Olive Supervisor Berndt Leifeld opened the session last
week with a reference to a third option under the state’s
large parcel law, the option not to vote on the matter.
“A while ago, it came to my attention that there were
some school board members that didn’t really understand
this part of the large parcel law,” said Leifeld,
referring to the controversial legislation which divides
the property taxes for the New York City-owned Ashokan Reservoir
in Olive, representing 55 percent of the town’s tax
base, with other towns in the school district.
Reading from a letter from the town’s attorneys, Hacker
& Murphy of Albany, Leifeld said the school district
has three options each year: voting to reject reapportionment
of taxes under the law; voting for implementation; or taking
“They (the school board) felt they had to go one way
or another but, actually, there’s a third option-
they don’t have to do anything,” Leifeld said.
“They could just sit there and say ‘this is
none of our business’ - which is what they really
should have done in the first place. Then they wouldn’t
be in this political hassle that they say they don’t
The large parcel law allows school districts and counties
to tax reservoir properties separately. The adoption of
the legislation by the school district and Ulster County
last year resulted, with a new state assessment of the reservoir’s
value, in a 55 percent jump in the school tax rate and a
91 percent increase in the county tax rate in Olive.
Leifeld said a copy of the letter has been forwarded to
the school board, but Councilman Bruce LaMonda said the
third option has yet to be acknowledged by the board, to
judge by board President Marino D’Orazio’s comments
at a recent meeting.
“D’Orazio again said it was mandated by law
that they adopt it, but nothing could be further from the
truth,” LaMonda said, underlining the observation
in the district’s spring newsletter that the state
Legislature “in effect mandated that the school boards
decide on an annual basis whether or not to apply (the special
“I don’t know if they don’t understand
it or they just don’t want to,” LaMonda said.
Leifeld said D’Orazio is a lawyer who certainly understood
the option. “He just has his own agenda,” Leifeld
Leifeld said that although the district plans hearings on
the matter before a vote is taken this August, according
to the new Onteora newsletter, D’Orazio and school
board vice president Kathy Hochman announced their intention
to readopt the reapportionment option during a Meet the
Candidates night May 2. He said the town’s best hope
for defeating the tax redistribution option was to defeat
its advocates in the May 17 school board election.
Ten candidates are vying for four school board seats, including
incumbents D’Orazio and Hochman. Among other contestants
for three-year terms, only Cindy O’Connor, Rita Vanacore
and Mary Jane Berchholz have said straight out that they
would oppose implementation of the large parcel option,
while Jack Jordan, Cathy Neal, Anne Marie Johansson, Tom
Hickey and Lisa Childers have suggested, or said straight
out, that they would favor it.
The Woodstock Town Board has issued a mailing urging district
residents to vote against O’Connor, Vanacore and Berchholz
over the issue.
Olive Town Clerk Sylvia Rozzelle said the school district,
meanwhile, has refused to provide a sample copy of an absentee
ballot application form, which presumably would be helpful
in a “get-out-the-vote” effort in Olive.
“Our educational system needs a little education on
open government laws,” said Rozzelle, a former teacher.
“Having run 22 years of elections in the town of Olive,
I’m familiar with election laws, but they informed
me ... that they didn’t come under Election Law, they
come under Education Law. I received a call from (Onteora
District Clerk) Jeanne Shultis saying that she had spoken
with the school attorney and he said they do not have to
release (the documents) to me.”
Rozzelle said she has received requests for absentee ballots
from voters, which must be applied for to the school district
clerk by today if it is to be mailed to voters, or May 16
if picked up personally by voters. Completed absentee ballots
must be received by the district clerk sealed in envelopes
provided by her office no later than 5 p.m. May 17.
“I’m very upset with the school district,”
said Rozzelle, who added that she confirmed with Robert
Freeman, executive director of the state Committee for Open
Government, that the documents were public and could not
be legally withheld. “It almost seems like (Onteora
is) trying to prohibit people from voting rather than encouraging
it. That concerns me. They are a public entity with public
Rozzelle, who had already sent for the forms by certified
mail, said she was told that she would have to apply for
them under the Freedom of Information Act.
“If you can educate the public as to what the ballot
looks like before the
election, it expedites the whole voting process,”
A special rally/informational meeting on the upcoming May
17 vote has been scheduled for Davis Park in West Shokan
for Sunday, May 15.
