to the Editor
It is that time of year when you have a very important decision to make.
Who is best qualified to lead your school district and be the steward
of your tax dollar?
Three years ago we came to you with a combined 23 years of district
involvement, 69 years of business background and 20 to 45 years of district
residency and stated that an Onteora Board of Education Trustee should
not be afraid to ask and answer tough questions, have common sense,
be hands on, communicate with the community, strive to build and create
trust, make and utilize policy to guide and determine decisions, and
be willing to research all the facts in order to make knowledgeable
decisions facing the future of Onteora; even if unpopular. We can no
longer afford the luxury of being complacent and reactive. These economic
times require experience and proactive thinking.
The past three years have been filled with many changes. Raising student
achievement and maximizing fiscal efficiency has been our number one
Our first responsibility three years ago was to learn all about the
budget because it directly relates to the resources we can give our
students and how your tax dollar is spent. Our most valuable resources
are our students and staff. In doing so we learned that most school
districts take their current budget and estimate yearly increases and
increase the new budget by that amount. Actual expenses were often not
reviewed and extra revenue was not projected. We learned that 75% of
your tax dollar is going towards salaries and benefits and 18% of that
75% is special education costs.
By analyzing your budget the board was able to overcome these constraints
and keep your tax levy increase under 3.89% consistently for the last
three years. We are presently working on bringing you a 0% tax levy
for the 2008-2009 school year. We have done this by managing the yearly
fund balance efficiently. At the same time we have setup capital reserves
and utilized the budgetary process to prioritize much needed repairs
in our aging facilities, increased budget line items for student technology,
textbooks and staff development. Reviewing actual expenses, establishing
our student’s needs and prioritizing our building repairs NOW
determine the budget. Our three years experience of budget building
is a valuable asset for future budgets to come, especially in a time
of much needed change.
Circumstances are changing for Onteora. The Onteora School District
is facing many issues, declining enrollment, aging facilities, lack
of technology, highest cost per student in Ulster County, three union
contract negotiations, and the impact of retiree benefit liability,
all within the second largest geographic district in New York State.
Declining enrollment and inefficient use of our buildings and staff
will not allow us to manage the cost per student efficiently in the
future and keep our tax levy low if change does not occur.
The reality is that by the year 2014 our projected enrollment will be
approximately 1400 students district wide. Our grade configuration will
look like this, 480 students in k-4, 446 students in 5-8 and 494 students
in 9-12. Our incoming kindergarten class is now at approx. 100 students
district wide when in the past 10 years they were approx. 180 students.
This new grade configuration establishes healthy population at each
level to justify the expenditures for new and exciting programs and
extracurricular activities for our students to maximize their educational
In 2005, an educational initiative was introduced as the Onteora Middle
School Steering Committee recommended a 5-8 educational grade configuration
to maximize the learning potential of students, align the students developmentally,
socially and emotionally, create a separate middle school with an increased
number of grades, while aligning curriculum in a way that made the most
sense for students/teachers on a k-12 basis and the New York State standards.
This concept would create opportunity for enhanced elective programs
in all grade levels throughout the district, such as foreign language
for 5th graders and maintain quality extracurricular activities like
music and sports. Declining enrollment was not a focal point but three
years later utilizing our demographers projections, declining enrollment
also aligns with this model and the fiscal realities we are now facing.
The declining student population is also evident in our town recreation
sports programs. Our town sports programs are merging to support healthy
team population, competition and to keep the programs alive. The same
philosophy is true for our school district.
During this four-year process the Board of Education has reached out
through newsletters, community forums, board presentations, outside
consultants’ reports, and the staff and administrators to inform
parents of this educational model and the great educational opportunities
for our students.
This board of education is now faced with decisions such as what buildings
to use, how to update our aging facilities and where we put our students.
The reality is we inherited old buildings that we are repairing on emergency
basis. This reactive approach of repairing our buildings one emergency
at a time does not qualify for state aid costing the taxpayer the full
amount of the repair. The newspapers keep printing 70M-80M for a bond.
However, with strategic 3-5 year planning we have the opportunity to
revitalize the district’s buildings and grounds, create healthy
student populations, which allows us to use our resources and staff
to full potential.
The plan we want to bring to you is long term planning that will best
utilize our buildings and staff and maximize the 31-41% state aid reimbursement.
In addition, a 2.3 million dollar yearly cost savings from consolidation
would cover the cost of a 44.9 million dollar bond for facilities renovations
and technology upgrades. The bond project costs managed properly would
have a minimal tax impact, be presented in late fall/winter of 2008
in detail, and requires your approval. (We do not support a 70 –
80 MILLION-DOLLAR tax impact.
The state of the economy is weighing heavy on our district and there
is no end in sight for rising taxes, gas and oil prices. Making our
district more efficient is not a luxury but a necessity.
The reality is our district is changing and while change can create
uncertainty it can create opportunity to bring Onteora into the 21 century
by giving our students the skills they need to compete in this global
The present board of education knows the past, is living in the present
and wants to help you get through the change to the future. Give us
the opportunity to complete the work of the last three years. We are
excited about the opportunity to continue our work for all students
with quality educational programming offering more choices, and revitalizing
our old buildings at the end of their useful life with a minimum tax
impact to taxpayers through responsible short and long term fiscal planning.
We are not afraid of tough questions or decisions and can navigate with
you through this transitional process. We are asking for your patience,
trust and vote on May 20, 2008.
Mary Jane Bernholz
"Most folks can withstand adversity. If you want to know the true
character of a person, give them power." - Abraham Lincoln
The power to affect the future of thousands of children, the quality
of life of tens of thousands of taxpayers, and the expenditure of many
millions of dollars has revealed Onteora School Board incumbents Burnholz,
O’Connor and Vanacore as less than candid.
The incumbents tried to pass off their Budget Advisory Committee as
“concerned, unbiased citizens.” In truth, the committee
consists almost entirely of their fellow Olive-residing friends. One
of these friends just got hired by the Board Of Education in a well-paying
job. That is corrupt.
Not surprisingly, when the incumbents and their cronies talk about cutting
costs, it is to teachers' salaries, arts programs, and entire school
buildings, not to well paid administrative positions. That is shady.
The incumbents claim “99 % of teachers” are behind their
consolidation plan. That is untrue.
By the time you read this, Phoenicia Elementary will have been “officially”
chosen as the first to be axed. If the incumbents win, Woodstock will
follow. Bennett - the school that is in the incumbents' neighborhood
- is in the clear. This is suspicious.
Onteora families had been led to believe that a free-standing 5-through-8
Middle School in the current Bennett Elementary building was a real
possibility. Just last week, it was revealed that the only way to get
state aid (read “no local tax dollars”) was to cram grades
5-through-12 into the existing Middle School/High School building and
crowd buses with 10-year-olds and 18-year-olds. So the Board decided
to do that. And they had the audacity to try to make it seem like they
“only just figured that out.” We were misled.
Why should any of this be a surprise? The steam by which the incumbents
were elected came not from a desire to improve Onteora’s reputation,
but from a deep-seated resentment over what they believed was unfair
In contrast to the incumbents, Flayhan, Legnini, McGillicuddy and Osmond
- the Fab Four - all have children in the Onteora School System. The
incumbents cannot make that claim. The Fab Four have deep faith that
Onteora can and will be a beacon to families looking for quality education
for their kids, and they will make sound, responsible decisions that
will satisfy taxpayers district-wide. Not least of all, they will be
truthful, transparent and respectful to everyone. And they won’t
close your neighborhood school.
Vote Flayhan, Legnini, McGillicuddy and Osmond on May 20th.
Robert Burke Warren
This letter is to provide some of the good news included in the proposed
2008-09 budget for Onteora Central School District. We have just concluded
addressing each Town Board with a brief overview of the overall budget,
revenue factors, additional issues, and tax levy.
I am pleased to tell you that the recommended budget of $48,215,077
represents, at 3.08%, the lowest budget-to-budget increase in the county.
This level of fiscal responsibility also manages to maintain programs,
existing staff, address facility needs and safety issues. It also aligns
with the Board’s goals to promote student achievement, support
professional development and curriculum planning, encourage the use
of technology to enhance instruction, and continue to improve facilities
with a “green” emphasis.
Here are a few brief highlights of programs and services that will occur
next year with budget support:
Training and implementation for a new student information system;
Facility improvement including locker replacement, asbestos abatement,
and water and oil separation for drainage at the bus garage;
Continuation of curriculum initiatives such as the Teachers College
reading and writing training, the District Math Initiative, contracted
services with artists in residence, and field trips;
Improvement of secondary school culture with the addition of clubs and
Additional classroom technology, such as Smart Boards, for student use.
All this will be accomplished with no increase in the tax levy. The
Board will continue its commitment to fiscal responsibility through
applying the fund balance toward the levy.
The passing of this budget does not relate to the future vote for a
bond to modernize buildings in the district. There is no school closing
in 2008-09 anticipated in this budget. .
Additional issues: This year brings three additional issues for voters
to decide. Only one issue will require taxpayer contributions.
1. Spending Capital Reserve Funds: The Board requires permission to
spend the monies already reserved in the Capital Reserve. These funds
would be used to repair sections of the MS/HS roof that are out of warranty,
and help to upgrade the technology infrastructure in the MS/HS. No additional
2. Repair Reserve: Funds saved for the Olive and Hurley tax certiorari
would be transferred to a Repair reserve to continue the repairs identified
by the Facility Committee. No additional funds required. This reserve
would not be approved in a contingent budget.
3. Bus Purchase- The proposal is to purchase two buses on our refreshment
schedule. One of our buses must be retired this year; another will be
removed from regular runs. This purchase would be bonded over five years
and would be eligible for state aid.
4. Purchase of Vehicles: In the replacement schedule, we are proposing
the purchase of two buses. One bus will be retired this year, as it
is beyond its usable life. A second bus will be removed from regular
runs and used as a replacement vehicle for service and repairs.
