Follow Up on the
Good As Kingston!
hospital that we have come here this evening to dedicate
is not only a modern, new facility, it is a temple to life
and health. It is a monument to all the goals that men can
attain when they work together for the common good.”
LBJ said on August 19, 1966, with Senators Robert Kennedy,
Jacob Javits and Congressman Joe Resnick of Ellenville in
attendance.. “This hospital was built at a cost of
more than a million dollars. More than a third of its construction
money came from the Hill-Burton hospital funds provided
by your National Government. And I think most of the people
here this evening, the men and women, the boys and girls,
can remember when this was not possible…”
According to that same hospital’s CEO and President
of the past five years, Steve Kelley, that past moment is
as close to where he feels his facility is again headed
after 40 years of downward sliding, the last decade of them
particularly hard. Kelley said he is proud to have not only
stabilized Ellenville Regional after two bankruptcies, and
several changes in ownership, but introduced it to a new
period of growth that will see the inauguration of new building
projects heralding its having become the top area hospital
in terms of growth these past two years.
Kelley noted, though, that Ellenville was in a notoriously
hard-hit level of small-sized rural hospitals. At approximately
50 beds, it was half-size competitors such as Benedictine
and Kingston Hospitals, yet double the size of even smaller
rural entities such as Margaretville Memorial Hospital in
“When you look at what’s happening with small
hospitals closing or being swallowed up across the country,
we’re an unusual story… it’s as though
we had been swallowed and then regurgitated,” Kelley
said in a recent conversation about his hospital’s
trek back from a host of troubles lasting from the late
1990s into 2005. “We’ve rebuilt much of what
we have here, are creating a new senior housing complex
on our campus, redone all our services, added a new laboratory,
a new radiology department, and a new Emergency Room. We’ve
hired a host of new specialists and had a very good year
in 2007, financially and operationally, with this year looking
to be very good as well. We’re doing pretty well…”
Asked about how bad things got before the recent turnaround,
Kelley talked about both the hospital’s history before
Resnicks’ patronage and LBJ’s 1966 visit, and
the more recent troubles.
It all started, he said, as a Veterans Memorial Hospital
started after the First World War on a site now home to
the community’s synagogue. The first Veteran’s
Memorial Hospital, a not for profit community facility,
was established on May 30, 1923 with 12 beds. In 1924, construction
took place increasing the number of beds to 35. On March
20, 1966, Ellenville Regional Hospital opened its doors
with fifty-one beds.
In 1999, the hospital lapsed into bankruptcy and was taken
over by creditors, Kingston Hospital among them. Kelley,
an employee at KH, looks back with irony at having been
on a committee concerned with dealing with the Ellenville
mess of that time, brought on by years of contracting out
services and failing to bring in new revenue streams needed
to keep the institution solvent.
Following a brief period in 1999 under Kingston Hospital’s
wing (during a time, Kelley says, when that institution
was in the midst of a growth spurt that eventually saw it
start a health spa, build up its MRI capabilities, initiate
an in-patient rehabilitation program, and take on management
of Margaretville Memorial… later thwarted by problems
tied to “capitalization issues,” according to
Kelley), Westchester Medical Center purchased the hospital
for $1.5 million and agreed to run it as part of its own
regional growth plans..
Faced with its second bankruptcy in the winter of 2003/2004,
operating with only one to two days of operating funds on
hand, Westchester then announced its intentions to bail
out, at which point Kelley came on board to put together
a reorganization plan that included the participation of
the village of Ellenville, town of Wawarsing, the Ulster
County Legislature, Westchester Health Care Corp., state
and federal officials, and the hospital’s various
The resulting reorganization plan included what Kelley has
since called a “collateralized gift” of $600,000
from Ulster County, and the 2005 court-ordered discharge
of $13 million in creditor debts.
To help fuel Ellenville Region’s subsequent stabilization
and new growth, Kelley added, the hospital has partnered
with a private development firm for the construction of
the new senior housing project, with part of the financing
being used to buy out the Westchester “reverter clause”
option. In addition, the federal government, with help from
Congressman Maurice Hinchey, designated the facility as
a Critical Access Hospital, allowing it to receive higher
Medicare reimbursement that has inevitably boosted annual
revenue by as much as $500,000 a year.
