to the Editor
I follow the comings and goings of our school district not only as a
member of the community but also as an educator. I had intended to write
this letter several weeks ago but perhaps my procrastination served
me; elections are completed and perhaps the tide of passions, platforms
and convictions has ebbed.
It must be said that we all have a stake in how our school district
is run; we are all affected by decisions made—the political, the
financial, the pedagogical. And, the greater majority of those at the
forefront, on either side of a given issue, make decisions and take
actions based upon what they sincerely believe is best for all. Certainly,
arguably, there will be dissent and even struggle as our community manages
our district and this is important because local issues at least for
now, are an area where the will of the community can affect change.
However, as I read the commentary of many community members published
in these pages in the past few weeks, there surfaced a social issue
that transcends the exigencies of the election process and the direction
the district is to take. I continue to be dismayed and often disgusted
by the attitude of American citizens toward its teachers. The disdain
for and at times vehement rhetoric directed at educators betrays an
insidious yet palpable anti-intellectual gestalt that so seldom surfaces
in any discussion about education and how it is to be shaped.
One particularly shrill and nasty letter from a community member sneered
about the salaries of Onteora’s teachers and unabashedly called
for salary cuts. As teachers and those that do appreciate them know,
a teacher is always a teacher, it’s a mindset, it’s part
of the very identity of those who spend their days with students in
a classroom. In that spirit, I find myself compelled to enlighten those
members of my local community who would give less to those whom they
expect to, and even demand, do more.
A teacher’s day does not end at 3 pm. I am a high school English
teacher; I worked at Onteora from 2002 to 2004 and now teach in another
county. I have 100 students, I teach five classes a day; I moderate
two school clubs and teach SAT test technique to students, an endeavor
in which, in that season, I work two 18 hour days per week for four
weeks. I spend a minimum of 15 unpaid hours a week, at home, grading
papers and writing lessons. The conventional wisdom among educators
about this part of our careers is “Well, that’s just part
of the job.” In any given day, we have 45 minutes of preparation
time, hardly enough to grade a minimum of 400 papers a week. We are
not paid overtime, not time and a half; we are expected to live by our
ethics and make sure our students are served no matter what it takes.
I am relatively certain nurses, construction workers, law enforcement
professionals, and many others do not expect to work overtime for no
pay. Most teachers do this with alacrity. Most teachers do live by their
ethics and do whatever it takes. If I calculate the at-home, unpaid
hours I work, and the two unpaid months of July and August, my hourly
salary is about $10.31. American teachers are among some of the lowest
paid workers in the industrialized world.
And by the way, we do pay for our insurance. We do pay into our retirement
funds. I pay over $600.00 a year to my union that in addition to protecting
my rights as a worker, lobbies tirelessly on behalf of American schoolchildren
for funding and the creation and continuance of programs that benefit
We are mandated by the state to obtain advanced degrees, all NYS teachers
must be “Highly Qualified,” a masters degree in one’s
discipline is not optional. We do not get grants or state tuition aid
for these advanced degrees; we must pay for them ourselves. I completed
my masters’ degree last August. My degree took one year to complete.
During that time, I wrote over 400 pages of discourse based on research
and analysis. My day began at 5 am and continued until midnight most
nights; weekends were a fond memory during that year and I had to continue
to grade those many papers and continue to deliver the “best practices”
of education to my students. Happily, my advanced degree earned me a
raise—$200.00 per month gross income. However, cost of the degree
was $21,500.00 dollars—fifty percent of one year’s gross
income. The $200.00 per month increase in my pay does not cover the
monthly loan repayment of $280.00 per month. Yes, you read that right,
it is costing me $80.00 per month to bask in the cache of an advanced
degree which the state says I must have or cannot teach. According to
law, if I do not make timely payments on this loan, I can be denied
any other kind of installment loan for any purpose including a mortgage
or a car loan.
With regard to cutting teachers’ salaries, there are legal, negotiated
contracts that cannot be just waved away. The teachers at Onteora who
make salaries that irritate those who hold teachers in such acrimonious
contempt have earned those salaries one year at a time over many years
of service. Is this any different than members of other public professions?
