all of the sessions have been slimly attended to date, even
though some of the ideas being discussed – and not
talked about – would have monumental effects on the
shape of the region as we now know it. According to demographic
data presented at each of the meetings, the projected enrollment
of the district will be down by approximately 25 percent
by the year 2011, reducing the need for three elementary
schools, as currently exists. Combined with strong suggestions
from the state and federal government that all school districts
institute some form of separate Middle School facility,
big changes are afoot.
Currently, the grade seven and eight middle school is not
meeting some of its Federal Standards through the No Child
Left Behind Act.
Bennett Elementary School, which everyone seems to know
would make for the best Middle School location, because
of its shared campus with the High School – yet which
no one will discuss because of the recently-demonstrated
loyalty of Olive voters – was the first to hear KSQ
presentations on Thursday November 17.
OCS Superintendent Justine Winters said during the Bennett
meeting that parents have explored the possibility of having
one elementary school at each end of the district, but added
“no one wants to see a school close in their community,”
even though implementation of a middle school covering grades
five through eight would suggest closing an elementary school.
A proposal was made by a middle school steering committee
to reconfigure and separate the middle school from the high
school. During the Bennett meeting, discussions turned to
suggestions of a middle school either as an extension to
the high school or via renovation of the West Hurley School,
even though a number of people raised concern with West
Hurley because it is not centrally located to the rest of
When asked if Bennett could become a middle school since
it is part of the central location, Winters referred to
a multi-million dollar renovation bond that would be necessary
for any changes and said, “I do not recommend it.
The voters passed a bond, I do not want to go against it.”
Five years ago Onteora passed a referendum to upgrade Bennett
School that ended up being challenged by former board member
Joseph Doan around the same time the district came under
fire for planning to change its Indian mascot.
At Phoenicia Elementary School on Monday, November 28, parents
and Onteora district community members brought up concerns
about a number of issues including poor community turnout
during the KSQ architects presentation. Phoenicia parents
expressed worry over dwindling enrollment, and whether such
could create an obstacle for the need of improvements to
school buildings making it less likely for voters to support
a potential bond. They noted that Phoenicia is becoming
a “bedroom” community, where houses are sold
to weekenders who pay taxes, but do not vote school issues
and asked Quadrini if this is a trend throughout the valley.
Quadrini responded, “Everything north of Yonkers and
South of Albany has been steady and we are seeing growth,
but your circumstances are unique compared to other districts
we were working with in the region, but we do not see changing
enrollment as a positive or negative, it is a factor we
need to address and the idea for you as a community is to
be proactive and not reactive.”
School board member Lev Flournoy stressed that the time
to address low enrollment is now and said, “the school
population has been declining by fifty or so students yearly
for the past three years.” Superintendent of Onteora
School, Justine Winters agreed with Flournoy when parents
voiced astonishment at the annual decrease of students and
added, “With Woodstock and West Hurley combined, the
Kindergarten this year only has 31 children…that is
two Kindergarten sections of fifteen and sixteen, a dramatic
change from a few years back, where West Hurley and Woodstock
had multiple Kindergartens.”
Compared to the other schools in the district, Phoenicia
Elementary has the lowest student population, including
40 children who attend the school on variances from other
schools in the district. Phoenicia currently has two modular
classrooms and the art room is in a storage closet.
All of Onteora’s schools, the architects reported,
have aging facilities with old windows, inadequate fencing,
aging playgrounds, parking problems and floor tiling with
At both Bennett and Phoenicia, and later Woodstock and West
Hurley, Quadrini presented examples of nine different grade
configurations based on a request for a separate Middle
School made by the future of the district committee and
a middle school steering committee.
“How would you at Onteora go from three elementary
schools, to two when there is compelling geographic issues
about where those two elementary schools would be located
and I want to hear from you,” Quadrini said, inferring
that schools be kept open on the eastern and western ends
of the district, the better to accommodate everyone.