Kelley said that the hospital completed payment of its collateralized
gift this past January, and had been turning a profit for
the past two years.
How’d they do it?
“Many things were involved, not the least of it a
lot of really hard work and our commitment to a philosophy
of Survival First, meaning we aimed at cutting expenses
and working towards a long shot plan that ended up coming
through for us,” he replied. “It took us 18
months to get through our reorganization plan. The hard
part, looking back, was ensuring that everybody agreed to,
and did, all the things they needed to do… In the
end it was quite remarkable to see so many people working
to save this hospital.”
He said he’s learned, over time, to be aware of every
opportunity at hand, from state energy-cutting incentive
funds, being used in the new entry-way construction at Ellenville
scheduled to start next Monday, August 25 to the Senior
Housing Complex, whose first section of 55 units is scheduled
to open September 1.
“The idea is to promote image and patient flow, to
instill confidence once again,” he said. “When
you improve people’s perception of you things tend
to get better.”
“I’ve found, over time, that is you have a static
organization, people lose confidence in it… especially
when it comes to healthcare,” Kelley added, speaking
from his years of experience throughout the region.
He said that, looking back to the hospital’s original
heyday in the 1960s, things were back to earlier expectations…
and fast becoming a beacon for similar, larger institutions
throughout the region, state and nation.
“We’re not trying to be everything here, and
never will,” noted Kelley. “In the corridor
of care we provide here, we just want to be second to nothing.”
been on paternity leave since October 5th, so I hadn’t
been in the school or contacted by an administrator, principal,
superintendent, athletic director, director of P.E. (Physical
education) or anybody until a week before school ended, which
was odd," Burkhardt noted. "We’ve never, in
the 4 years since I was hired as a high school ‘phys-ed’
teacher, been notified about our assignments. It was just
(understood) ‘you’re a high school teacher and
you’ll continue to be a high school teacher.’
That was it."
On this occasion, however, Burkhardt was told that when he
is scheduled to report back to work in March of 2009, it will
be as a physical education teacher at Phoenicia Elementary
School, where a recent retirement had created a vacancy.
Describing himself as baffled by the move, Burkhardt points
out that his entire career, in the Rondout system before Onteora,
has been devoted to the high school level, having "never
set foot in an elementary school before" as a teacher.
By all accounts, his performance at Onteora has been exemplary,
having introduced a flexibility to the phys-ed curriculum
to involve students of lesser athletic ability in a variety
of fitness enhancing activities which includes yoga, Core
training, dance, hiking and other non-competitive exercises.
Students and parents responded enthusiastically and are circulating
petitions to oppose the transfer. Not a word of detraction
has been advanced against Burkhardt by administration or community
members and he denies a rumor that he had a notice placed
in his file for having reported school safety violations to
state authorities. So, why the transfer?
"The general idea is that we had a retirement in the
phys-ed staff (at Phoenicia). We have a very stable staff
throughout the district and we have some language in our contract
that kind of increases that stability. It doesn’t allow
for a lot of movement," explains Onteora Superintendent
Dr. Leslie Ford. "So, when there is a retirement, then
we look at the entire district and all of the phys-ed staff
and do an assessment of what the needs are at that time."
Pointing out that a clause in the union contract applying
only to physical education teachers, "giving them slightly
different working conditions," allows for the shift,
Ford said that Burkhardt’s transfer was one of several
that were made in June and that his old position at the high
school was filled at that time.
"Well, we made several (appointments) and that would
have been one of them," Ford explained. "It gave
us the opportunity to look at the entire district, every situation;
what the conditions and needs are now for the phys-ed programs.
So, that’s the general idea."
Dr. Ford said that she thought Burkhardt would be able to
continue coaching at Onteora: "It has been resolved.
His placement next year will be at Phoenicia Elementary School."
Burhardt has continued his coaching activities while on leave
and a high school senior reports that he is there every day
at 2 o’clock to address any needs students might have.