Instead of railing against teachers and their administrators for their
salaries, salaries earned in service to community members and their
children, why not take a look at the industries and careers in which
you serve? Why not demand from your industries or professions professional
organizations and unions that protect your interests. A strong, organized
workforce protects all Americans. Rather than stand up to the avaricious
practices of those social structures that raid the pockets of industry
and citizens, many engage in a green-eyed money counting of those who
have worked hard to protect their rights as workers, in this case teachers.
Why call for the abolition of teachers’ benefits when outraged
demands should be made on those who can get away with the unregulated
and absurd cost of those benefits? Why not rally against an administration
that imposes strictures of operation and delivery of services in a way
that bankrupts local districts by way of impossible-to-meet edicts of
accountability? Why do so many find it so much easier to submissively
take what is dished out by profit-hungry employers and call for the
reduction in salaries of their fellow workers, when all should be treated
fairly, when all have the right to demand from society as much as they
Teachers are not the enemy of a community, our social structures are.
Speaking of which, we have been invested by a not-so-well-hidden, undiscussed-in-the-mainstream
yet inescapable structure in which teaching, actual delivery of instruction,
can seem secondary while we cope with the needs of students and their
families who daily bring to us issues attendant to poverty, substance
abuse, neglect, issues of behavior, learning, mental, emotional, or
physical disability. We are expected to attend to the needs of all with
professionalism, compassion, alacrity, and impartiality. Often, we do
so deftly, successfully, compassionately. Sometimes we cannot. And yet,
to make an analogy, if health care costs rise do we call for cuts in
hospital funding? If crime rates go up do we call for salary cuts for
law enforcement? If a judge makes an unpopular decision do we cut his
salary or take away his dental insurance?
The teachers I know, and indeed there is a plethora of wonderful teachers
at my school and at Onteora, are truly in service to their students
and their families. I have seen teachers repeatedly pay for lunches
for students who cannot afford them, I have seen teachers surreptitiously
send money to families they know are struggling, I have seen teachers
buy medicine, clothes and school supplies, sew prom dresses, buy glasses,
fund field trips for individuals and entire classes—from their
own pockets. Some of my colleagues do this routinely; many, many of
them are carrying student loan debts of $50,000.00 and above.
This issue is certainly too long to be treated properly in this forum.
And though teacher bashing is alarming for the reasons I have stated
above in the particular, in the general, it is a symptom of our society’s
educational schizophrenia. We SAY we value education, we SAY we want
academic performance, we SAY we want change, yet we do not really value
what school is meant to teach. Many individuals and families are too
mired in popular culture or their own consumer needs and desires to
pay careful attention to learning. We do not value our public intellectuals,
and a recent U.S. Department of Education study indicated that less
than half the citizens under forty in our country have read a book in
the past year. Functional illiteracy in the U.S. among those 16 and
older is at a brisk 39 percent. I have had more parents than I like
to think about tell me that I “have no right to demand that [their
children] read over the summer,” “I don’t feel it
is my job to be on top of his homework, it’s yours,” send
me notes that a student cannot do his homework because he was “up
too late last night because we were out,” and have had parents
who took kids on trips to Disneyland during the school year demand to
know from me why their children are failing. If I had a dollar for every
child who tells me that reading is “a stupid waste of time,”
I could handily pay off my student loans. I have had students who tell
me they could not afford to buy a $6.00 book for our summer reading
projects come into school to brag about their $300.00 I-Pods or X-Boxes.
Recently, I had the misfortune of overhearing one community member,
whose occupation is to sell $90.00 t-shirts and $150.00 blue jeans to
other community members, quip to a “client,” “Those
Onteora teachers are parasites on the body of this district.”
Luckily, she once had an English teacher who schooled her in the use
of irony and metaphor, most likely at Onteora.
No one becomes a teacher to milk the system or to get rich, I assure
you. The work we do is valuable, important, and most of the time exhilarating,
but it is difficult, sometimes impossible, and often, as the recent
rhetoric of some community members indicates—utterly thankless.
Please do not cannibalize those whom you have charged with a very important
task—the needs of human beings, the needs of your children; needs
for which many families, social ideologies and government structures
have abdicated responsibility.
West Shokan, NY
Congratulations to the newly elected Onteora School Board members.