We appreciate the thoughtful review of these issues by all community
members, and urge you to exercise your Democratic right to vote May
Leslie G. Ford, Superintendent
Onteora School District
Hello, my name is Ann McGillicuddy. My husband and I live in the town
of Shandaken with our 3 children, our dog and our chickens! We moved
from Kingston 6 years ago, to phoenicia to raise our kids. One of the
main draws to this area was the community elementary school. I have
heard this same fact over and over from parents in Shandaken, Olive
and Woodstock since we bought our home here. Schools bring families
to communities. We have many friends in the 6 towns that make up our
school district, and I know that ALL of our community elementary schools
are important and vital to each community ~ for the children, the parents,
the residents without children, retired folks and the businesses.
As well as the educational advantages and benefits that our community
schools give to our children; they provide a vital socio-economic stability
to each of our towns. If a school closes, the health of the town will
be directly impacted; this will set the tone for the future growth of
our schools and our towns; they are intertwined. Property values will
decline, families with children will not move here, and ALL of our futures
I am running in a united block, with 3 other parents from different
towns for a broader representation on the school board. Our slate is
a grassroots effort to give a voice to the residents across this 300
sm district who do NOT believe that Consolidation is a solution . 300
SM of Transportation costs will rise; full classrooms will directly
impact education; parental involvement will surely decline due to these
rising fuel costs/driving time and so will students‘ after school
activity participation. ALL the students’ Quality of education
will be affected by these factors. I have heard widespread dissent of
the closure of another school and housing 5-8 grades in the CURRENT
How many times in your life has an elder, teacher, community member,
another parent made a positive impact on you ? Our towns and hamlets
are inhabited by intelligent, creative hardworking people. We CAN all
work together to build up our schools and communities, and our entire
onteora community as a whole. (ex: we could bring children together
with their elders: programs to incorporate the elder citizens in our
communities; reading, education of the areas rich history). Our children
are the future workers, parents, educators, and leaders of our own communities
and our country. Just as we are, they are a reflection of our greater
society. We must all support each other in a positive, nurturing community
and work to keep our schools and our communities, open and thriving.
In this way all of us will benefit. If given the opportunity to serve,
I know my running mates and I will work hard to find alternative solutions.
Exercise your right ; get out & vote on May 20.
Unfortunately, the reputation of our schools is not very good right
now. We are losing hundreds of kids to private and home school programs.
Administrative and teacher moral is low. Many folks in the community
are looking at the schools as a problematic thorn in their life, and
going to a school board meeting is about as uplifting as sitting in
a funeral parlor. It should be different. It could be different. I want
to change it. I am not going to spew out paragraphs of facts and figures
on this page. I'm sure there will be enough of that in this paper already.
But I will speak in detail on the phone, via email, or over a cup of
coffee with anyone who wants to get in touch with me.
Vote for all four of us - Ralph Legnini/ Laurie Osmond / Ann McGillicuddy
/ Donna Flayhan - as a block of candidates, and we will constitute the
majority vote on the new Onteora School Board of Trustees. There is
more than only ONE solution to the complex problems in our school district!
Let's not be four little divided towns. This is the United States Of
America. One state without the other 49 does not make for a vibrant
country. One of our towns without the other three does not make for
an awesome school district. Mediocrity is not a goal to aspire to, or
to settle for. We need great schools to inspire our kids, and we as
adults need to set an example to all of those young minds - OUR children
that we will send out into the world, after raising them in OUR towns
- that grownups can resolve issues, rise above it all, and work together
to accomplish great things that are not attainable by individual contingents!
Taxpayers need to get their money's worth and ALL taxpayers - with or
without children - should have a school they can feel proud of. A school
that shines in their community. A school that attracts new families
and new business into the local economy. A school district that works
for ALL of us.
Vote for Ralph Legnini / Laurie Osmond / Ann McGillicuddy / Donna Flayhan
on May 20th because we know that Everyone Matters!
West Shokan, NY
The three incumbents running for re-election to the Onteora School Board
have presented themselves as the Taxpayer’s Candidates and the
friends of Olive citizens because they all reside in Olive and are backed
by Olive Matters.
Let’s look at the actual record just over the past year and see
if their actions speak louder than their words.
In the area of increases in Administrative positions and salaries, the
School Board voted to renew Superintendent Dr. Leslie Ford’s contract
for another three years (she makes $155,000 per year plus benefits and
perks), to create a new Vice Superintendent position with a $40,000
dollar a year raise, and /they voted to give that person tenure just
They also created a new Director of Transportation position (fired the
head bus driver-- so got rid of the local man who new the roads, kept
our routes logical, our kids safe, and made a working person’s
salary). The new Director of Transportation makes $70,000 per year plus
and perks and has put our children in harm’s way.
What has the new Director of Transportation done? Well he said he could
save us all money by no longer stopping to pick up teens in Olive to
take them to Onteora High School—just a quick dash across Route
28. The bus still passes these students, but it can’t stop to
pick them up. That’s not saving money, that’s putting children
in unsafe situations. He created separate buses for special education
children (why no one knows, nor have the incumbents asked), so that
MORE buses are on the road with fewer students. And he told the bus
drivers to “drive safe” as he sent them on the roads in
late February-several buses slid off of the roads.
Actions do speak louder than words, the incumbents act like they have
all of Olive in their back pockets because they call themselves the
taxpayer’s candidates while they make transportation less safe
and increase administrative costs, positions, and salaries. They must
think we are all stupid, but we are not, we just aren’t expecting
to be lied to.
Take action on May 20^th , Vote for Flayhan (Woodstock), Legnini (Olive),
McGillicuddy (Shandaken), and Osmond (Woodstock). The three incumbents
say they are for Olive because they are from Olive, but they are for
Administrative Costs rising and transportation costs and dangers increasing.
Four candidates, running as a bloc for the Onteora School Board, are
calling for a morally and fiscally irresponsible moratorium on the 5-8
MS configuration and bond proposals, and demanding all three elementary
schools remain open.
If elected and a moratorium on the consolidation and the bond happens
and all schools remain open, state aid will be DECREASED because the
State Education Department will not fund unused or half used classrooms,
which we now have. Has this bloc of four calculated how much state aid
will be lost for art and music programs with their moratorium? How is
this supporting quality education, and how is it morally and fiscally
Any significant increase in taxes to make up for decreased state aid
would cause the defeat of the school budget and put a contingency budget
in place, which would take away the ability to buy sports equipment,
fix the roofs, buy desks, chairs, TV’s, pave the parking lot,
. . .. High school students are sitting on the floor and windowsills
of the overcrowded cafeteria eating lunch while brown water drips from
the ceiling into a huge garbage pail of sludgy water. Letting this go
on is morally and fiscally wrong and definitely not in the best interest
of the students.
To repair the schools will cost $40 million. If we don’t bond,
where will the money come from? The bond is like a home equity loan.
You pay on what you use, not the total amount bonded. Closing a school
would net a $2 million savings which would be applied to repaying the
bond, and so could the $84,000 it costs to heat and light one elementary
school. We can rid ourselves of this extravagance by consolidation.
There is about 31 to 41% state aid available for the consolidation project.
But that is a limited window of opportunity and would be lost by implementing
Of the $25,000 it costs to educate a student at Onteora (the highest
in several counties), $19,000 goes directly for salaries and benefits.
How does this bloc foresee curtailing the escalating salary and benefit
packages, and how will they fill half empty school buses, lower fuel
and repair costs without consolidating the schools? How can they complain
of a ten minute extra ride from Phoenicia to Bennett, when students
from Samsonville are on the bus for an hour and fifteen minutes one-way?
And are we to ignore the advice of paid researchers, architects, and
volunteer committees, and lose the money and man hours spent over the
last four years to favor a few parents with a personal agenda who don’t
want their 5-6th grader mingling with older students? What about the
parents who don’t want hormone driven 5-6th graders in with their
Perhaps this bloc of four are in financially secure positions that no
matter how high the taxes go they can afford to pay them. Many in this
school district cannot. It is not fiscally or morally responsible to
ask that someone sell their home and move away, so that a school can
I appeal to families and seniors who are having difficulty paying their
bills, buying groceries and medicines, paying for gasoline, paying their
taxes, to re-elect Rita Vanacore, Mary Jane Bernholtz, and Cindy O’Connor.
They have been working very hard and have proven they are fiscally responsible
by coming up with a 0% increased tax levy this year to help you stay
in your home. They have a plan to maximize state aid to the OSD and
provide quality education for the students of the entire district. They
are the Taxpayers Candidates.
I am glad that Mr. Smart had the chance to interview Judith Boggess
of "Olive matters". If anyone ever had any doubt as to what
this group's goals are, those doubts were made clear with appalling
clarity. I find it astonishing that Mrs. Boggess spoke with derision
about such worthy goals as "quality of education". Clearly,
she’s not thinking about our kids...
What can be more important than the quality of education that our children
receive? Mrs. Boggess points out that her group did not care which school
closed as long as one did.
While it may not matter to “Olive Matters” which school
closes, it matters to Phoenicia, Woodstock & West Hurley. Perhaps
Mrs. Boggess and her group will get behind a plan to close Bennett,
since it "doesn't matter" to them. Somehow, I don't think
Mrs. Boggess will do that. Another school closing is not the only issue,
since it was made clear at the last OSD Board meeting that the "vision"
seems to be no community schools at all...with all the kids on one central
The stated reason for wanting or needing to close yet another community
school is supposedly economics. Yet, how much did our taxes go down
after the closure of West Hurley? Astonishingly, the numbers seem to
indicate that the taxes did not go down at all! Is the closure of other
community schools designed to cut costs over the long run, or is this
a move to help fund a move towards a centralized campus? Will the end
result be such a centralized campus and no savings to the tax payers
at all? So far, that's how it looks.
Will we need to lose other programs, like Indie, to fund such a migration
out of the communities? And don't let anyone fool you into thinking
that Indie is just moving from it's building to within the HS with no
other changes. As present, the plan seems to turn a multi-year alternative
education program into a Senior year elective. When put that way, it
is easy to see how we save 150,000 dollars. We save that money by reducing
the educational options for our kids.
We all know it is important to be cost conscious and fiscally responsible.
But simply shifting expenses from one configuration to another while
not saving taxpayers anything is nothing more than an elaborate shell
So it seems as if it doesn't matter which school closes next... because
they'll be closing the next one before too long. Closing the community
schools will have a VERY large impact on the community.
Mrs. Boggess makes clear that her group and the candidates which they
support are "more interested in pure economics". The education
of our children is not JUST about a sterile bottom line. It is ALSO
about creating a creative, nurturing environment where children are
encouraged to learn and to interact with their teachers and friends.