The proposed budget represents a 3.86 percent hike over
the current year’s austerity budget, which the district
had to revert to after two attempts at passing a budget
failed last Spring. At a recent Meet The Candidate’s
evening moderated by the Ulster County League of Women Voters
in Boiceville May 2, all but one of the board candidates
praised the new administration of Superintendent Justine
Winters for the spending plan they’ve put together,
and urged voters to pass it next week.
But what to make of the crowded field of candidates, three
of whom are incumbents?
Lisa Childers is a seven-year resident of Woodstock with
one child at her local elementary school and years of experience
as an art therapist, a New York City teacher’s assistant
and, more recently, a member of the Woodstock Elementary
Site team, the Future of the District committee, and an
attendee of practically every school board meeting of the
last four years.
At the recent candidate’s night, Childers demonstrated
her knowledge of board issues and her understanding of the
board’s policy-making side by bringing up issues involving
tax reform movements, as well as opposition to unfunded
mandates involved in the federal No Child Left Behind program.
Childers has brought up new advances being made at New Paltz
and other schools she’s visited that could be adapted
to Onteora, stressing new ways of looking at each student
as an individual, and not just a part of a larger educational
institution. She has noted that the bigger problem than
Large Parcel is the underlying means of property taxation,
and that focus should be placed on increasing STAR and other
tax abatement and relief programs available to local residents...
at least until that funding base can be changed. She asked
if the district were really as divided as the media has
made it out to be, noting how students didn’t seem
to reflect their parents’ community differences or
tax concerns. “We have some divisive issues,”
she said. “But our kids are quite unified.”
Childers said Onteora was at a turning point, and needed,
above all else, to pass the current budget.
Cathy Neal is a lifetime Shandaken resident who has two
children in Phoenicia Elementary and one in the Middle School.
She herself is an Onteora graduate who has worked at the
Phoenicia Pharmacy for the last 18 years, as well as the
cleaning contractor for the Phoenicia post office. She has
been involved with the Phoenicia Fire Department for 28
years, for whom she currently serves as treasurer, and is
Corresponding Secretary for the Phoenicia School PTA, for
whom she has become well known as a master baker.
At the recent candidate’s night, Neal said her only
teaching experience involved Sunday School, but her years
working as a volunteer with other entities, including the
local fire department, gave her strong insights into the
district, as did her parenting. When asked what curriculum
changes she might suggest, Neal replied, simply, that her
three kids liked everything about school. When the subject
of rampant childhood obesity came up, she suggested offering
more fruits and vegetables and less chicken nuggets and
Neal said that although she would have preferred Olive’s
Large Parcel tax burden to have been spread over three to
five years, “everybody should be treated fairly and
equally.” As for perceived divisions within the district,
she spoke about how the identity of separate schools should
be amalgamated better into the larger Onteora community.
Neal closed by saying that no matter who people voted for,
they should support the current budget.
Rita Vanacore is a 45 year resident of Shokan who has put
two children through Onteora. She has a cosmetology degree
and is currently enrolled at UCCC and Empire State College,
studying toward degrees in communications and sociology.
She has owned her own Kingston-based business for 28 years
and has taught continuing education courses for over 20
years, including four years in which she ran her own vocational
school. She has volunteered as an AIDS educator and served
on Ulster County Legislature committees, as well as being
a member of Onteora’s current Future of the District
Vanacore has been the sole candidate to state her belief
that the budget could have been better, and shouldn’t
be supported. In her opening statements at the Candidate’s
night, she said that in spite of all the board’s lofty
talk in recent years, not much has been accomplished. She
lashed out at the current board for having created “a
hostile district” because of its decisions regarding
Large Parcel and the closing of the West Hurley elementary
school last year, suggested doing more through BOCES, and
vowed to “bring it back to the community first.”
Vanacore has said she thought academics at Onteora were
lacking and needed new vision, which she offered because
she was “a very creative person who had lived out
of the state.”
She has said straight out that she’d vote against
furthering the current Large Parcel legislation, calling
the legislation part of a larger “divide and conquer”
agenda on the part of New York City and New York State to
“get us all out.” “I don’t think
we’ll ever get cohesiveness again unless we reduce
taxation,” she has commented.