To those members that are leaving, thank you for serving. Special thanks
for the budget from someone on a fixed income.
We four newly elected Onteora School Board Trustees, Donna Flayhan,
Ralph Legnini, Ann McGillicuddy and Laurie Osmond, would like to extend
our heartfelt thanks to the people and the communities that rallied
¡round us and worked tirelessly on our behalf.
We are grateful for your efforts, honored by your trust, and will work
to create a transparent, open Board worthy of your outpouring of support.
We will never forget the wonderful feeling of seeing so many people
from all over this vast district join together so enthusiastically to
create something new for us all.
It has been our pleasure to get to know you, and is our privilege now
to serve you.
Thank you all.
Donna Flayhan, Ralph Legnini, Ann McGillicuddy and Laurie Osmond
Hi there. The Phoenicia School won the vote. I AM SO HAPPY. I LOVE MY
SCHOOL VERY MUCH.
Annie Lee VanKleeck
We would like to thank all those in our school district who supported
us in the recent election...it is unfortunate that we did not get the
chance to complete the vision that we created through three years of
hard work, research and dedication.
But, to those of you who did support us, feel safe knowing that we put
in place many programs and line items that will keep our district on
the right path for awhile.
Remember, you have a superior budget with no tax levy increase. Remember,
you have over three million dollars allocated for repairs and renovation
that cannot be used for anything else. Remember, you have a technology
line in your budget for purchasing and replacement that cannot be touched
by contingency. Remember, you have Winswipe in all the schools, starting
in September, a program that keeps purchases in the cafeteria anonymous.
Remember, we took all the junk food out of the cafeteria, gave the athletes
healthy snacks after school and removed all soda. Remember, we limited
military involvement in our schools and put into practice a smoking
ban on all school property.
Remember, we created a Budget Advisory Committee that has committed
to two more years of research. Remember, there is $500,000 in this year's
budget allotted for equipment for the children. Remember, we supported
Fast for Word, an early intervention program for elementary students,
brought the Columbia Reading Program to our schools, as well as, Writing
Without Tears. Remember, we brought accountability to our schools for
both students and staff.
Half truths and deception were tools used to stop this progress... they
achieved their goal.
So...Remember, all that we accomplished and all that we approved was
with the belief that we were offering the best education possible for
our students and the most sensible budget possible for our taxpayers’
Onteora... Good Luck and God Bless.
We are proud of our tenure!
Mary Jane Bernholz
You have made a decision and now have a new Onteora School Board. You
will have the local schools you want. Congratulations! All of the people
of Onteora now know what the schools mean to them and their children.
Let's dedicate ourselves to making those community schools the focal
point of our communities.
When the school district was put together, three generations ago, plans
were made for the future. People sacrificed, worked hard, and created
education that all of the children and their families could benefit
from. I have met in my time working with the students, young people
who, while in High School, are members of volunteer Fire and Rescue
squads, students who tutor other students, students who create Film
Festival accepted films, students who go to Harvard and Washington for
Junior government programs, studens who excel at all sports, students
who have career paths into the best colleges of the nation and students
who love their community, run for office and decide to stay here for
their future. I am always finding out new wonderful things about the
students at the school and the teachers who shepherded them through
their academic life. While waiting in line to vote I met a student who
had just returned with their teacher from performing at Carnegie Hall.
When teaching the other day I read about the State champion girls Ski
Team. It is hard to mention a few of the many successes but, my point
is, to know the students and the school, one has to take the effort
and, believe me, the children are worth that effort.
While we are all happy and excited about the four new members of our
School Board, perhaps now is the time to remind ourselves of those who
came before us planning that school three generations ago and take our
place in planning the next four generations. While the children are
achieving well, I invite all of you to go into your community schools
and the High School and Junior High and see the facilities. Many of
them built three generations ago, we need to give those wonderful students
today and in the future a better, eco-friendly environments to continue
the proud legacy that is the Onteora School District. How would you
want to use the school in your community? How could the community become
involved? How can we make it safer, healthier, happier, and a place
that encourages the good things happening there?