It is about being part of a community where learning is encouraged.
We got a glimpse of the vision of the future the other night, with one
central campus being the goal. Is that the future we want for our schools?
Do we want longer bus rides and fewer educational options for our kids?
Mrs. Boggess seems to think that “Olive Matters” most. Well,
Shandaken, Woodstock & West Hurley matter too. But more importantly,
our kids matter. So, if kids matter to you, then vote for Donna Flayhan,
Ralph Legnini, Ann McGillicuddy & Laurie Osmond on May 20th.
It’s my impression that many voters in the area are confusing
two distinct issues with regard to the upcoming school board election.
The Bond to consolidate the elementary schools and create a 5-8 middle
school doesn't come up for a vote until January '09. Thus, it’s
separate from the immediate question of which people are best qualified
to lead the school district.
Those who oppose consolidation could work AFTER the school board election
to gain support to vote the bond down in the new year. Should the bond
be defeated, the board and administration would then have received a
clear mandate to re-think the consolidation. Such a “no”
vote in January would effectively create the moratorium some candidates
are seeking now.
At this time, there is no need to exchange the current school board
for people who are not well versed in the many issues facing the district.
My suggestions: 1) vote “yes” on the budget, which reflects
an 0% increased tax levy, the lowest ever presented to the voters, and
2) vote to re-elect those who’ve worked hard to make this happen.
Vote to retain Rita Vanacore, Mary Jane Bernholz, and Cindy O'Conner
on the board. And if a moratorium on consolidation is so strongly desired,
vote to defeat the bond in January.
An e-mail letter from Judith Boggess, dated May 1, which claims to speak
for Olive Matters and appears intended for publication, is doing the
rounds. It is designed to “divide and conquer” - so let
me note first, before I respond, that the slate of candidates that opposes
the current Incumbents includes a proud Olive resident, Ralph Legnini.
Everyone I know has friends in every town through the District. All
our middle school and high school children go to school in the town
of Olive, and no doubt local businesses (and town taxpayers) benefit
from this. We who support Ralph, Donna, Ann and Laurie will not be provoked
into attacking the good people of Olive.
The letter uses the same backward logic as has been practiced and perfected
by the incumbents over the last three years. So let’s be clear.
State Aid will not be “decreased” if there is a moratorium
on the Grades 5-8 Middle School. The State Aid only exists if a Grades
5-8 Middle School is created; that State Aid is then maximized if said
school goes on the current MS/HS footprint. Why? To quote KSQ Architects,
because it “creates larger student population that exceeds minimum
threshold.” In other words, it causes “overcrowding.”
So we are going to close a school to build a school to overcrowd our
children – just because we get State Aid?
Ms. Boggess suggests that if taxes are increased, a future budget will
be voted down. Firstly, nobody I know wants to see taxes go up, just
as nobody wants to see them wasted on unwieldy and unpopular projects.
Secondly, most people understand the damage caused to our children by
voting down a budget. To acknowledge that damage, and then to advocate
for it, says much about someone’s philosophy. I’d like to
believe that most people in Onteora don’t behave that way.
The projected financial balance between the closure of one school and
the building of another is, at best, wishful thinking. Fuel costs are
rising, costs of materials keep rising. Who can seriously guarantee
that the new building would come in on budget? Think of the Ulster County
Jail. And consider that this proposal will involve firing teachers and
other staff who live, work and pay taxes in our community - while the
new building costs will present the prospect of large profits to contractors
who may or may not be part of the District tax base. And that’s
not to mention the irreparable damage done to the community (including
all-important property values) that loses a school.
Donna Flayhan, Laurie Osmond, Ann McGillicuddy and Ralph Legnini are
all hard-working members of the community. They have made themselves
readily available for discussion and conversation, to the point of publicly
printing their e-mail addresses. I have found them happy to talk about
their work, their families, their children and their involvement in
the community as a whole, with anyone interested in a civil discussion
about the future of our schools. I encourage people to vote for them
on May 20,and to visit www.saveouronteoraschools.com to learn more about
Mt Tremper, NY
I have been reading and listening to the various 'players' in the coming
school board election trying, through all of the verbiage, to see the
real important issues. On April 16, I had the opportunity to sit with
Ralph Legnini, Cindy O'Connor, Mary Jane Bernholz and Rita Vanacore
[with several others present] and listen to a friendly, but spirited
conversation. This experience, along with what has appeared in various
local newspapers has given me some insights and I am beginning to see
what might be the most basic issue involved in the election in the next
few weeks. What seems clear to me is that there is a rather fundamental
distinction between the two 'slates' of candidates and it can be simplified
into "Emotion vs. Reason." Like any such phrase, this is a
bit of oversimplification. However, it is a very strong component in
First let me say that, as a psychotherapist for 35 years, I am all in
favor of emotion and reason. I have spent years helping people be much
more comfortable with their emotions and much more 'conversant' with
their true reasoning functions. Both are vital human functions. In principle,
they should work well together and support each other to make us much
more human and humane. This is especially true when it comes to dealing
with our children and their true needs. Many problems come quickly to
the fore when we try to set them against each other rather than see
them as complimentary. Equally problematic is the idea of choosing one
to the exclusion of the other. This will never work! No human can do
that successfully for very long. Especially with our emotions, they
often 'go underground' and influence our reason without our knowledge.
OK, OK, what has this to do with the election? My take on the focus
of Mr. Legnini, a very intelligent and articulate advocate for his position,
is that he and the others on his slate are letting their emotional attachment
to the Phoenicia school [which is totally understandable] and emotional
fear of the bonding issue to 'scuttle' their reason and have not really
done their homework as to the subtleties involved in this very complex
situation. It was clear to me that Mr. Legnini was very short on a lot
of the factors involved in the school boards plans and the research
behind these proposals.
On the other hand, Mss. O'Connor, Bernholz and Vanacore are leaning
a bit too much on their reasoning faculties [which are very good so
it is understandable] without addressing adequately the deeply held
emotions at play. They need to show a bit more passion in public for
the vision that they have drawn up [with great care and sensitivity
to the effects on the children affected] after the massive numbers of
hours and years and miles of travel that went into their research.
I have no doubt that Mr. Legnini and the others on his 'slate' have
the ability to do the research and the thinking, but they haven't yet
done that and are letting their passion dismiss the deep work that the
school board has done. And I have seen the passion and deep caring that
the 'other slate' has brought to their work. I am impressed with courage
they have shown in putting out such a controversial set of proposals.
Proposals that their research has led them to believe that the district
has little other choice but to bight the bullet and face the fact that
there just are not, and will not be in the foreseeable future, enough
children to support Three elementary schools in the Onteora district.
The longer we wait, the more the pain in facing the changes needed.
As with any change, we are creatures of habit and find it jolting. It
is natural to try to resist from an emotional place even if our reason
[assuming we use it to become fully informed] tells us differently.
The Onteora school system faces just such a situation now. There is
an immense amount of 'deferred maintenance' on the building which are
threatening the structures and will get more and more expensive the
longer major work is delayed. The school age population is on a long
term decline and there is a strong need to 'downsize' or we will see
our school taxes continue to soar at the same time as the number of
children in the system declines. This is an unsustainable situation
for very much longer! An elementary school will have to close! There
is no way around it if we are fiscally responsible.
As to the 5-8 middle school plan. I must take my own advice here and
say that I am not well informed on that issue, but the little I do know
points to the rightness of this decision. It is recommended by the State
Department of Education and is widely used in other school districts.
Last point [for now]. Many of you will recognize that I am an Olive
resident and have been active and partisan in the Large Parcel debate.
That issue is no longer on the table as Mr. Legnini and friends have
stated that they are against activating the LP as are almost all of
the other candidates. I am not plunking down on the side of the incumbent
candidates just because they are from Olive [in fact Mr. Legnini is
an Olive resident as well], but because I believe that their plan is
the most financially viable one and faces the reality that dramatic
changes are absolutely necessary for the stability of our school taxes.
Closing an elementary school and doing the fundamental maintenance on
the buildings are absolutely necessary for that stability.
The Community-Based School Group (CBSG) was formed to promote action
and planning to prevent the closing of another school in the Onteora
Central School District, and to study all reasonable alternatives and
solutions, including the possibility of district reorganization (cbschoolgroup.blogspot.com).
The premise for CBSG's initiative is that all communities within the
Onteora Central School District value their local schools, and share
a common desire to keep them open.
Because the Onteora Central School District board has signaled intention
to close one more elementary school and to seek expensive bonding authority
to reduce the school facilities in the Onteora Central School District
and to implement an extremely unpopular and questionable 5-8 middle
school plan, we believe urgent action is necessary to allow study of
reasonable alternatives to keep our schools open.
We believe the drastic action of closing a school to be treatment of
a symptom rather than prescription of a cure (Onteora Central School
District cites declining enrollment projections and increase in expense
projections), and that community-based education is being dismantled
through the Onteora Central School District board's plan and proposed
Local schools are the very cornerstone of local economies. The strong
link and direct benefits to a community from it's local school is significant
and uncontroverted. Closing another school will have predictable and
severe educational and economic consequences for all of us.
Fresh perspectives and solutions are needed now to keep our community-based
schools open, operating and thriving. We urge you to support our efforts
by joining in a request that your town boards and supervisors communicate
with appropriate state and local officials with a request for study
of all alternatives, including district reorganization, and in requesting
that the Onteora Central School District board place a moratorium on
any further 5-8 middle school planning or bonding initiatives until
the study is completed.
The future ability to provide quality education, increased strength
of community and growth in our local economies and school populations
throughout the Onteora Central School District all depend upon the continued
existence of thriving local schools. Please do all you can to help us
save our schools!