He has not recommended closing a school as a solution, but
expressed that it should be considered when talking about
reconfiguring grades and enrollment. He wants to explore
every possibility with the community, so that they can trust
the right decisions were made for a successful passage of
At both Woodstock and West Hurley’s meetings, parents
and teachers in attendance suggested that any attempt to
close Bennett School would see “Olive voters ganging
up on us again,” and suggested that the best scenario,
for now, would entail a closing of Woodstock Elementary,
shifting its students to West Hurley, which has a larger
campus (even though it retains a number of problems with
its water supply that would need remediation).
Instead of setting up a separate Middle School at first,
people suggested splitting the High School, which would
entail some overcrowding for a few years but might work
out in the long run.
The architects have suggested a two part bond; one addressing
a five year need, where more important structural building
needs would be met first, the second a ten year need. He
explained that his firm has only experienced one failed
budget and they worked with the community where it was passed
the second time around. They also said they will whittle
down choices for the district to a more manageable two to
“If the community does not believe in this or understand
it it is not going to pass,” Quadrini said. “We
are here to listen to the community, go back with a plan
and work with the community.”
School board trustee Rita Vanacore addressed Quadrini in
Phoenicia and said, sharply “We have a school district
that has seen a lot of financial irresponsibility for a
long time, so not only are there people, especially those
on fixed income, not necessarily that they don’t want
to, but they feel that the money they are spending has been
wasted, and not spent financially responsible so there is
a whole history behind what has been happening here too…those
are like the realities and you must gain the trust of the
It was decided that greater effort would go into bringing
more people throughout the district into the process.
For A New Fight
Leifeld is seeking to enlist the political help of the other
towns, and hopefully the entire CWT, made up of all the
upstate watershed towns, about 40, to help seek a state
legislative change to the Large Parcel law which would have
its applicability to reservoirs permanently removed.
Speaking about the upcoming meeting, though, which follows
a similar get-togtether put together more informally by
Leifeld in late October, the supervisor said he wasn’t
so sure he’d get what he wanted from the CWT, given
that the supervisors of two continguous towns, Shandaken
and Woodstock, have vowed to fight him on the proposed changes,
feeling Large Parcel was beneficial to them, as it existed
before being allowed to lapse throughout the Onteora school
district (and Ulster County) earlier this year.
Leifeld had originally planned to bring up his issue at
CWT’s November 21 monthly meeting until a number of
the other supervisors said they couldn’t make it and
he realized that the heavy attendance at the meeting was
in reaction to proposed CWT action in the ongoing review
of Dean Gitter’s proposed Belleayre Resort in Shandaken.
The CWT decided to appeal a judge’s order to send
12 review issues to trial-like adjudication hearings because
they felt any decision to judge “community character”
would impinge on towns’ home rule rights.
In earlier discussions about his strategy during the recent
election cycle, Leifeld said that he was seeking to defeat
the Large Parcel issue, which caused town taxes to soar
in recent years when it was implemented by the Onteora School
Board, by political means.
A first step in such a direction came when he helped start
what became Olive Matters last year. The group eventually
proved instrumental in the OCS electoral sweep that brought
in all Olive candidates last May, leading to the issue’s
defeat last summer.
Leifeld said that he didn’t need support troops for
the coming meeting, noting that there would be ample time
for such action later, as he and hopefully other supervisors
take their move deeper into wider political circles.
We Have It, But...
In a letter dated November 17, 2005 and addressed to DEP
Commissioner Emily Lloyd, Mayor Bloomberg and NYC DEP General
Counsel Mark Hofer, Town Clerk Sylvia Rozzelle wrote: "Pursuant
to the Freedom of Information Law please provide the Town
Board of the Town of Olive with a certified copy of the
New York City Council's resolution or council action and/or
New York City Dept. Of Environmental Protection's action
which authorized the 35 mph speed limit on Route 28A in
the Town of Olive, County of Ulster."
The request, which under "FOIL" allows five days
for a reply, seeks to clarify the legal status of the signs
which were described as improperly posted by the Olive judges.
The speed limits have been a subject of contention since
they were installed nearly 20 years ago.