In other locations, seniors use the schools early in the winter mornings
for walking, towns use the buildings for community meetings, some school
districts add medical offices so that routine care can take place without
a parent driving. You get the picture. There probably are millions of
ideas you may have and want to work with the Board to create. There
are also several planning committees that could use the input of the
villages and towns for the future planning. Join. I am planning a training
program in Geo-Thermal heating at Bard that the Maintenance Department,
School Board, and any interested citizen may attend for early June to
open minds to the possibilities of building economically for the future.
As for the water problems, the new board has already been considering
"point of use" filters for the fountains that tested poorly.
We need that action to spread from those young leaders into the community
As for the retiring members of the Board, their skills are still needed.
Perhaps a place to put them to better use is in local town government.
A small community can't afford to lose the dedication of all its people.
We wish them well.
The vote is over but, be it local election or national, as grateful
as we are you made it, it is just a vote. Now is the time to roll up
our sleeves and get down to the hard work that we need to do, with those
leaders showing the way. You didn't lose the village schools. It's time
to value and build them into future generations.
As I write, I do not know the results of the school board election.
But I do know that no matter who wins, it is time for the two contingencies
to join forces or we will continue to go nowhere fast. With a common
goal to work toward, imagine how exciting it would be for our teachers
to go to work and parents to send their children to school, as we all
work together toward a singular vision.
If that vision was, say, greening Onteora, we would end up saving money
through energy efficiency and making a tremendous impact on student's
lives and performance all while helping the planet.
Instead of remaining beholden to state aid and its stipulations for
higher populations in the classrooms (resulting in overcrowding), we
could seek green grants from public and private sources (we do sit on
New York City's watershed).
We live in an area known for its forward-thinking. Shouldn't our schools
reflect that? Shouldn't we be the change that we wish to see?
With a planet in crisis, it is hard to see any other way, than to prioritize
an ultra-modernized learning environment for our children.
Why should we spend tens of millions of dollars on renovations of (no
holds barred) really ugly barracks-style buildings?
The Boiceville campus sits on fifty acres of pure potential. I believe
that the entire thing needs to be taken apart block by concrete block
and be recycled or re-used. We can replace it with a sustainable campus
complete with tree-lined paths connecting small buildings or domes with
indoor/outdoor learning areas, greenhouses, gardens, playgrounds and
athletic facilities. Sell us a bond that we want to buy! Right now,
(strictly in terms of the learning environment...because the teachers
are the best), I feel like I am being forced to buy high fructose corn
syrup, when I am only willing to use organic honey. Or I am being forced
to feed my children white bread (non-food), when they should only eat
whole grains (food). One thing for sure is "public" school,
does not mean "free" school. We are paying customers who have
Instead of focusing on the division between the "Olive Matters"
side and the "Onteora parents" side, we need to concentrate
on our common values (kids/education) and goals (upgrade/save costs/no
tax increase) and there will be our strength. We just need to agree
on how the children receive the well-rounded education and how the money
is spent doing it.
All it requires is a vision. If we envision a declining population and
shrinking district, then that is what we will get. That is not what
There are models out there. What stops us from looking at them? Private
schools, progressive public schools and education systems abroad (Sweden
and Germany come to mind) are all areas we should be investigating so
that we can come up with the best possible plan for our children. Then
we will become a thriving and growing community-at-large.
We call ourselves the Onteora Indians, the least we could do is be responsible
stewards of our land and live up to that image.
Mount Tremper, NY
I would like to thank the Onteora voters who came out and participated
in this year’s school board election and budget vote. The people
have spoken. I am so proud to be a part of this community !
I ran for Trustee knowing that I am one resident in this vast school
district. I ran for Trustee because my family and our communities need
our schools in order to ensure a future. Our communities would fade
away into the past without a school. Schools are key indicators of a
town’s health. Towns with schools attract new families. Families
and communities are intertwined. It takes all of us to raise our children
and we have a responsibility to teach our children. We teach our children
by our actions. Our actions speak louder than words.
This grassroots movement was energized by residents ACROSS this entire
school district, from ALL the towns, and has served to EMPOWER us ~
we CAN make a difference. Look at what we can do when we come together
for a common cause; understand how passionate, creative and intelligent
you are ! This election was an important first step on a positive path.