Finally, four (4) school board seats are open for election on May 20,
2008, and we urge all to vote, and to help get out the vote, on May
West Hurley, NY
Friday night, many in our community came out to enjoy fellowship and
square dancing and lots of cool Western gear at the annual Phoenicia
School Western Day gathering. I cried when I got home to read in the
paper and hear from a Meet the Candidates forum that Phoenicia School
has been named by members of the incumbent school board as being on
the chopping block. The education our son has received there for the
past 5 years has been superb, and judging by the very high national
test scores that he and other Phoenicia students have received (making
it among the top ranking elementary schools performance-wise in NY),
he is not alone. The small class sizes has been deemed a "problem"
by some current school board members; instead of enhancing the education
experience, that says to me that in their opinion quality education
is not as important as getting the most bang for the buck. Our family
and many others moved to Phoenicia specifically so that our children
could go to Phoenicia School. I daresay that this trend will not continue
if our beloved school is shuttered.There is no replacement for our community
school--and it would be a severe economic and cultural loss to our town
should Phoenicia School close.
I urge all Shandaken residents to PLEASE get out and vote on May 20
for Flayhan, Legnini, McGillicuddy, & Osmond--the candidates who
vow to keep Phoenicia School (as well as the other 2 elementary schools)
open. They want to prevent the loss of our children's quality education,
jobs performed by devoted teachers and support staff, and community
gatherings such as the annual Flag Day ceremony & the aforementioned
Western Day, among other events that bring together people of all ages
in our town.
Dear Editor, Hi, my name is Suzy Boulay and I am the daughter of Donna
Flayhan. I am 9 years old. There are three issues that worry me if the
plans of this School Board go through. The 1st issue I would like to
address is the 5-8 Middle school decision. But first I would just like
to say that it will not be grades 5-8 but grades 5-12 and one bus. That’s
scary. If I was getting on that bus I would be terrified and there would
be so many things that I did not need to know. And if I was forced to
do that I would have to move to a private school, but we can’t
really afford that. Many of my best friends would be lost and many good
community members would leave. My 2nd issue is that an elementary school
will be closed. If they close 1 school to make it a 5-8. Our school
district will have a huge gap to cover it they may try to reopen West
Hurley and when they don’t have enough money there will only be
two over crowded elementary school and one 5-12. My 3rd issue is that
when we have our 2 elementary schools they will both be over crowded.
When I was in kindergarten at Woodstock it was the year West Hurley
was closed. So we had 25 students and everyone was squished together.
I asked my friends Faith and Greta about how it was Faith remembered
that we couldn’t even fit on the carpet. Greta remembered getting
left behind. My sister’s Kindergarten class had 21 students at
Phoenicia this year, with no aid because they were cut from the budget,
the teacher was going on maternity leave and 1 boy only spoke Spanish
and 1 boy only spoke Chinese. I talked to one of the kid’s moms
she said that her daughter was just left behind. The legal limit to
be over crowded is 23, but overcrowded means when kids are left behind
really. But if you elect Donna Flayhan, Ralph Legnini, Ann McGillicuddy
and Laurie Osmond none of that will happened. But if you vote for the
incumbents all of that will.Vote May 20th Save our schools! Suzy Boulay
The up-coming Onteora school budget vote is just around the corner.
Voting will take place on May 20, 2008. This year’s budget reflects
the hard work that the present board members started to work on back
in 2005. Anyone that’s worked on a budget understands that it
takes long range planning to reduce spending without affecting, in this
case, the ability of our students to learn. That’s exactly what
this board of education has done for the past three years. Board President
Mary Jane Bernholz, Vice President Cindy O’Connor and Rita Vanacore
were elected in the 2005 election. Onteora’s tax levy increase
this year is a remarkable 1.09 percent. I’ve never seen any school
district’s tax levy increase that low. The board continues their
effort to bring the tax levy increase down to a zero percent tax levy
increase. That’s right, a zero percent tax levy increase.
This year there are eight candidates running for four seats on the board.
Board President, Mary Jane Bernholz, Vice President Cindy O’Connor
and Rita Vanacore are the incumbents and are running as a block.
Ann McGillycuddy, Laurie Osmond, Ralph Legnini, Donna Flayhan are the
other candidates that are also running as a block. Adam Pollack is the
other candidate. The candidates running as a block believe that community
elementary schools with smaller classrooms are important and they do
not support closing one elementary school nor do they support the new
middle school configuration. Evidently they are not concerned about
people in this district that’s struggling to pay their taxes,
the $42,000.00 cost per student in a few years, the $2, 300.000.00 savings
to the district if the board decides to close a school and how the gas
prices and everything we buy is effecting every day life of people living
in this district. They must not be concerned about receiving 31-41 %
in state aid reimbursement if the board decides to put the Middle School
in the existing space with a separation from the high school. It doesn’t
sound like this group of people running for a seat on the Board of Education
has thought things out very clearly. You don’t have to be a Rhodes
Scholar to know what they will do if elected.
To throw out the three incumbents would be a travesty. It took the present
board members three years to get to where we are today. Any new members
would have to start all over again and that would affect the district
As a parent and community member, as well as a rational and open-minded
40-year old woman with a long professional history in both journalism
and PR, I am shocked, sickened and downright disgusted after the April
23 Board of Education meeting, at which time, through an insulting and
backhanded presentation, we learned that the only real choice for our
children is a combined grades 5-12 MS/HS to be located in the current
This comes after many, many people – myself included – spent
days each week and month in collaborative meetings, on committees, at
informal gatherings, trying to work with the current Board and Administration
on a vision that would work best for our school district. What a laugh!
Since this process began, there have always been friends and colleagues
that have said, “This administration and this Board planned to
shutter ‘this’ or ‘that’ elementary school all
along, etc....” To this, I had replied, “Not necessarily,
there is a chance that any number of scenarios could play out.”
As a proud Phoenicia parent who relocated here from Manhattan so that
my child could attend our excellent public school, I felt that since
I was being engaged to participate in meaningful discussion, my opinion
I feel slapped in the face. Let me reiterate: I am one of those parents
who did not object to the grades 5-8 middle school as long as it was
housed separately from the high school. I understand politics; I understand
budgeting. I was open to this discussion.
For those who missed the debacle that was the April 23 meeting, let
me sum up by saying that architects KSQ, hired to mastermind this caper,
suddenly stated – out of the blue – that unless we place
the MS and HS in the same building, we will not receive the full extent
of the state aid allotted us. This essentially makes the notion of turning
Bennett into a freestanding MS dead in the water – and this was
a notion that made a grades 5-8 middle school palatable for me and other
NOT ONCE was the issue of state aid addressed with the public at earlier
meetings or community forums over the past year while this discussion
was really heating up. Some Board members themselves seemed quite surprised
at this piece of information. WHY??? Isn’t this what our elected
officials are supposed to query of the architects that are seemingly
planning our children’s future? And if not entirely the fault
of the current Board, then SURELY it fell to KSQ to tell all parties,
early in the process, that unless we combine schools, we will not qualify
for the maximum amount of aid?
Whether the current Board (or at least, the majority of its members)
and the Administration did so with malice or not, this ridiculous oversight
that now dictates our children’s fate has me FURIOUS and I am
channeling this energy into the best solution in front of me.
So, community members, I urge you to support the Save Our Schools slate
of Flayhan, Legnini, McGillicuddy and Osmond. Through them, a new Board
may be able to undo some of the damage inflicted on Onteora School District
before it is too late.
Mount Tremper, NY
The Indian summer of the greatest financial credit expansion ever is
now well behind us. The ensuing credit contraction and currency devaluation
has been startling and painful to working families and fixed income
seniors. The devaluation of the dollar in real purchasing power is 40-50%
if you eat, drive, heat a home, have children in college, pay taxes,
etc. Fixed income seniors and working class families are increasingly
considering moving away from high tax NY. The problem with that is twofold.
Firstly, the squeezing out of families due to high taxes is repugnant
and regressive in the extreme. Secondly, every time a skilled working
family leaves, the remaining community suffers a diminution of skills,
resources and reciprocity which all work together to help support many
without cash changing hands. Who will man the fire trucks and ambulances
when the working class is forced out? Get rich or get out is not a viable
path to a harmonious well functioning community, in my view.
I'm for all 3 parties platforms in the school board contest.
I'm very much an advocate for community schools. Who isn't? NYSED is
not. The state is on a consolidation binge because we are suddenly cold,
broke and hungry. They will no longer reimburse our facilities projects
due to our precipitous enrollment decline. In their view we have way
too much school per pupil and they are cutting us off from 30% reimbursements
until we submit to their vision by closing a school. The yearly savings
that an elementary school closure provides is supposed to cover the
cost of the long neglected building repairs and conversion to a 5 to
8 middle school configuration, if I am not mistaken.
Part of the platform from Woodstock seeks a redistricting into 2 smaller
districts. Having been a decentralist since a starry eyed teen, I heartily
endorse 2 smaller decentralized districts. The conditions that existed
when OCSD was formed have changed markedly. New energy and fiscal paradigms
are taking hold and will likely dictate new paths going forward. Smaller
governing units are usually easier and less costly to operate per capita,
contrary to what the county or state might tell you. Just go up further
into the Catskills and you have smaller far less costly school districts.
The long simmering cultural divide and the Large Parcel harmony meltdown
are further considerations and may be used as compelling reasons to
seek state approval to allow the formation of 2 districts from 1. It
will however, take a hurculean effort by a very motivated community
group with infinite stamina to hurdle the barriers likely to be mounted
by the state. I'll help that effort anytime.
I like the present administrations fiscal restraint, budget trimming
and short, medium and long term approaches to keeping the yearly tax
increases low. The incumbent board members have been proactive about
analyzing our short, medium and long term exposures and they are working
within NYSED guidelines to remedy them where necessary and this process
will need to be ongoing for the foreseeable future during this period
of great change . They work full time at the school board to devise
ways to avoid forcing seniors and families of modest means out of the
community. Much work has been done to arrive at the 5-8 middle school
configuration, with pros and cons for and against. Ultimately the people
will decide on election day.
While the NYC reservoir property in Olive is still designated as a Large
Parcel, it seems logical that NY ORPS would accept the NYC reservoir
assessment agreement and hence no longer designate the reservoir as
a Large Parcel. NYORPS would look like bumbling idiots if they were
to designate this year. This was noted by myself and others in the Olive
Press last fall.
The slate of 4 challengers seem to be very talented, caring, passionate
and accomplished people as are the 3 incumbents. The incumbents have
the advantage of experience and being able to work at it full time.
