A Vote For Growth
Most of us recognize that the tensions underlying the upcoming
Onteora budget vote and board election relate to the district’s
past and future handling of the “Large Parcel”
tax issue implemented this past school year. They’ve
arisen in the form of an unusual number of candidates for
four open seats, a solid majority of them from Olive, still
reeling from hefty tax hikes that were half the result of
Large Parcel, half because of a major revaluation of New
York City’s Ashokan Reservoir property. They’ve
played out in accusations of stolen campaign signs, as well
as the bluntly negative language of some of the current
platforms being espoused by candidates. And they’re
likely to get their loudest sound-out at the pre-election
rally Oliveans have set for this Sunday, May 15, in town-owned
At the same time, the Large Parcel tensions have already
resulted in some remarkable shifts from recent elections.
A number of the district’s leading taxpayers’
associations are strongly urging their members, mostly seniors
on fixed incomes, to do all they can to support the tight
budget the new administration has put together for the coming
school year. Old alliances within the district have shifted
as those feeling the greatest hurt in Olive have threatened
to take down the budget in revenge for their tax hikes,
forcing Shandaken to side with Woodstock and West Hurley
for the first time in years.
Sure, we’ve had elections as hot in the past. The
late 1990s’ round of battles over the fate of the
Onteora Indian mascot comes to mind, as well as the 2002
pendulum swing that saw the current board come to power.
But with new Superintendent Justine Winters gaining more
supporters every day, and the qualities of the budget she
and Budget Director Victoria Garone have put together promising
much-needed improvements while simultaneously hacking away
at a number of costly programs, those wishing to use the
Budget Vote as a platform for other issues are having trouble
Which has fired up the roster of board candidates more than
How to vote?
Three of the candidates are being trumpeted for their Olive
roots, indicating that they are playing to supporters based
on how they feel about the Large Parcel issue. They have
all shown their moxie over the years by working with district
PTAs, serving on a number of key school committees, and
showing their dedication to community, at least on the local,
One is new to the town and district, but coming to it with
a lifetime of solid educational achievement under his belt,
having taught, worked as a principal, and been a superintendent
of a similarly-sized school district.
Two are endearingly dedicated to their kids and their kids’
school, running for the board as a next step in their increasing
community involvement. Another has attended nearly every
school board meeting of the last four years, studying every
issue and showing a grasp of district issues as deep and
varied as a journalist… albeit with the added caring
and passion of an involved parent.
And lastly, there are the three incumbents, which include
a board veteran of eight years, a former teacher with years
of experience as one of the region’s top lawyers;
another a Special Ed specialist with a talent for bringing
people together, and the third a new appointee with a lost
history of involvement in local boards and community efforts.
All are hard workers, not afraid of making hard decisions.
And at least two of them were instrumental in moving Onteora
beyond its recent divisive years, in hiring Winters, and
in realizing the district (the state’s second largest)
was in need of some necessary, if difficult changes in order
to move ahead successfully.
Many people will base their votes on who they know, or which
community they’re from. Some are simply out for revenge,
no matter the experience, integrity or earnestness of those
they are seeking to oust. We feel these are limiting choices.
If we were to have an effect on things, we’d be suggesting
that voters keep at least two of the incumbents and bring
in the longtime board attendee as well as one of the caring
Olive parents to create balanced representation for the
whole district. But in the final rounds, our sense is that
all the candidates running are good people whose involvement
will continue, in the district and other political avenues,
no matter whether they win or not.
But one thing is for sure: we urge everyone to support this
budget. To vote it down would be mean-spirited and curmudgeonly,
and a slap in the face of our district’s many kids.
The district has worked listened hard to its varied, divided
constituency… and the choices this budget includes
shows that. To force Onteora into a second year of contingency
would threaten our school aid formulas, the quality of our
education, and our cohesion as a school district.
We believe communities grow from affirming their children’s