We know that our community schools are vital to the health and future
growth of our towns & hamlets ~ and therefore our ENTIRE school
Participate, ask what needs to be done, and share your ideas. It will
take the whole community. Shop locally and enjoy these beautiful mountains,
streams and valleys that we call the Catskills. We really are truly
blessed to live here.
In regards to the responses by James Gedge and Jerry Free to my letter
about GAY DAY at Onteora HS. It is a shame that letters like these most
times go misunderstood.
Neither of you know me nor I you. You both should know that I did show
my letter to my gay friends and family and they couldn’t have
agreed more because they know who I am and what I was trying to say.
Let me say that if you did know me you would understand that I would
be the first guy out there to fight for anyone’s right to live
their life how they choose provided it does not harm anyone else. Being
gay does not harm anyone. Being ignorant to the idea that people are
allowed to live their life as they choose can do much harm.
First of all to Mr. Gedge; thank you for enlightening me with the actual
facts regarding the National Day of Silence. My letter was sparked by
my being told of a GAY DAY(in those words) by friends, parents and students
themselves. It seems to me that no matter how much effort is put into
organized events such as this to give the cause credibility(for lack
of a better word), there will always be those who just don’t get
it. I actually know people who kept their kids home from school that
day and there was much eye-rolling and “what next” reactions
to this event. My intent was not to demean or criticize an actual event
that would promote tolerance as you should be able to tell from my letter.
I used the word “forced” because that is how many people
feel about these types of things; whether it be for gay awareness, abortion…etc.
My use of pedophilia was to drive home the point of how extreme some
folks can feel not to equate it with gay life.
My choice of the word “lifestyle” was an unfortunate blunder.
I in no way implied that gays…etc all have promiscuous and fleeting
relationships.. I agree that to stereotype is wrong and that is what
I was trying to convey in suggesting that a Citizenship Day for example
would help students understand that everyone has a right to their own
life. We have to start somewhere because let’s face it; I’m
sure that most of the middle school students experiencing this for the
first time get their information from fellow students. No matter how
much the faculty may try to explain the need for such an event, most
kids go by what they learn from their friends. And if many of the students
see this as nothing more then GAY DAY then that is all it will be. Teaching
our children their rights and responsibilities from an early age may
help in their actual listening to the message rather then the messenger.
That is all I was trying to say. I apologize for any misunderstanding
and offense that might have been taken.
To Mr. Free; I hope you can now understand my message from reading the
above, however, you did prove my point that if you have a different
point of view regarding gay life you will be branded as intolerant or
a gay basher. Your description of me as a zealot and bigoted homophobe
with a prejudicial attitude really drives home that point. And you couldn’t
be further from the truth. But for argument sake, I’ll chalk it
up to misunderstanding. No hard feelings. As for the whole Christian
holiday thing; don’t forget the Jewish holidays and the other
cultural holidays & events that are now being taught in our schools.
You would have to agree that you can choose not to be a part of these
things based on what you have learned about them or because of your
religious beliefs…etc. No one is forcing you to celebrate Christmas.
Yes it’s in your face everywhere you go, but you as an educated
person can make the choice not to partake. My point is that students
and some people simply have not been educated in hot topic subjects
such as gay life. As a result they often feel as if it is being forced
on them or their children. I do not agree with this train of thought!
Again I apologize to you if any offense was taken from my letter. I
stand by my basic idea but should have been more careful to express
it more clearly.
Finally regarding your challenge for me “to grow a set”;
I see no need. I signed my name to the letter. I’m not hiding.
I was brought up to believe that a man should admit when he is wrong
and take responsibility for his actions. I’ve done that as well.
Reading Mr. Munro's long letter in the last issue, I was anxious about
which side he would come down on- Belleayre booster or real estate promoter.
I was gratified by his conclusion that he doesn't want Belleayre to
go the way of Hunter and Windham with their condos starting at 500K.
With Belleayre in the clutches of the Crossroads Ventures real estate
speculators, it would no longer be able to provide an affordable, less
commercial skiing experience. Belleayre would be changed. A few people
would make a lot of money and the rest of us would be left with a ski
area that we wouldn't recognize. Belleayre should stick to skiing and
leave real estate speculation to the big private ski areas that don't
have any mission other than to maximize owners' profits.
I want to add my thoughts to the skiing controversy here in the Catskills.