Often he has gone into his own pocket to supply equipment
and other needs. He introduced an Onteora Special Olympics
team to the Ulster County Special Olympics Games for the first
time. His XC (cross country) and track teams have won Section
9 and MHAL championships but he can see his oversight of those
successes coming to an end.
Stressing the importance of day-to-day contact with the young
athletes, Burkhardt points out that the elementary school
lets out an hour later than the high school.
"Unfortunately, you can’t really coach any programs
when you’re at the elementary school," he said.
"By the time you get over to the high school, it’s
after 4 o’clock and there are days at the high school
that they don’t have late runs, so if you’re not
there, you can’t run a program. I’ve made it clear
that I’m incredibly saddened and disappointed at the
transfer. I prefer to continue motivating, inspiring high
school students and I feel bad the people in Phoenicia didn’t
have an opportunity to interview candidates with certainly
more experience than I have with that age group and hire someone
to implement the program they want at that school."
"If they were eliminating Patrick Burkhardt’s position,
saying we don’t need you anymore on a high school level,
so we’re moving you over here, it’d be a different
story," offers Tammy Alvarado, a parent supporting the
coach’s position and one who has expressed concern that
he was replaced while on leave and during a "lame duck"
period before a newly elected Board of Education could review
"Do we have any input into the decision making? No, that
transfer is a superintendent’s decision. (Dr. Ford)
clarified that at the (August 5th) meeting- that it should
not have been on the ‘consent agenda’ (for BOE
approval of administration recommendations), that it is her
decision, as a superintendent, to make, " observed the
new BOE President, Ralph Legnini. "We have influence
as it comes up for our decision making. It’s a new board
and it’ll set ‘broadstroke’ policy for the
district as it seems fit. Seven members agree on a quorum
and set guidance that way but we can’t micro-manage
every operational decision. We are as involved as it is within
our power to be."
Legnini said that he had heard nothing of a "whistleblower"
report added to Burkhardt’s file and put it in proper
perspective as he saw it: "When you’re on the board,
you do hear a lot of hearsay and, as a diligent board member
and, especially, as president, when I hear something I invariably
investigate and, though I haven’t been the board president
very long, I have found that almost every time I’ve
investigated, the hearsay was nothing more than hearsay.
"Every time someone writes a letter and says ‘Please
distribute to all board members’- if someone has a concern
or complaint, I’ve encouraged the community to ‘access’
us for anything. Come to Public Be Heard, leave information
for the board. We read everything and very diligently follow
up on everything. If there’s anything credible there,
then we pursue it. But, what I’m saying is, lots of
times it turns out to be hearsay."
Onteora Teachers Association union representative Corey Cavallero
said that he was aware of Burkhardt’s plight.
"Administration has the ability and responsibility to
staff their building and if they feel Patrick is better suited
to be in Phoenicia Elementary than the high school, then we
have to rely on their judgment. So, they must think Patrick’s
a better fit in elementary school," said Cavallero. "If
Patrick doesn’t want to go to Phoenicia, then we’ll
have to follow the process of a grievance. If he wants to
return to his position, we’ll follow any process the
contract allows us to."
Although Burkhardt’s supporters are pushing to have
the issue readdressed before the start of the school year,
Cavallero indicated that the union would look into whether
the transfer was performed appropriately only after Burkhardt’s
scheduled return in March.
"Contractually, when a transfer is done, administration
has to ask for volunteers," he said. "In this case,
it doesn’t seem as if that process was followed."
Section 2554 of New York State Education Law on the Powers
and Duties of the Board of Education would appear to give
the district board more say in such matters than they may
yet appreciate and Alvarado and other Burkhardt supporters
have stated that the board will be hearing more from them
Last month, the reassignment of two teachers in Guilderland
caused a commotion reported upon by the Albany press. The
"commotion" at Onteora pales in comparison but students
and parents are vowing to keep the issue alive and, they say,
it’s still early but not too early to return Burkhardt
to the high school.
The festival will start at the Ashokan Center
pavilion on Friday evening, 8-29 at 7pm with a concert featuring
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason along with the Walker Family Band
who will hold a short contra and square dance lesson prior to
the dance itself.