New York City officials, meanwhile, have referred the town
to a full information packet it sent to Supervisor Bert
Leifeld on May 7, 2004, in which the entire history of the
speed limits, as well as the work orders for each and every
one of its signs on Route 28, is listed. Included in the
packet, which was copied to Wright and Barringer, over a
dozen state, city and county officials, as well as four
other town officials and the supervisors of neighboring
Hurley and Marbletown, both of whom share the same road
and have expressed no problem of late with its speed limits
or signage, was paperwork from the state Department of Transportation
approving the speed limit changes.
The city points out that the initial request to lower the
speed limit along 28A came in response to a letter from
Ted Paulson and the “Committee for a Safer 28A,”
itself a response to a fatal accident along the winding
In recent years, even with a slower speed limit, 28A has
continued to see fatal accidents.
“It is extremely important to recognize that Route
28A’s speed limit was instituted for no other purpose
than to protect the safety of Ulster County residents using
the road,” the 2004 letter from City DEP Assistant
Counsel Melissa Solomon read. “The 35 mile per hour
speed limit posting on Route 28A was duly implemented in
conformance with the State’s recommendation, state
and local statutory requirements, and regulatory procedure.”
Reacting to the claim that he already had the paperwork
he was requesting, Leifeld said this week that the reason
for the FOIL was that he and others in town weren’t
satisfied with the city’s claim that it had jurisdiction
beyond its own streets and wanted to see THAT paperwork.
In other local business related to the 28A corridor, petitions
seeking repairs to failing bridges and a reopening of the
“Lemon Squeeze,” continue to gain signatures
around town for eventual submission to the city.
Jar Of Olives... Light... And Warmth
answers what he can, but says that facts and details about
the lives of those who died in the late nineteenth century
are hard to come by. “I got one guy from Buffalo who
keeps calling me up asking me all kinds of things about
Phoenicia and if his great-great grandfather served in the
Civil War,” Boice explains. “But when you start
talking about anyone who died in Phoenicia in 1880, you’re
However, thanks to the efforts of Florence Giuliano, the
board’s Treasurer, and her daughter Gina Giuliano,
who serves as Secretary, it’s now a little easier
to identify the veterans buried in Mt. Pleasant. As a result
of their research, plaques bearing the name of the veterans,
and, whenever possible, their military branches and the
years and wars in which they served, are on permanent display
in a glass case that hangs in the little barn at the edge
of the cemetery.
“The Board of Trustees thought it would be a nice
way to honor the veterans, and Gina and I thoroughly enjoyed
doing the research” says Giuliano. “Maybe because
with what’s going on in Iraq and everyone is feeling
Getting the information for the plaques was not as easy
as the Giulianos expected it would be. “I thought
all we’d have to do to get this going, is to go to
the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and get a list of the
people we get flags for,” Giuliano explains, referring
to the tiny American flags that the American Legion puts
on the graves of all known veterans on Memorial Day. But
such a list was not available, so the Giulianos used the
existing flags as a starting point and then searched through
the entire cemetery, even sweeping away dirt to reveal more
than one stone that had information about the veteran buried
there. It turns out that five Civil War veterans, including
Florence’s grandfather, Henry Russell Eckert, are
buried at Mt. Pleasant.
Originally named the Van Kleeck Cemetery, the cemetery was
founded in 1909 by John Van Etten and John Van Kleeck as
one of several new resting places for the graves displaced
by the construction of the Ashokan Reservoir. There were
nearly 40 cemeteries ranging from backyard graves to public
burial grounds, and approximately 2,370 bodies had to be
exhumed and moved.
In 1921, the cemetery was sold and renamed the Mt. Pleasant
Rural Cemetery and kept afloat on a small budget until 1941.
For the next 8 years the cemetery remained in a state of
limbo without a Board of Trustees until a new board was
organized in 1949. Since then, the cemetery has been maintained
and operated by its trustees and officers who are volunteers
and do not get paid for their service.
The plaques were designed and constructed by Louis Mancuso
of Shokan and officially dedicated as a memorial on July
24, 2005. American Legion Post 1620 took part in the ceremony.