Vanacore has said the most important thing was for a board
to stand by its policies despite the individual wants and
needs of students or other district participants.
Marino D’Orazio, a Kingston attorney, is an 8-year
member of the school board and its president of the last
three years. He has been a resident of the Onteora district
for 20 years and currently lives in Marbletown, within district
borders. Two of his children are graduates of the district,
a third is currently in High School. Before passing the
bar, D’Orazio was a New York City high school teacher
for 17 years. He has taught at SUNY New Paltz and has been
on the board of the Children’s Annex, the Ulster County
Bar Association, and served on the West Hurley PTA for years.
“I am running on my record,” D’Orazio
said at the Candidate’s Night, pointing out how controversial
many of the decisions facing boards can be, as well as how
one has to approach all issues clear-eyed, with reason.
“We’ve come a long way from the difficult days
of three and four years ago.”
D’Orazio has spoken about the painfulness of the Large
Parcel and other decisions facing the district, pointing
out how one needs to represent the entire district in one’s
decisions, and not just one town. He added that his information
showed that the biggest hits on Olive residents were now
past and that he would vote for its continuation, to finish
the equalization it was put into effect to achieve. D’Orazio
said the best way of avoiding future divisiveness was to
elect a board that could get along, be respectful to each
other and their constituents, and that could make needed
decisions with “integrity and honesty.”
When asked about the district’s technology needs,
D’Orazio has talked about the need to teach values
and academic skills rather than actual computer programs.
“I think it’s important that individuals learn
focus, integrity, the absence of hidden agendas, and an
ability to get along with others,” he has said.
D’Orazio says that if re-elected, he wants to work
towards the creation of a new elementary school center,
the re-use of the West Hurley facility, and the creation
of an independent middle school.
Kathleen Hochman, who has served three years on the Onteora
School Board and is currently its vice president, as well
as VP of the Ulster County School Board Association, has
lived in Olive for eight years and has one Onteora graduate,
and another in high school. She studied at the New School
and has worked as a special education consultant, a thoroughbred
horse breeder, and a director of sales for Cigna Financial
Services. Before joining the board she was a member of the
Bennett PTA, treasurer of the Middle School/High School
PTSO, and was co-chair of the Ulster County Transition Planning
At the recent Candidate’s night, Hochman stressed
her role as a mediating force on the school board, and talked
about the research she has done to better her ability to
face all board decisions with professionalism and fairness.
She spoke about her years of volunteerism, her pilot husband’s
work in the Army Reserves, and her work with education lobbyists
The first asked about Large Parcel at the May 2 gathering,
Hochman was straight forward. “I live in Olive. I
voted against it the first year it came up,” she explained,
noting how she had thought that a year of preparation in
her hometown should have softened the controversial legislation’s
eventual blow. “I voted for it because I represent
the whole district,” she added, speaking as to how
the bill, like it or not, addresses questions of equity
in the wide district, New York’s second largest.
Hochman has spoken about the need to teach values and academic
skills rather than computer programs, and is quick to point
out her belief in pushing educational goals above all other
matters. She believes Onteora has started moving in a strong
Thomas Hickey moved to Oliverea two years ago and has two
children in Phoenicia Elementary, whose PTA he has become
an active member of. He has business background with “a
number of different companies” in a number of different
positions, including serving as a comptroller and consultant.
He is an active church member and has led a number of youth
groups, including Boy Scouts and chess clubs, over the years.
He says he decided to run after being urged to get more
involved by members of the Phoenicia community.
Hickey of Big Indian said at the recent Candidate’s
Night that he wanted to bring his business acumen to educational
decisions, increasing the board’s, and annual budget’s
efficiency. He described himself as a strong builder of
bridges with a keen interest in ensuring students’
In regards to the Large Parcel issue, Hickey said that he
approved of the measure’s goals to make taxes equitable
throughout the district. As for district divisions, he has
said that he applauds the new district-wide newsletter and
feels that better information on key issues would help things
immeasurably. Hickey suggesting the best input for policy
matters should always come from administrators and educators
Hickey has said he is running because he wants to make a
difference, and believes that Onteora should be one, and
not four districts.