The fate of the 40 year old outdoor education center reached
a pivotal moment when Jay Ungar and Molly Mason of Fiddle and
Dance Camp fame heard that the center would be put up for sale
by Campus Auxiliary Services, an arm of SUNY New Paltz. Jay
recalls that “When it became clear that the college was
serious about selling the property, the group Fiddle and Dance
which Molly and I have been running for nearly 30 years and
other groups who use the place became very concerned about the
future of Ashokan and we called a meeting of the other groups
along with the campus director, Tim Neu to see how we could
preserve the campus and update and expand the mission to meet
todays needs. We all decided that we had a common interest that
we never really thought about before.”
“We all love this place and all these independent things
were going on. These different entities never really paid much
attention to each other and took it for granted that the place
would always be here,” Ungar added. “So now we realized
that we had to work together and we started to see that there
were great overlaps in what we were doing like concern for the
environment, concern for the property and concern for building
community. We started thinking about every group that comes
here including schools and how they leave here more bonded and
more of a community then when they arrived here.”
Ungar further noted that “We started thinking about the
community we were sitting in, the Town of Olive and how we haven’t
had very much connection with the town. So we are starting to
think of this as a place that engenders community and we are
asking how it can connect to its own community as well. Its
been operating for 40 years and it has mostly been a place for
groups to come. Sometimes Onteora schools will come but it is
still not well known and people still drive by and wonder what
it is. All of the user groups are now working together to have
these public events which have the environmental and arts focus
and which will also try to connect more with the local community.”
Molly Mason observed that, ” Many people have been coming
here every summer for 30 years and we have a large well of support
that has formed over a long period. People just love the place.”
Ungar then mentioned that “One of the things about the
Catskill Mountain Eco-Heritage Festival is to bring together
all these different factors and price it all so that everyone
could come and enjoy the campus. We were thinking of having
a fund raising event with a hefty price tag but we decided to
do a ‘fun-raiser’ instead that would be priced so
all who wanted to could come.”
Molly waxed eloquent when she described some of the weekend’s
“There will be a number of guided walks around Ashokan
so people can see some of the historic buildings, the covered
bridge built in 1887 or take the guided hike into the gorge,”
Molly said. “There will be some great music. Rich Bala
and the Barefoot Boys will play twice on Saturday afternoon
with more music and dance in the evenings. The weekend starts
Friday night at 7pm with music, dance and a showing of the film
Deep Water, which is about the building of the Ashokan Reservoir,
after which film-maker Tobe Carey will give a talk and answer
questions about the making of the film.”
A small tribute will be made to Artie Traum, who wrote the music
for “Deep Water” and who recently passed away. Ungar
said that “It is still hard to process fully that Artie
is no longer with us, it is a great loss.”
Tim Neu, longtime director of the newly re-named Ashokan Center,
said that, “This is basically our first public event as
the new Ashokan Center. There will be classes on the local geology
and hikes around the beautiful campus. There is a class on wood-fired
oven building that will create an oven for use around the campus.
It will be a new style of event for us combining nature, music
and the arts. We are pulling all of the disparate elements together.
We have done environmental education here for over 40 years
and we are now trying to get the local community involved in
what we do here. This is the new Ashokan.”
Neu added that “The transition involved us assuming a
lot more of the responsibilities that the Campus Auxiliary Services
arm of SUNY New Paltz used to assume. It has been a very busy
summer for us and thankfully Nancy, our office manager, has
risen to the occasion of a vastly increased workload. We have
retained our entire staff and have over 30 employees during
the school year.
More information and the schedule for the Catskill Mountain
Eco-Heritage Festival can be found at the Center’s website
Ashokancenter.org or by calling the Center at 845-657-8333.
The fee for the day is $5. The evening music and dance is $10.
Lunch is available on Saturday for a small fee.
The district would like to welcome two new folks. Middle School
principal Andrew Davenport, who officially started July 1, and
the new director of Pupil Perssonell, Joyce Long.
Long who was just approved by the school board, will be taking
over for Barbara Boyce after 21 years with the district. Long
officially begins the first week of school, but will overlap
with Boyce until October so the transition runs smoothly. At
a recent school board meeting Ford said, “She was the
unaminous choice of the shared decision making team, almost
without discussion, we were drawn to her experience, warmth,
intelligence during the interview process.”