Demographics will also play a role in the upcoming election as there
are now more childless homeowners than not. Many of these families are
hard pressed and have no choice but to try to keep their tax increases
as low as possible. My guess is that the electorate will re-elect the
incumbents and vote no on the bonds. Then the pruning process will distill
down the essentials. The taxpayers will certainly vote aye to fix the
roof and provide other essential utilities such as a computer network,
electrical wiring and plumbing renovations. If the closure savings equal
the bond payments then the tax levy should stay level, right? Maybe
As to whether our children’s education will be harmed by all of
this? There is evidence on both sides. Does money equal education? Given
that the period of greatest expansion in the US was presided over by
those who came up in modest one room schools I would question that.
We are fortunate enough to have highly dedicated and competent teachers
at OCSD, who are available to students who wish to avail themselves
of their teacher's knowledge and experience. Generally, the students
who are motivated and work hard do well and thus it will ever be. We
are in a period of great change that may be painful to many. The problems
of OCSD are not wholly unique to our school district. The global credit
collapse will affect all but those at the very top, I believe. Perhaps
when the dust settles some measure of harmony will slowly reassert itself
as I believe that we do have more in common than not throughout the
district. Oh, bye the by, a growing number of wall street and corporate
big guys are advising taking up gardening and farming. The number of
such articles in the financial media has steadily grown as the food
crisis has unfolded. Food for thought or action?
The Onteora School Board recently threw their support into expanding
the High School with proposals for new construction, so they can have
a grades five through eight middle school. They plan to close an elementary
school, to build a new school. Does this make sense?
Rita Vanacore says it was all in the name of quality of education while
giving an example that with a new middle school a foreign language can
be taught at a fifth grade level. What is stopping the district now?
They'd rather cut the Indie Program or Music programs while spending
way more to replace school lockers(which they have to change to allow
for moving more kids into the one campus). Why is the education of our
children being held hostage by their plans to centralize? New Paltz
Central School district begins teaching their kids foreign languages
in first grade! Their schools are not on one campus, but spread throughout
New Paltz. They also have a lower per pupil cost than Onteora and a
higher graduation rate. After they conducted and LISTENED to public
debate, the New Paltz district also scrapped their proposals to build
a new Middle School that would be on the same property as the high school
and chose instead to renovate their standing middle school - a building
constructed in 1930! They are doing just fine with a six through eight
middle school and instead of investing in new construction they are
investing in education!
We don't need newly constructed buildings, when we can scale down and
work with what we already have. New construction costs are currently
peaking, and construction costs regularly balloon way above projected
costs. Do you seriously believe that plan will save taxpayers money?
The current board worked hard on the Large Parcel issue, but now they're
going too far with their personal visions for the district, while NOT
LISTENING to people all over the district who are objecting to their
direction for the school district's future.
The OCS board incumbents are telling taxpayers they are their candidates.
Well, when property values go down in different ends of the district
because they have closed schools and stopped attracting people to live
in the area because reports of the quality of education are no longer
exciting transplants or natives to stay and raise their families here,
then it's going to negatively affect the pockets of everyone, homeowners
and businesses whose property and business values lose value, people
who lose jobs as different communities' businesses suffer the lack of
vibrancy local schools bring to year round life here ....while they
cut programs that keep the children enthusiastic about going to school
and learning. Just yesterday yet another parent in the district told
me she's thinking about home schooling because she's so discouraged
by the direction the current board has been taking the schools.....I
am hearing this discouragement with the current board's actions and
plans all over the district. So please, go out on May 20 to vote to
save our schools, save the type of "quality" of education
that you would expect of this region, and save property values and the
region's fiscal viability, by voting for people who can see the big
picture and listen to the constituents of the whole area, people who
are from and represent ALL the areas- Olive, Shokan and Woodstock.
VOTE FOR : FLAYHAN, LEGNINI, MCGILLICUDDY and OSMOND for the Onteora
Central School District Board.
Mt. Tremper, NY
On May 20th when you vote in the OCS school board election, remember
that who you vote for may determine whether you're able to keep your
home or be forced to move from the area. The candidates have formed
blocs on two sides of the issues. The incumbents, Mary Jane Bernholz,
Cindy O'Connor and Rita Vanacore, are fiscally responsible.In fact,
during the last three years they've held the budget to some of the lowest
increases in the county. Their opponents are rookies who are basing
their fiscally irresponsible decisions on misguided emotions. They adamantly
oppose the closing of elementary schools despite the rapid decline in
enrollment. They are willing to tax you and me to staff, heat, repair
and maintain buildings which are no longer needed to educate our children.
Furthermore,if they are elected their faulty reasoning will lead to
diminished state aid which is determined in part by the amount of square
feet of space per student. New York is not going to reward poor fiscal
responsibility by funding buildings which aren't needed. Does it make
sense to heat, repair, maintain, and staff three elementary schools
when two will serve the needs of the district? To lose state aid by
keeping that unnecessary school open flys in the face of fiscal responsibility..
In addition these newcomers state that they want a moratorium on the
bond. They make the bond appear to be something which is bad for the
district. Please consider the purpose for the bond and also the fact
tha the bond will not be voted on until next January. Also consider
the fact that the current board members have created a means by which
the bond will be repaid with minimal impact to our taxes.
First, the bond is necessary to finance needed repairs and upgrades.Our
facilities require serious attention. The recent Onteora newsletter
has a pictorial section showing failing steam lines, aging boilers,
and a leaking roof. Patch job repairs are not the solution.
Second, due to the declining enrollment, the restructuring suggested
by the board to make better use of our facility and to create a middle
school population base suitable to maintain the numbers for chorus,
band, etc., requires building modifications. The bond will fund the
work needed to provide the best possible building floor plan and classroom
Third, the current school board has a plan for repaying the bond. Approximately
41 percent will be covered by government grants. The money saved over
the next years by implementing the suggested plan of the Budget Advisory
Committee will leverage the cost of the remaining portion. This viable
solution took over a year of intense research, review, discussion, and
design. The board has had the input of architects, consultants, the
advisory committee, and the public. I believe that it is in the best
interest of the students and taxpayers to implement the master plan
without further delay.
Considering the economic state of our country and the cost of living
crisis which many face, we cannot afford to be frivolous with expenditures
at Onteora. We certainly cannot afford to keep a school open when we
have space in another nearby facility to accommodate the students from
both. Many taxpayers have their backs against the wall, and it is a
struggle for them. The reality is that some are going to be forced from
their homes if Onteora doesn't take drastic measures. It is a far greater
travesty for families to lose their homes then it is for a school to
close and its students to travel a few miles to a well maintined and
upgraded school. Through this consolidation, students will
make new friends and they will also enjoy better distribution of our
resources in a modernized school.
Mary Jane Bernholz, Cindy O'Connor and Rita Vanacore have the needed
experience and knowledge of our challenges to guide Onteora through
these perilous times. I have attended many board meetings over the last
ten years and I know that we cannot find more dedicated or qualified
people. For the past three years these women have spent countless hours
on behalf of the students and taxpayers. We must reelect these vigilant
guardians who worked so hard to devise a plan which will restore our
schools’ physical integrity and consolidate our resources in a
fiscally responsible manner. To even consider replacing them with untested
rookies who may not even have the time or energy to devote to the daunting
task of overseeing our children and tax dollars is unwise. To even consider
replacing them with untested rookies who will place a moratorium on
the very measures which will save our school district and very possibly
many taxpayers' homes is unthinkable.
Join me in voting for Mary Jane Bernholz, Cindy O'Connor, and Rita Vanacore
on May 20th. Remember, the home you save may be your own!!!
John R. Tisch
West Shokan, NY
Olive matters....and no one else!
That is clearly the message from this ad hoc group of self centered
Olive citizens. No one has made the case better then they as to why
the current board of ed MUST be removed, except for Herb Rosenfeld in
his eloquent article in last weeks paper. This group wants to saddle
everyone in the district with a bankrupting tax bill for the most ludicrous
plan in the history of education in this district. It basically goes
Pass a huge bond of between 70 – 90 Million dollars so that we
can over crowd 2 elementary schools due to the closing of one community
school, spend even more money on gas busing kids 1/2 way across Ulster
county, make sure that Olive keeps it’s roughly 30% discount on
education expenses so that the rest of the district can pay for their
absurd plan, and along the way make sure that anyone in the employ of
the district who disagrees with them is silenced or loses their job.
This is called taxation by retardation. Surely anyone with any sense
at all realizes that spending even more money busing children even farther
then they already have to go due to closing an elementary school right
down the street makes no financial sense at all. That stuffing 30+ kids
into classes makes no educational sense at all! That strapping every
tax payer with a tax bill that rivals or may even exceed the County
jail debacle makes no sense at all. In fact nothing that Olive Matters
espouses makes any sense at all, except that they agree that it might
not be a bad idea to split the second largest geographical school district
in the state of NY in to two separate districts.
However, before we can have an intelligent conversation about the merits
of splitting the district into to two distinct community school districts
we must safe guard the short term by kicking out this out of control,
debt crazy, class over crowding, self serving board of ed and replace
it with thoughtful, COMMUNITY minded, educationally focused, willing
to listen slate of candidates Ralph Legnini, Ann McGillycuddy, Donna
Flayhan, Laurie Osmond or Adam Pollack. The real important message here
is “ANYONE BUT WHO OLIVE MATTERS WANTS!”
Our future as viable communities is at stake, the future of quality
education for our children is at stake, the future of being able to
stay in our community due to an OUTRAGOUS tax bill is at stake. If there
was ever a reason to get off your butt and vote for a board of education
you have it now. IF THIS BOARD OF ED IS RELECTED it will spell disaster
for our kids, our communities and our future.
Yes, I am still alive and well. I remain interested in that which occurs
within a radius of 12,500 miles from whatever location. In reading the
Olive Press of April 24, 2008 my interest in the OCSD Board member election
set for May 20, 2008 has been elevated to a new level; higher.
The four "new" candidates; one from Shandaken, two from Woodstock
and one from Olive [five with kindergartner Adam Pollack from Woodstock]
are the modern version of the "Trojan Horse" and not to be
trusted. As I have recommended a few times in the Press that "all"
members of the OCSD Board should be from Olive as the other towns are
mere "guests". Go back in time to Aesop's Fables and rediscover
how the camel took possession of the tent with the camel driver outside
in the sand storm. We know from history and the human experiment that
kindness is not a virtue.