Mary Jane Bernholz is a 20 year Shokan resident who is a
past president and vice president of the Onteora District
PTA Council who has a child at Bennett, another at the Middle
School, and a third at the High School. A graduate of the
community college, she has worked on a supervisory level
in banking and finance, served as a certified real estate
appraiser, and worked as an accountant. Her district credentials
include 10 years on the Bennett Site Team, as well as membership
on the Middle School Concept, Health Advisory, District
Nutrition and various hiring committees.
At the recent Candidate’s Night, Bernholz talked about
her many years as a PTA officer and involved stakeholder
in the Onteora community, and said she was running on her
experience within the district and knowledge of its needs
and processes, with a particular interest in pushing forward
the independent middle school concept, as well as the teaching
of languages at earlier ages. When the subject of childhood
obesity came up, Bernholz was quick to read from a series
of statistics she had compiled and suggested much could
be solved by passing proposed school budgets.
Bernholz said that even though she felt there was a need
to force Olive to revaluate its properties, the Large Parcel
issue had proved hurtful on both fiscal and social levels.
If elected, she promised, she would vote not to reinstall
it for the coming year.
In closing, Bernholz said people should be voting for a
district representative, and not just community members.
She promised to be fiscally responsible.
Jack Jordan, a three year resident of Pine Hill with multiple
education degrees from SUNY-New Paltz, is currently Sullivan
County BOCES Director of Secondary programs, former superintendent
of the Jeffersonville-Youngsville School District (which
he merged), former principal of the Tri Valley High School
in the 209 corridor, and a former high school social studies
teacher and sports coach specializing in basketball and
golf. He has served on the Claryville Fire Department, the
Town of Denning board of tax assessment, and the Sullivan
County Chamber of Commerce.
Jordan opened the May 2 Candidate’s Night with a rundown
of his educational accomplishments and general philosophy,
while simultaneously praising Onteora’s reputation
throughout the region, as well as its current budget. When
subjects later shifted to matters involving curriculum or
policy decisions, he spoke eloquently about his own experiences
instituting curriculum changes, noting how new class choices
always had to prove interesting to students, as well as
relevant. He also pointed how board members should never
drift towards micromanagement.
Regarding Large Parcel, Jordan pointed out the legislation’s
faults, in Albany, but then pointed out the difficult choices
that sometimes need to be made to achieve parity within
a school district. He said that as far as he could see,
Onteora’s divisiveness wasn’t as bad as could
be, and would likely be solved via better communications,
which he said the new administration was already effecting.
Ann-Marie Johansson, who was appointed to fill a vacancy
left by recently re-elected board member Tom Rosato in February,
is a 40 year resident of the district who graduated from
Onteora and has degrees from UCCC. One of her children is
still at the High School. Her professional background includes
14 years at IBM in Kingston and Poughkeepsie, as well as
seven years as a local B&B owner. She is a member of
the Olive Planning Board, the Olive Free Library board,
and is a past-president of the Shandaken Women’s Network.
Johansson has spoken about enjoying her opportunity to work
with the board and expressed wishes to continue what she
has started. She has talked about the need for teacher,
administrative and board responsiveness to the student body
as a means of bettering the overall Onteora educational
In regards to Large Parcel, Johansson has said that she
respects the current board’s decision in the matter,
even though it affects her as a West Shokan resident. She
said that she would approach the matter herself, if re-elected,
by reminding herself of the need to represent the entire
district, and not just one town within it. When the issue
of district divisions came up, Johansson spoke of town revals
being needed to remove inequities between the wide district’s
“We need to be certain we teach our students about
critical thinking, and realize that technology is a tool,”
said Johansson at the recent Candidate’s Night, speaking
about the amounts of dedication and openness to research
the position she is seeking to hold on to entails. She concluded
with her desire to see the district mended and sharing the
same educational goals, having moved beyond its current
Cindy O’Connor, an Olivebridge resident of 39 years
with one child in elementary school and another in middle
school, has a BS in marketing and co-founded Sheldon Hill
Forestry Services with her husband while still the Accounting
Supervisor at National Micronetics in Kingston. She has
been a member of the Bennett PTA, of which she is currently
vice president, for 13 years and most recently has become
known as the driving force behind Victims of Irresponsible
Drowsy Drivers, which she joined after her high school-aged
son was killed in a tragic accident along Route 28. She
is currently involved in a lawsuit against the district
and its board over that accident.