I was fortunate to get in 17 days of skiing last winter, all in New
York State. I skied the special monthly $15 skier appreciation fridays
at Belleayre, got in two $10 Belleayre days during the $10 week in January,
skied free at Belleayre for my birthday date in February, took my daughter
for the $25 Christmas Day special at Belleayre, and got a $12 day at
Belleayre in exchange for a subscription to the DEC Conservationist
magazine. I also bought a Big Lift discount card at Hunter and skied
half a dozen days at Hunter for rates of $28 to $32, and went with my
daughter to the special for Martin Luther King day at Hunter. I went
to Whiteface for their $30 special 50th anniversary date, with my daughter,
and also spent $67 for a full price ticket (my daughter paid for her
own ticket that day) at Whiteface with my daughter because it is so
beautiful and amazing, overlooking Lake Placid in the Adirondacks.
I haven't totaled up my skiing expenses but I assure you it was as low
as possible and still have my yearning to ski satisfied. Having Belleayre
and Hunter 30 minutes from my home is great, with Plattekill, Windham
and Bobcat within an hour's drive, also great for variety. When I drove
to Whiteface my gas cost was about $60, now it could be $80. I can get
to local areas for a couple of gallons of gas, and still have fine skiing.
Midway through the winter Hunter started offering Big Lift card holders
email special coupons for discounted ticket to counter Belleayre's special
- that's competition. Wouldn't it be nice to have those specials offered
on days which didn't run opposite Belleayre's? Better for the skiers,
more opportunities to ski reasonably. Plattekill did the same thing,
offering discounts on the same days as Belleayre. I wish them all well,
they all have their own strengths and weaknesses and I can enjoy all
of the local areas, so I say spread out the specials.
Hunter has a vertical drop of 1,600 feet and is the most challenging,
but can also have the speediest and most reckless skiers. Belleayre's
upper advanced area has a vertical drop of about 800 feet, with the
lower area adding a few hundred more, but is has nice recreational skiing
and a devoted following. With its expansion and snowmaking and grooming,
it handles crowds well, even on weekends, and I enjoy my days there.
Windham and Plattekill are fine on good days, too.
About state ownership, Belleayre is run by the DEC. Whiteface and Gore
in the Adirondack Park are run by the Olympic Regional Development Authority,
not the same thing. There are approved plans for increased development
around Gore Mountain, more skiing and accommodations.
I am concerned about how the Belleayre Resort will impact the atmosphere
at Belleaye as a ski area. It must remain a "people's mountain"
and encourage recreation by people of limited means who have to stretch
to afford skiing at all. At 56, I've got 46 years of skiing and put
my daughter on skis at age 2, she's now 30 and it is one of my life's
pleasures to ski down a steep slope with her by my side. I worked as
a lift attendant at Belleayre 30 years ago, worked as a ski instructor
at Bobcat in Andes 27 years ago, and have continued to ski as often
as I can here in the Catskills.
I believe the DEC killed the proposals for residential development around
Bobcat and Plattekill. That sort of development has occurred at Hunter
and Windham, Hunter has slope-side condos in the $230,000 range. So,
the competition from Belleayre Resort hits that aspect more than the
skiing aspect. I find that skiers at Hunter like Hunter, and skiers
at Belleayre like Belleayre, and rarely do I meet someone who skis both
as I do.
I have worked some with the Catskill Mountain Foundation in Hunter and
seen the benefits of new developement in the arts in that region, along
with new pavement and sidewalks. Hunter has been a pit for a long time
and is looking better. Pine Hill certainly can use some help. I think
it's an open question how benefits from development on Belleayre will
play out in the community. It is really a day trip destination, or a
place for locals, and if it is attractive for city folk who want a country
place, we should welcome them and their patronage at our businesses
and services. Many years ago a ski train brought skiers from the city
to the small hill at Phoenicia. Maybe that should be revived all the
way to Pine Hill? That rail line is still here, it runs past my house
in Ashokan. I think we can use development with a lighter hand than
Mr. Gitter has shown so far.
I also think it was disingenuous to propose the Belleayre Resort as
an Empire Zone for tax relief when a selling point was all the taxes
it would provide!