My compliments [on behalf of Olive] to Judith Boggess for manning the
ramparts so ably and her intuitive intelligence to see through the facade
of these four "warriors" and their apprentice. They state,
"we will not vote for Large Parcel" [if it rears its ugly
head]. Yeh, right.
Wilber and Cross [a pair a full house can't beat] can certainly take
credit for the revolution, the ill will and the outcome of their political
ambitions. Any time these two got on the phone together they were up
to no good.
Glenn T. Anderson
A few weeks ago I took my daughter to registration for kindergarten
for the coming school year. The registration took place at the non-functioning
West Hurley school, which I thought was a strange choice of venue. Although
the teachers who were there to help with registration were certainly
pleasant, it was an odd and alienating experience to be in a school
that had no sign of children, activity, or any real life at all. I had
to keep explaining to my daughter that she would not be going to that
particular school in the fall but that we simply had to spend the morning
there getting her registered. I had some specific questions I wanted
to ask teachers about Bennett and Phoenicia schools, as I'm currently
trying to decide where to send my daughter. No one was able to help
me, as they were pulled from various schools and seemed unsure themselves
of what exactly would be going on in the district. One person implied
that having registration at the defunct West Hurley school was just
another sign of the confusion surrounding the school board's plans for
the district. I hope that there is some progressive change as a result
of the upcoming school board election and that people will consider
voting for Donna Flayhan, Ralph Legnini, Laurie Osmond, and Ann McGillicuddy
to help save our Onteora schools.
West Shokan, NY
I am a life-long resident of the Onteora School District. I am a taxpayer
and parent of two grown children that attended Onteora and am happy
with the education they received.
I don’t get to board meetings much but over the last couple of
years I have tried to keep informed of the boards decisions. I can only
image that the majority of people the school board is hearing from are
parents with children in school. Due to the 5-8 educational decisions
I will take it one step further and assume the majority of those you
hear from have young children.
I am here to say there is a silent voice you have not heard from. It
is the taxpayer and retiree that do not have children in the district.
Before I continue I want to say that I am all for the education of our
children. Just like those before me that contributed to our children’s
education it is our turn to contribute to theirs.
People like me will vote for a board and bond that maximizes the education
benefit for our students while balancing the fiscal realities. We need
a board of education more so now than ever before that is going to address
our rising cost per student (almost $25,000.00 a year), declining enrollment,
our old buildings and lack of technology in a fiscally responsible way.
This means utilizing our staff and buildings in the most efficient way.
When my children attended Onteora we had nearly 2500 students, we are
now down to approximately 1800 students with projections showing a decline
to 1300 students in six years. We need a board that is willing to make
some tough decisions. We need a board that is looking at the big picture,
the whole district. You need to stay objective. Please keep focused
and do not listen to fear of change. Fear can cripple this district
and we can’t afford to stay the same.
Our present tax base cannot continue to support the rising cost per
student, the highest in the county, with a medium income way below that
of the average salary at Onteora. Many of our taxpayers are small business
owners and the self-employed struggling to pay their own health benefits.
The average health insurance plan for a family is $1,200.00 per month.
I are all for a great education for our children and as a taxpayer I
are willing to spend money on a bond for modernization but you need
to show tax payers a plan that is fiscally responsible at the same time.
Tax payers you NEED to show up at the polls and vote for school board
candidates that have an educational vision and a fiscal plan. Talk to
Cindy O’Connor, Mary Jane Bernholz and Rita Vanacore, we did,
they can explain the plan and vision needed to carry this district forward.
West Hurley, NY
These are terrible economic times. Everyone is hurting – merchants,
service industry, construction, hospitality- and the trickle down in
our school district feels catastrophic. People cannot make ends meet
let alone keep up with the taxes on their properties. But it would be
a fatal economic blunder to close down the Phoenicia Elementary school.
The closure of the school on the surface looks like it would save money
but in reality would destroy the fragile economic balance in our district
by decimating the town of Phoenicia and further devaluing homes in the
Shandaken area. The parents who drop their kids off at the Phoenicia
School and then stop in town for a coffee, a quart of milk, some banking,
or pick up a paper would no longer be driving through the town and would
have no reason to do these things. When these same parents and teachers
finish their day, they would not be ordering a pizza for dinner, buying
some last minute groceries or a present for an upcoming birthday. These
parents and teachers, some three hundred strong, would no longer be
traveling to town AT ALL if the Phoenicia School is closed. They will,
however, be driving down 28 and stopping at Boiceville (in the town
of OLIVE) or in Shokan (also OLIVE). So the only town to benefit from
the school closure will be OLIVE. Phoenicia merchants, wake up! Plead
with your customers to keep Phoenicia School open and vote for the Save
our School ballot of Flayhan, Legnini, McGullicudy, and Osmond.
It has come to my attention that on Thursday, April 24th Onteora High
School was to be sponsoring "GAY DAY." Now let me make one
thing clear. I am neither a religious fanatic or anti gay. I have gay
family members and friends and am a practicing Catholic although very
liberally. My personal belief is that you are who you are and I have
no problem accepting you for who you are. My problem with this begins
when others are force fed the idea that they have to tolerate and accept
the gay lifestyle or any lifestyle for that matter. I understand that
this is a public school and everyone has their rights, but what about
those who don't want to be a part of this idea because they find it
morally wrong? Why is allowing a group of people, in a public building,
to celebrate their personal choice of belief and lifestyle any different
then allowing those who believe in prayer the right to practice their
belief in the same public building? Some would say that being gay is
not a choice and I would tend to agree, but forcing the lifestyle or
what it is perceived to be, is a choice that can have serious consequences.
I understand the program is to include fellow students(if they so choose)
taking up a vow of silence in support of the oppression their gay friends
suffer everyday. I can't help but think that some of the gay students
will use this as a way to celebrate and flaunt their gayness; which
they should be allowed to do. But let's face it, this could become a
real problem for these students.
I understand the concept of teaching tolerance, but I truly believe
that the gay lifestyle is one of those hot button topics that can sometimes
cause more harm then good. In my personal experiences, I have found
that I respect and treasure the friendship and love of my gay friends
and relatives because they live their lives with respect. They don't
see the need to flaunt their lifestyle. I know they are gay. They know
that I and everyone around them know and we all live a life that is
respectful of each other. Is this burying our heads in the sand? No.
I think it can be considered common sense and tolerance. Has the school
thought about the potential for law suites in the event a gay student
was to be beaten to a pulp because he/she suddenly celebrated their
gayness in front of those who are not so understanding? If you read
the papers or watch the news it is the GAY DAY type of "events"
that usually end up in tragedy. How about school employees who might
not agree? Can they take the day off without losing pay? If not, why
not? If someone can file a law suite because the Pledge of Allegiance
being recited and they don't believe in it's meaning, for example, it's
only a matter of time before this issue catches someone's attention.
This is a dangerous can of worms being opened. How far away are we from
ABORTION DAY or DRUG ADDICTION DAY? And when do the pedophiles get their
day to celebrate their choice of lifestyle? Not that I'm equating the
two lifestyles. I'm simply trying to make a point. . Most of the ancient
calenders, prophets and writings all point to the date of 12/21/12 as
the end of days; more so than any other date associated with the end.
We are not far away from that date. Again I say that I am in no way
a fanatic about any of this, but we just cannot keep going on this way.
All of this has to end somewhere, someday.
Why has there never been a PRAYER DAY? I think many more parents and
students alike would be more comfortable with that concept then the
idea of having a lifestyle they may not be comfortable with shoved in
their faces. At least with prayer you can leave the room if you object.
What happens if you express your disagreement with the gay lifestyle?
You're branded a gay basher or intolerant.
Isn't there something else the school could be teaching our children?
How about this for a radical idea? CITIZENSHIP DAY; a day when all the
students learn their rights and responsibilities as an American citizen;
to the country and to one another. They certainly don't teach it in
the classroom. My daughter graduated from Onteora last year and it is
sad how little she learned about the history of this country and her
responsibility to it.
Our children do need to be taught tolerance. But what they need to be
taught more of then anything else is common sense. We need to start
taking the time to educate our kids on the use of common sense rather
then waste time and effort on things like Gay Day or any other special
interest days! If we don't, I don't think it would make much sense to
put up the Christmas decorations in 2012. We probably won't need them.
I am the Executive Director of Indie, which has been working in close
association with Onteora school district for the past eight years. In
the light of the upcoming school board elections, in which passions
are running high, I would like to offer some calm reflections on the
situation, and suggest how we can all focus on avoiding conflict and
reaching a solution which is best for all of our children, whether in
kindergarten, elementary school or higher.
As a program, we are often invited to speak at educational conferences.
Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to be presenting at a conference
on trends in education. The keynote speaker was Dr. Leon Botstein of
Bard College. In the Q&A section, in response to a general question
about grade structures, Dr. Botstein – who visibly had no knowledge
that this was a sensitive local issue - revealed that current thinking
finds the very idea of middle school redundant. He called it a ‘no-man’s
land’. Significantly, from the four hundred or so local teachers
present, a cheer of approval rose and long round of applause was given.
I would estimate that well over half of the teachers were in strong
agreement with this statement. Locally, we are being assured that ‘99%
of teachers are behind a 5-8 Middle School configuration’. Those
teachers were strangely absent from this conference.
From my own experience in education, including a recent invitation to
speak at Columbia University Teachers’ College, several things
are absolutely clear: first, from a purely educational standpoint, small
classes are better; second, inter-disciplinary teaching is a very efficient
way of maximizing learning potential (e.g. teaching Social Studies via
new media, as we do at Indie). In Quebec, some Anglophone schools do
not formally teach French, for example, but they teach History through
French. Third, the system of grades itself is not an efficient use of
teachers, space or resources nor is it most effective in increasing
learning. Mixed grade classes have many advantages.
Finally, and this is one of the main strengths and convictions of the
Indie program, students must feel that they have a stake in their school.
The closer to community a student feels, the better he or she will succeed.
The trend to larger, anonymous, more ‘cost-effective’, consolidated
schools is a thing of the past.