“I believe in our community and I believe in our school,”
she introduced her campaign by saying at the May 2 Candidate’s
Night, outlining her years of volunteer service, including
the new Communications Committee for the district. “I
want to be part of the leadership that carries us towards
Later, when the subject of the federal No Child Left Behind
legislation was raised, O’Connor proved the only candidate
not to fault it, instead noting how the federal program
had “made us all accountable.”
Regarding Large Parcel, O’Connor said that she would
vote against the legislation simply to send a message to
the legislature. But when the subject of curing the current
divisiveness came up, she added that she believed revals
needed to be done in all towns to better equity around the
In conclusion May 2, O’Connor spoke about raising
standards and looking more carefully at district-wide conduct,
dress codes, and evacuation plans. “I think we have
fallen down,” she said. She added that she is running
because she cares about the district and is not afraid of
challenges. She calls herself an advocate for change.
Noonan, a Republican on the county’s
nine-member Ways and Means Committee who represents Gardiner,
New Paltz and Shawangunk in District 8, mentioned that the
issue would be on the agenda at the Thursday meeting.
Parete, representing Olive, Hurley and Marbletown in District
3, was startled by the news, he said, expecting that the
county vote on the implementation of the Large Parcel Law
would be shelved until after June. He
was aware of an attempt on the part of District 2 legislator
Michael Stock (R) representing Woodstock, Shandaken, Hard-enburgh,
Denning and Saug-erties, to initiate the vote in March.
”I think it was Alice Tipp’s General Services
Committee that approved it two months ago,” Parete
said. “But, when it came to a vote, we argued that
it (the Ashokan Reservoir) had to be designated first (as
a large parcel property), so they pulled it. Last week,
we had a Ways and Means Committee meeting and it never came
up. Now, all of asudden, it’s up and if I didn’t
see Glenn Noonan over the weekend, we wouldn’t have
known until we walked
into the meeting... which is crazy.”
Parete reflected that prior to the county’s vote on
the large parcel issue
last October, it had failed to pass approval by the Ways
and Means Committee but that Stock had a deputy clerk re-poll
the Republican members of the committee on the vote and
attempted to introduce it with committee sponsorship anyway.
When this move was rejected, he recalls, Stock ventured
the vote without committee sponsorship and it passed, 19
to 13, with a ”Financial Impact: Unknown” designation.
Michael Bernardi (D), who represents Ulster and the City
of Kingston in
District 5, was equally surprised to hear that the issue
was ready for a vote on Thursday. He said he didn’t
think the vote could be taken until ORPS had designated
a large parcel entity from the new tax roll.
”Parliamentary procedure has an art to it,”
Bernardi said, noting that since
the legislature involved partisan caucuses working independently,
upcoming legislative issues were sometimes unclear or unexpected.
“We’re a political body. That’s our M.O.
That’s how we move. We try to represent people from
our district and everybody has their own way of doing that.”
”We will ask that it be referred to committee (if
the parcel vote is introduced on the 12th),” said
Parete. “The supervisors from Olive, Shandaken and
Woodstock would have an opportunity to address the legislators.
Even though it passed last time by a few votes, a lot of
the legislators I spoke to were confused about the law and
how it came to be. We
can debate it in the next month. Both sides will have an
equal opportunity to be heard and the public will have an
opportunity to come out. It’s just underhanded, the
way they’re bringing it up this month, days before
the school board election.”
Olive councilman, Bruce LaMonda, said the town heard about
Stock’s gambit at the last moment, through letters
and e-mails sent out attacking candidates who do not support
the law parcel law.
”The Onteora School Board must vote annually on apportioning
tax,” says one such email message, without mentioning
the board’s option under the law to decline voting
on the issue. “There is now an intense effort, on
the part of some, to elect three school board candidates
who are on record as saying that they will shift the tax
burden back onto
The message claimed that Woodstock had carried more than
their fair share of school costs for “many years.”
LaMonda said the town had called their Albany law firm,
Seely & Murphy, when they heard about the planned vote
on Monday. Since the tax roll isn’t finalized until
June, it was thought that the property couldn’t be
designated and voted upon prior to that and their lawyers
confirmed that as
”As far as we’re concerned, according to our
attorneys in Albany,” LaMonda said dryly, “they
can’t adopt the large parcel (option) until the property
has been designated as a large parcel and that doesn’t
happen until sometime late June or early July. So, whatever
they do now is either illegal or meaningless.”