Long has a record of experience in special education beginning
as a special education teacher. Upon becoming an administrator,
from 2001 to 2003 she worked as a Committee Chairperson for
the Hyde Park school district, from 2003 to 2007 she was director
of Kaplan school, a special education private not-for profit
school in New Windsor and in 2007 was principal of Sullivan
County BOCES grades 7-12.
In a special meeting August 25, the school board approved a
bid to Callanan Industries for $165,967 to repair and pave the
Middle/high school parking lots near the tennis courts and Woodstock
elementary parking lot. Ford would like to see the work completed
by the beginning of school year but is not hopeful. A few days
before school begins she said the lots slated for repair at
the Middle/High school will be closed off for a short time.
She said details on the jobs are a little sketchy since the
board just approved the bid, but she believes the work on the
lot will be done in stages.
At the OCS Board’s last meeting, on August 19, Dr. Michael
O’Rourke of Risk Management Department at Phoenicia elementary,
confirming that the high level of Manganese in the water at
the high school needed to be dealt with. Superintendent Leslie
Ford also said that based on a complaint given to the New York
Department of Health, the school board must act to rectify the
problem. But since this is a “secondary problem,”
as defined by New York State standards, no timetable was given
as to when the board must fix the problem.
O’Rourke listed five ways to filter or mask the Manganese:
by adding Polyphosphate, Ion Exchange (water softening), Greensand,
Chlorination with a sand bed filter or aeration. He noted that
the Polyphosphate sequestrate system would prove ineffective
to hot water.
Trustee Laurie Osmond asked what happened in the kitchen when
food is cooked using boiling water and Manganese dispersed through
steam as employees washed dishes. O’Rourke answered that,
“The minerals would oxidize fairly quickly, it would not
become airborne, it would become sediment, so becoming airborne
is not an issue.”
O’Rourke weighed all five systems with positive and negative
effects. The Greensand filtration system that the school board
requested more information on also had its drawbacks, needing
“excessive back washing…with the highest excessive
The estimated cost of Greensand filtration was $85,000, compared
to $10,000 to $30,000 for other systems. Point of use filters
also came to a dead end because they do not remove Manganese
and would not fit on the old pipes.
Subsequent discussion touched on whether or not an immediate
treatment of the water was needed or whether things could wait.
Superintendent Leslie Ford said she will gather more information
on the Boiceville sewer treatment plant being built in the coming
year and any limitations on OCS water treatment plans that that
may come into play from the New York City Department of Environmental
Director of Transportation David Moraca gave a lengthy presentation
based on complaints over the increased costs of bus contracts
and an update on variance students who arrived late to school
during the last school year. He defended the OCS Transportation
budget of $3,623,700, noting that if changes were not made the
budget would have increased at a higher rate.
Fuel use, he said, was reduced to 88,828 gallons due to mile
adjustments, “Which saved the district 16,000 plus gallons”
between the last two school years. He said with the cost of
diesel a little over $4 a gallon, “that cost savings multiplies
out to a savings of another $66,300.”
For safety reasons, Moraca would like to see monitors on the
buses, but practical and financial implications make it very
difficult. The district would need to hire around 50 to 60 employees
at an estimated cost of $449,552.70. He does not find this option
Moraca added that he is currently researching alvarious types
of alternative fuels including biodiesel, diesel electric hybrid,
liquid propane and fuel catalyst.
Russell Richardson, director of the INDIE program, also gave
a presentation in which he noted that the popular program still
did not have a signed contract for the coming school district.
He reminded the school board that the INDIE program is not a
film school, but a program specifically designed for at-risk
underachieving students that use media as a tool. He said if
the INDIE program is phased out, “the two main losses
will be support for our at-risk students and especially the
ninth grade class.”
Woodstock Elementary principal Bobbi Schnell gave an update
on the district’s recently released school report card
with newly released statistics for 2007/2008 grade Kindergarten-through-eight,
English Language Arts (ELA), Math and Science State Test Scores.