At Indie, we try to create a community atmosphere and reverse fragmentation
by using all these elements (small classes, high staff to student ratio,
inter-discliplinary methods, video, a mentor-like approach) with students
who come from as far west as Pine Hill, north into Lexington, south
into Marbletown and east into Hurley, beyond the reservoir. If consolidation
– a dubious word – continues, and a 5-8 Middle School is
located on the Boiceville campus, it is inevitable that first one elementary
school (probably Phoenicia) then the other (Woodstock) would be forced
to close. For those communities, and the children who live there, this
would be emotionally and educationally damaging. For the communities,
it would be disastrous. Following such a course of action would pave
the way for a carving up of the district (perhaps in 5 years’
time) where the western end – which includes Olive – would
become a ‘poor rural’ district. The tax bases of Shandaken
and Olive could not possibly support a forward moving school. The ideology
of consolidation is, perhaps understandably in the current economic
climate, a defensive outlook. Education, surely, above anything else,
is the one area where we must look to the future with a positive vision.
Far-reaching decisions often begin with almost imperceptible movements.
It is important for all local residents to examine the policies being
put forward by the various candidates and blocks of candidates in this
election and decide according to their consciences where they want the
district to be in ten, fifteen years’ time. On the one hand a
commitment to centralization of all children from the ages of five through
eighteen in a ‘Boiceville Campus’ , with the larger class
sizes, vastly increased transport costs and uncertain economies of scale
associated with such a move; on the other, a commitment to manageable
class sizes, minimum busing, community based lower grades and cutting
edge advantages in upper grades.
Not least, this latter viewpoint privileges the essential value of local
communities. The Town of Shandaken, in particular, would have its heart
torn out, with no local focus for its future citizens, if the Phoenicia
Elementary school were to close.
The hemorrhaging of kindergarten pupils to local private schools - which
is the real cause of reduced enrolment, as the birth rate is actually
rising - would only accelerate.
I would certainly support a halt to any precipitate decision in the
near future. We have two splendid education resources in the area: Bard
College and SUNY New Paltz. We should be recruiting their knowledge
and expertise to examine the possible solutions to the admitted problems
of a huge school district, so that we can find innovative answers which
really take into account all local communities.
A school closure is not something to be tinkered with. Once it’s
gone, it’s gone.
All realtors know that the first question new home buyers ask is, ‘Which
school district are we in?’ Onteora is perfectly placed to grow
over the coming decades. It must have, as an absolute priority to attract
people here (as opposed to Catskill or Hudson) an exciting, effective,
acclaimed school system.
I hope that everyone in the district can take a longer view and see
that our unique configuration cannot have a simple solution, and that
the basic choices are not financial, but ethical: what kind of school
system do we want for our children? What kind of a life do we want for
our communities? The challenge is to then work out how to make that
choice a reality in a responsible manner.
Governor Rendell’s (Don’t Call Me ‘Fast Eddie’)
act to lower the NYC reservoirs is demoralizing. His temporary plan
ends April 30. And his provision for an eight billion gallon reservoir
release is equivalent to what we would accumulate in the watershed during
an insignificant 1-inch rainfall event. It is hardly capable of flood
Yet, the Pennsylvania Governor, as Delaware River Basin Commission chairman,
received good press in spite of this hollow, anemic gesture.
For flood victims, Rendell's request is disingenuous. Call us cynics,
but it smells of a cheap political ploy prior to the PA Primary where
Rendell had much to win. For pro-Clinton (read pro-NYC and pro-full
reservoirs) Rendell, a Hillary presidency means the realization of a
coveted high-profile appointment.
Rendell and the officials from the other three Delaware River basin
states -- New Jersey, Delaware and New York, which decide the framework
River water-flow management -- pulled a “Fast Eddie.” They
approved a plan designed to accomplish very little.
For those of us waiting for a long-lasting flood prevention solution,
Rendell’s smoke and mirrors act is a slap in the face. Pennsylvania
voters should remember Rendell’s wiliness during the next election.
The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Ask yourself,
if by electing Rendell’s slate in November, whether you might
not get a "Fast Eddie" too.
Jon & Amy Carver
Belvidere & Lambertville, NJ
At the April 7th meeting of the Shandaken Town Board, a resolution to
create an Empire Zone met with what has unfortunately become typical
Every new business in New York State is eligible for tax relief during
the first ten years of its development. This is not a creation of the
developer, it is a fact of life. No special designation is necessary.
For years 1-5, the new business pays 50% of the tax it is assessed.
During years 6-10 taxes increase by 5% annually.
What would be the impact of being designated an Empire Zone? The State
would make up the difference in tax revenue to the town and county.
Who is the State, cry the naysayers—it is us! Yes, indeed.
But let’s look a little closer at the Empire Zone program. Currently
there are 9,800 certified businesses in 82 zones. Who pays their taxes?
As residents of the State of New York, we do. Refusing to consider this
program doesn’t make sense. Do you refuse to claim allowable deductions
on your taxes because, oh dear, it means the rest of the state will
Then there are those who complain the discussion was premature—“we’re
not even through the environmental impact review process.” This
project has been under review for seven years. If the developer waited
longer, they would no doubt complain, “why did they wait so long?”
Then there is a long tirade in one of the local papers about the fact
that 26 businesses are being investigated for failing to meet Empire
Zone program standards. Wow! 26 out of 9,800 that’s two tenths
of one percent! It’s not exactly a horrendous failure rate.
It’s abundantly clear that there are objectors who will never
support the Belleayre Resort. However, in case it does get built, do
we have to penalize ourselves by refusing to participate in a program
that would increase our town and county’s revenue by millions?
Surely, we didn’t elect our councilmen with a mandate to keep
their eyes closed and vote NO on anything related to the Belleayre Resort.
I’d like to think we’re smarter than that.
Big Indian, NY
The attack on Belleayre Ski Center by Greene County, Hunter and Windham
Ski Centers, is unbelievable! Now to add insult to injury, Ski Plattekill,
paradoxically, has joined the fray, on the side of the Greene County
attackers. For anyone to claim that their business has suffered as a
result of competition from a small State owned entity is absurd! Take
a look at the operations at either Windham or Hunter and compare them
to Belleayre. They are both larger with newer facilities. Windham Mt.
is owned by a cabal of multi-millionaires, one of which is a partner
of The Tampa Bay Rays which has a state owned and built $450 million
stadium. They have built a huge development consisting of condos and
million dollar slope side residences. One of these home sites is rumored
to have sold for over $10,000,000. Hunter (“the snow making capital
of the world”) also has a large hotel and many units “high-end”
housing. Both of their associated towns have many profitable businesses,
particularly Windham, with continued development because of the influx
of year round tourists.
Compare them with Belleayre and its surrounding towns. There has been
little to no development on the route 28 corridor. Our area has changed
little over the 20 plus years I’ve owned a home here, except for
the loss of vital business and continual decay. The amenities for tourists
have actually diminished. This situation is nothing short of ECONOMIC
The ski centers of the Catskills are viable industries that can help
our economically struggling communities. The centers in our region should
be working together to attract visitors, not taking cheap potshots at
each other and spending untold amounts of money on litigation. They
should be leaders in the community not rabble rousers. And they should
never forget that skiers like to experience different mountains and
terrains and rarely ski at only one area. They should realize who all
their customers are and that you shouldn’t have to be rich to
enjoy the sport of skiing.
Plattekill was the beneficiary of the lift removed from Belleayre several
years ago. This year Belleayre ran a promotion; “Ski at Belleayre
on Saturday…… show your lift ticket at Plattekill on Sunday
and ski for $25" in an attempt to send business their way. In addition,
Belleayre could promote tubing and mountain biking on the their mountain,
but doesn’t. Belleayre’s Lodging Bureau advertises businesses
near Platekill and encourages people to ski there. Plattekill is always
represented at Belleayre’s October Craft fest. I find their attack
on Belleayre confusing at best.
The attack from Greene County is a thinly veiled attempt to protect
real estate sales at their mountains against a struggling Route 28 corridor
and promote higher lift ticket prices for everybody. They perceive that
a few adversaries here, many of whom do not live here full time, will
enable them to take advantage of our divided community to shoot ourselves
in the foot. Or actually maybe there is a connection here?
The argument that Belleayre is state funded and is unfair competition
is ridiculous. As taxpayers we agree to put our tax dollars into State
Parks and Recreational areas so that we and our children can enjoy camping,
skiing, fishing, boating and so much more at a reasonable cost. Does
this mean that all private camp sites and marinas should jump on the
band wagon because they view the recreational areas, owned by the people,
as unfair competition?
Why is it that Gore Mountain Ski Center, a state run facility, doesn’t
face the opposition that Belleayre does? Their community welcomes the
positive growth of their facility knowing that it will offer economic
and tax relief. They continue to expand by working with their community
and with private developers. The administration of Belleayre Mountain
realizes that if there are more activities available in this region,
more people will come here and enjoy their visit. Belleayre has tried
continuously to work with Windham and Hunter. Belleayre has proven time
and time again that they have a vested interest in our community and
take their responsibility seriously. They try very hard to realize and
respect everyone’s interest.
I have had season passes to several of these ski areas and attended
many of their events. I have patronized the restaurants and shops in
Greene County for years. This will end as of now! I urge everyone who
appreciates and loves what Belleayre Mountain has to offer, and does
for our community, to boycott all Greene County ski centers/events and
businesses until the biased lawsuits are dropped and they are willing
to come to the table to work for solutions to help the Catskill Region
survive as a place where citizens can visit and make a decent living.
The suggestion that Belleayre Mountain is negatively affecting these
financial giants is laughable not to mention pathetic.
This past Fall, my neighbors and I asked the Town of Olive Planning
Board not to grant the Oakes brothers' proposal to replace the PetFare
complex with yet more storage sheds. We brought a petition signed by
50 or so people who agreed that this rural, residential, scenic setting
would be ruined by placing eight 100x30 storage sheds on the property.
We brought pictures of the seven sheds and garage on the property behind
PetFare, owned by the Oakes, to show that the sheds were very unattractively
arranged, with gravel covering every possible inch of land and a mini-junkyard
behind the garage. We showed them a picture of the stretch of land which
was currently PetFare. The sun was shining and trees were brilliant.
We asked what would happen to these trees when eight new sheds were
put in. We stated the existing sheds behind PetFare would be visible
after all the trees were taken down because they were located up the
hill. We voiced concerns about drainage once there were not trees and
the land was covered with sheds and gravel. We lamented that the "Scenic
Shokan' which we moved here for years ago would be forever changed.