”Hopefully, the legislation will not polarize the
school board election any more than it has to be,”
said Bernardi, who also sensed a dark political ploy in
the timing. “No matter what happens, we want to put
the kids first.”
Stacy and her husband Greg, an engineer, moved three years
ago to Shokan from Oliverea, with their sons Nathaniel,
8, and Asher, 6. One of the reasons was to be closer to
Asher's school in Kingston - The Children's Annex. Asher
was diagnosed with autism during his first year. Stacy credits
the parenting style of La Leche League with helping her
to be very in tune with her young son - to communicate intuitively
with him - which not only aided in early intervention but
has helped his ongoing development. Today, Asher is blossoming
in the supportive environment of The Children's Annex.
Stacy's connection with La Leche League began when she sought
breastfeeding help with her first son, Nathaniel. She applied
for a leadership role after a year, going through extensive
training, and became leader of the local chapter six years
ago. At 10:00 AM on the second Tuesday of every month, anywhere
from 6 to 15 mothers gather at the Mapstone home, along
with babies and toddlers, for about an hour and a half of
discussion on a pre-selected topic, sharing techniques,
trading books, getting facts, and giving emotional support.
There are 30 or so women on Stacy's list at any given time,
many of whom call for advice if they don't attend meetings.
In addition, she has provided phone help to women around
the world through the La Leche League International web
Stacy is enthusiastic about correcting false impressions
of La Leche League. She points out that her group includes
every political persuasion, and is in fact very mainstream.
"We're not a crazed group of militants. We're not AA
for troubled breastfeeders, where we advise you to 'go through
the pain.' And we're not a guru, who says 'you can't do
it without me,'" she asserts. "La Leche League
doesn't give advice, we give education and encouragement.
It's not anecdotal stuff; it's evidence-based information.
We want to empower you to be the mother you want to be."
She wants people to know that La Leche League is not solely
concerned with the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding,
but teaches an overall style of parenting that emphasizes
caring and responsiveness, filling the baby's needs without
neglecting your own.
To help manage La Leche League of Kingston-Shokan, Stacy
has been training a co-leader for the past seven months.
Fifteen months of training is required, with Stacy teaching
the new candidate the science of breastfeeding as well as
the skills of group facilitating, and talking and listening
to individual mothers. Occasional events must be arranged,
in which experts give workshops; for example, on infant
massage. And then there are the constant press releases
to be sent out, a yard sale every July, books and supplies
to be purchased, and an annual La Leche League divisional
conference to attend.
Much of Stacy and Greg Mapstone's 12 years together has
been filled with La Leche League activities. Greg is a solid
supporter of the program, the parenting style, and all her
work, she says. Besides the challenge of raising an autistic
son, the Mapstones' lives have also been complicated by
serious injuries that Greg has sustained in the past. He
is also a busy man, pursuing an MBA on top of working full
Of course, parenting two sons and maintaining a marriage
and a home would be enough to keep most people fully occupied.
But in addition to her busy schedule with La Leche League,
Stacy is also a parent member of the Onteora School District's
Committee for Special Education (CSE), putting in hours
helping other parents understand their children's educational
difficulties. She's also a self-described "crochet
fiend" who expresses herself through a "charity
knitting group" that meets at the Woostock Wool Company.
She makes "loveys," small soft blankets that are
donated, along with all the goods made by other group members,
to the Women's Shelter in Kingston.
In addition, Stacy often helps with fundraising auctions
and other activities for The Children's Annex, and participates
in her older son's education as well. And to round out her
schedule, she has been attending SUNY Ulster for 21/2 years.
She is now well on the way toward completing the Registered
Nurse program. Will she specialize in Maternity or Lactation?
"Probably not," she says. "I wouldn't want
to lose my a passion for the subject by making it a job."
Stacy Mapstone is one of the busy behind-the-scenes people
whose dedication and energy make such a positive difference
in our community. And she seems to enjoy every minute of
it. "The only downside of doing so much is that sometimes
I have to say no," she says. "I just love being
in a position to help."