounting from the Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Barbara Bradley, deputy director of communications and research, contributed to this story.


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