We were told by a Town Council member that if the Planning Board did
not okay the proposal, the Oakes had grounds for a lawsuit. The proposal
On Earth Day, I awoke to heavy equipment across the street. The trees
were coming down. The land was being dug up. Then, several days later,
during what I thought was a burning ban, fires were lit to burn the
leftovers. The storage sheds are coming!
When my neighbors discuss "the sheds," we ask how they can
possible fit 8 sheds 100 x 30 into that piece of land, with setbacks
of 50 feet in the front, 50 feet in the back and 20 on each side. How
will this fit? We hope that they are really going to be doing all they
said they would to alleviate drainage issues. We wonder how they are
going to "preserve the treeline" as the agreement states,
when they have cut down almost all the trees. The eastern border near
Ridge Road seems treeless and the western end has only a thin line of
trees. Will more be planted along the back so that eventually it will
be less visible? Will trees be planted along Route 28 along the western
border? The plan says it shall be so. Even so, the sheds will be visible.
Many neighbors wish that Olive had some kind of plan as a town to say
that if a business comes in, it must do all it can to blend into the
rural environment of the Olive area. Some of the more recent ones certainly
did so voluntarily. They used wooden buildings with a rustic feel. If
only there was a way for this storage shed business to blend a bit better.
Wouldn't that make it more inviting and less objectionable to the neighbors?
Wouldn't it be more pleasant for people riding by up our supposedly
scenic highway? Our mountain views are so much a part of who we are.
Just look at our town website!
How ironic, that we as a town are getting money to make the highway
in our area more beautiful and yet we don't have a plan in place to
help our town itself stay beautiful. A friend told me that in some towns
you don't have to get petitions and argue in front of Board meetings,
because they have plans in place to preclude bad decisions. Mr. Leifeld
and Olive Town Board -- can we please put something in place to let
Olive remain a place of rural, scenic beauty? I don't think we should
be as restrictive as some of the towns around us. I have always liked
our individuality. What bothers me is that according to the Planning
Board and certain Town Board members, there is nothing to restrict what
comes in and how it is implemented. Isn't it time to think about a graceful
growth and how that might take place? I love it here. I am so sad to
see a piece of this town, a piece of the scenic highway, a piece of
my home and my life -- changed forevermore.
Thank you to all of the wonderful citizens of Shandaken, and especially
Phoenicia, for their outpouring of concern and caring for "Bria",
the sweet, little black cat who was living in the burned out shell of
the Phoenicia Hotel this winter. Thanks also to the staff of Brio's
who fed her daily and an extra special thanks to the Phoenicia Times.
If not for the photo and accompanying story in our town paper about
her precarious situation, Bria's story might have had a very sad ending.
Quite the contrary however. After the story and photo appeared, the
"Phoenicia Cat Project" received many calls from townspeople
expressing concern for Bria's safety and what could be done to rescue
her from her life on the icy winter streets.
With the assistance of the Phoencia Cat Project, Bria was caught in
one of our "Hav-a-Heart" traps and adopted by a loving Phoenicia
citizen and is living right in town, never to roam the streets again
searching for a warm place to sleep, one step away from a hungry coyote
Bria, along with her family, was originally one of the Phoenicia Cat
Project's "Trap, Neuter, Return" program (TNR) feral kittens.
Feral cats are cats and kittens born in the wild who have had little
or no human contact. The Phoenicia Cat Project "traps" these
cats and kittens in our Hav-a-Heart traps, pays "out-of-pocket"
to have them neutered or spayed, rabies vaccinated and, whenever possible,
returned to the place where they were born or living at the time to
be cared for and maintained by volunteers. (In Bria's case, under the
Phoenicia boardwalk.) TNR cats are recognizable by the laser-tipped
left ear (in some cases the right ear). TNR is the most humane way to
control the cat population and is sanctioned by "Alley Cat Allies"
the nationwide organization founded for the benefit of feral and stray
Those cats and kittens that can be socialized with humans, we offer
for adoption. Bria was not a candidate at the time, but it's obvious
she's learned to trust people and enjoys being around them -- So we
are extremely happy she's found a good home and will be cared for the
rest of her life.
There are so many other cats and kittens that deserve our collective
concern and help. Not only ferals, but "strays" and many cats
"dumped" in the woods and streets, like 14-year old "Broad
Street Hollow Bob" rescued by a Shandaken couple and brought to
us starving, dehydrated, badly battered, with a mouthful of teeth so
rotten, it's painful for him to eat. With veterinary care, Bob is now
regaining his strength but still requires costly dental surgery. The
Phoenicia Cat Project will work towards obtaining that surgery for him
so he can enjoy his remaining years.
On behalf of the Phoenicia Cat Project, and the felines of Shandaken,
we'd like to sincerely thank all of those kind individuals who support
our efforts through their encouragement both verbally and financially.
PHOENICIA CAT PROJECT
In many circles, talk revolves around what people can do to stimulate
the local economy. Usually people think of large-scale manufacturing
and other large corporate businesses as the economic drivers needed
to jumpstart and drive the economy. Although these large industries
are no doubt important, particularly on a national and global scale,
I believe that the average person has more direct influence over the
start-up and success of small-scale, family-owned and operated businesses.
In the rural Catskill Region, we have an abundance of business opportunities
based on the area’s rich cultural heritage and in the agriculture
and forestry industries. I would argue that these local industries are
the most logical and most sustainable means of creating and keeping
local jobs as well as in conserving the area’s beautiful and bountiful
On behalf of the Watershed Agricultural Council, I invite you to attend
the 2008 Economic Summit at SUNY-Cobleskill on May 9th. Federal legislators,
regional business owners and local residents – people like you
and I -- will meet to discuss the economic future of our region. The
seminar, entitled “Greener Pastures for Upstate New York,”
is a public forum designed to generate the dialogue needed to bring
prosperity back to our townships and hamlets. Congresswoman Kirsten
Gillibrand and Congressman Michael McNulty will chair the event and
provide “food for thought” as we collectively discover ways
of bringing business back home.
New York State was once an epicenter of farming and forestry and I believe
we could, and should return the local economy to that status. Small
scale farming, such as we have in upstate New York, can address many
people’s concerns and demand for safe, healthy, fresh (and delicious)
food that is less dependent on long-distance travel, the cost of which
is becoming prohibitively expensive and increasingly wasteful. The utilization
of local forest resources, managed in a sustainable manner, naturally
supports the demand for alternative energy, building materials and added-value
wood products. We need look no further than our own backyards to find
the solution to our economic problems. Collectively, agriculture and
forestry are a big part of the answer. Your participation in Cobleskill
on May 9th can contribute to this outcome. I hope to see you there.
For more information, visit http://www.publicforuminstitute.org/activities/2008/ny.
Tom O’Brien, Executive Director
Watershed Agricultural Council
We at SHARP will, indeed, appreciate any financial help the town can
give us on the flowers program for the Phoenicia and Shandaken Town
Hall. So let me say thank-you to the Town Board in advance.
But, just for the record, I want to set things straight about past events.
Your article, entitled "What to Expect from the Next Meeting...,"
which appeared in your April 24th issue was filled with errors which
I would like to assume are honest mistakes rather than more divisive
propaganda. Either way, however, they unfairly tarnish a civic improvement
program which just about everybody in Phoenicia seems to love.
Bob Cross did not "funnel funds to the program." The Town
Board set aside $5,000 for the program from the Parks and Recreation
budget which was very much in keeping with the purpose of that budget.
Town funding paid for about half of the costs of the program; the rest
we raised ourselves. I should mention in passing that the program would
not have been possible without hundreds of hours of volunteer help.
Town funds were not used for "watering chores." They went
exclusively for seedlings, baskets, materials for the gardens such as
soil, mulch, fertilizer and, principally, bluestone for edging and drywall
at the Bridge Street exit of Route 28. Incidentally, we built that drywall
for the add-on, lower flower bed entirely with volunteer labor plus
help from a Federal Program entitled, "Experience Works."
Not a dime of town money went for watering.
In case anybody wonders why we pay for watering, we talked with a number
of towns with similar flower programs. Every town that tried to use
volunteer labor for watering reported failure. People would forget and
the flowers always died. All it takes is about three days without watering
and flowers in hanging baskets wilt beyond recovery.
Buff Kibe, Executive Director
On April 9, 2008 The Onteora High School Life Skills class and members
of Onteora DECA prepared for and hosted a Senior Citizen’s Prom
at Al’s Restaurant in Phoenicia. Over 70 guests enjoyed the free
music, food, and party atmosphere made possible by grant funding provided
through the Lower Esopus River Watch’s Learn and Serve America
program, NYS Education Department and the Corporation for National &
Communitiy Service. I would like to thank the following local organizations
and businesses for their donations: the Phoenicia Rotary Club, American
Legion Post 950, Shandaken Memorial Post 2837, the Onteora Teachers’
Association, and Ulster Savings Bank.
I would also like to thank the following local businesses for their
prize donations towards a raffle: Hong Kong Restaurant, Michael Angelo’s
Pizzeria, Phoenicia Pharmacy, Black Bear Hollow Café, Sweet Sue’s,
Bread Alone, Russ’s Country Kitchen, Kasey’s Café,
Boiceville Supermarket, and Al’s Restaurant. Every guest walked
out with a prize this year! Many thanks also to Paul Pettinato for the
generous use of Al’s Restaurant. This is the third year he has
opened his doors to us for this event.
We could not have done this without the help of many. Again, thank you
to Jean Douglas, advisor of Onteora DECA, and her many students who
volunteered their time and enthusiasm to this event. Many thanks to
those members of the Phoenicia Rotary Club and staff members of Al’s
restaurant who volunteered their time to assist us as well. Together
we helped create warm memories for seniors in our community. We also
provided a life long learning experience for our young people.
I am thankful for educational programs that allow students the opportunity
to interact with and serve within the community. This particular project
promotes and supports interaction among different groups within the
school community as well. This experience becomes not only a true hands-on
learning experience, but a memory for each student who participates.
It gives me great pleasure to know that so many in our community are
so supportive of our young people, and of doing something nice for those
older people in our community.
Nicole Holmquist, Special Educator
Onteora High School