The district is meeting all of it’s progress goals, making
improvements and is in good standing. Middle School math and
ELA that did not meet its criteria in special education in 2007,
but made progress and was noted as being in good standing, as
well. Grade nine-through-twelve Regents results and graduation
rates were not available for 2008 because the State calculates
Cohort rates through August of 2008. The statistics should be
available some time next year.
The 2006-2007 New York State school report card, also recently
released, showed the district in good academic standing, with
some areas of concern in the Middle School. But it is making
progress while the three elementary schools remain in good standing
and the graduation rate is well above the State average.
In the areas of State English Language Arts (ELA) and Math,
test scores in grade eight math just squeaked by in meeting
the state standard among regular education students. But it
fell below its performance index in special education and students
at an economic disadvantage. This is the third year it was flagged
as not making yearly academic progress. Middle School ELA scores
met the State standards in mainstream education, but fell short
in special education where it has not met it’s yearly
In 2006 the district had an 86 percent graduation rate, but
students in the same cohort who continued a fifth year put the
graduation rate to 91 percent. The drop out rate is 3 percent
with 1 percent of students who drop out returning for a GED.
In other news, the school board asked for information about
starting a blog on the district website. Ford said there were
many legal obstacles of liability and risk. After Ford received
legal council on the matter she said there could be issues on
anonymous or fake letters written on the site. Reading from
a lawyers statement she said, “They (blogs) encourage
a free flow of information and by their nature, they’re
designed for anonymous commentary, often times they cross the
line from sarcastic, to defamatory and abusive.”
Also, the school board is making plans to hold one of its meetings
during high school hours, allowing students to participate.
Student representative William Melvin said it would be ideal
to make it optional for students and arrange it to benefit civic
Remember to drive extra safely during hours when school busses
are on the road from now on, and to wish all the kids you see
a good year ahead.
Jar Of Olives...
A Town That Cares & Shares
He gave his wife Mary credit for keeping all these mementos
that included a letter from Kent Reeves thanking him for his
service. Marty also remembered he burned out his motor that
day and that it was organized to commemorate the 150th anniversary
of the founding of Olive. Martha and Bob Steuding created a
play starring Dino and Marty Guiliano, Joe Nadotti, Everett
Cook, and Art Sampsen that was a re-enactment of that first
Town Board Meeting.
So that makes this upcoming Olive Day, which is on Saturday,
September 6 at Davis Park from 9 until dusk, the official 35th
one. The theme this year is a Greener Olive although the theme
for thirty-five years has been the same one—community
spirit. There will be, as usual, many fundraisers. The Democrats
are raffling off a cord of wood, which gets more valuable each
day as fuel oil skyrockets. The Olive Fire Department is hoping
to raise money to restore their original 1947 fire truck. They
will be raffling off a Cub Cadet riding mower with a 46-inch
deck as first prize, a chain saw as second prize, and cash for
third and fourth prizes.
The churches have already begun seeking donations for Shannon
Ryan who was badly burned in a gasoline explosion. A number
of groups have asked to help out this family, who has no health
insurance, at Olive Day.
Annie Van Kleeck, and mom Sharon, will be manning a booth called
Out of the Pits that will collect clean towels and blankets
to rescue dogs. Bring them that day.
There will be good food, good music, and lots of our neighbors
sharing and caring. My personal advice is to bring lots of those
address stickers to use on the Penny Social and raffles.
Olive Day always reminds me that school is open that week. On
the day that the students board their school buses, I will be
attending a Not-Back-to-School luncheon for retired teachers.
The Chicken Barbecue at the Reservoir Methodist Church will
be held the week after Olive Day on September 13 from 3-6:30.
A dinner costs $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for children under
twelve. They will also offer a half a chicken for $5.00, and
take-out orders are available. You can reserve tickets from
Don or Debbie Downes at 657-2055. Usually the ladies of the
church desserts donate the desserts, and if you are really lucky,
you can taste one of Sarah Fairbairn’s outstanding blueberry
pies. She is the lady who wrote a letter to the editor about
picking blueberries on the city property. I joked with her about
picking berries with one hand and carrying a fishing pole in
The next few weeks are usually the best of the year. The days
are warm and the nights cool enough to snuggle under a blanket.
Savor each moment as we slip from summer to September.