A think a four-star family hotel and five star resort should be on its
own. If the development was centered on uplifting conditions in the
village of Pine Hill and providing affordable housing and low cost accommodations
like rustic dorms for skiers and real family accommodations, that would
be eligible, with a straight face, for an Empire Zone. Wouldn't that
be nice, a homey rustic retreat on the old Highmount ski area, adaptive
reuse of the buildings, some development in the village connected to
the ski area with a tram, a couple of ski runs to the village, some
nice vertical there, maybe some accommodations on the top of the ridge,
a place that would inspire a visit by a John Burroughs or Thomas Cole,
something in keeping with the feeling of Belleayre's rustic main lodge
with its tree trunk beams? This is the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve,
let's remember that.
Ashokan has long been known as a place where schools, organizations,
families and individuals come to re-establish their connection to the
natural world and to one another through shared experiences in outdoor
education, living history, art, music and dance.
More than two years ago a meeting was held to discuss the impending
change of ownership of Ashokan. Representatives from Campus Auxiliary
Services, Open Space Institute, NYC’s Department of Environmental
Protection, and the newly organized Ashokan Foundation Inc. all agreed
on two things from the beginning: the property must be protected from
commercial development; and it should continue to serve the needs of
an extended community.
Through a carefully negotiated agreement, all of the parties will be
able to achieve their objectives. CAS will no longer own and operate
Ashokan, OSI will protect 394 acres of pristine land, and the DEP will
be able to release greater quantities of water from the Ashokan Reservoir.
From the beginning of these negotiations, DEP has exercised a high degree
of consideration, and has demonstrated that they are willing to work
cooperatively to achieve an outcome beneficial to all parties. This
has been an example that DEP can indeed be a “good neighbor”.
An additional shared goal of all parties is to keep alive Ashokan’s
valuable long standing programs. Towards this end, Ashokan Foundation
Inc. will be an ongoing steward of the land and will support Ashokan
Center Inc., which will operate the facility, continue the programs
and develop the mission. With a new facility and new programs on the
horizon, Ashokan is poised to serve the Olive community in many new
Many people have worked long and hard toward these goals, often with
little or no compensation. On behalf of all the staff at Ashokan, we
would like to recognize those efforts and offer our most sincere gratitude
for a job well done. And on behalf of the thousands of guests that have
enjoyed the magic of the Ashokan Experience and the countless guests
that will enjoy Ashokan in the future, thank you for your diligence
and selfless efforts. Through your hard work, Ashokan will continue
be a place for people to share, learn and reconnect with nature and
one another for generations to come.
To accomplish the job ahead Ashokan Foundation Inc. will need ongoing
support. If you’d like to help, please visit www.ashokanfoundation.org
and click on Support.
Tim Neu, Ashokan Center Director
With Bush’s disapproval rating running at about 67%, you would
think that the Democrats might stand a chance of winning the upcoming
Presidential election. But, not so fast. It seems as if Democrats are
convinced that they are losers, and it’s difficult to change their
habits. But worse, We, the People are just too busy to help them out.
Take, for instance the Florida and Michigan primaries. No one has been
able to simplify the issue for the public, but suffice it to say that
there were rules set in place, and they were changed. Most of the candidates
decided to abide by the laws in place and removed themselves from the
The two major issues that should give the Democrats a win are:
1. The Republicans having lied us into war.
2. The sinking Economy.
Both undisputedly died together. After all, the war is a big money making
deal for some.
After the Democrats eliminated a number of viable white male candidates,
they seem to have picked Obama, a 50% black man, which led to the argument
that a black man can’t win, which led to the Democrats themselves,
taking on McCain’s job of resorting to racial attacks, and at
their own expense. If you saw this in a movie, you wouldn’t believe
it, but it’s true. Besides, Republicans weren’t all so sure
about that issue anyhow, since many were considering Colin Powell, and
even Condoleezza Rice, who had already crossed a big barrier. So, even
if they weren’t going to use the race card, the
Democrats did it for them. Furthermore, Hillary is now demanding that
the Florida and Michigan votes be counted, despite the fact that she
was the only candidate on the ballot in one.
We’ve done more than the Republicans could have dreamt we’d
do for them. McCain didn’t have the money to run a really good
campaign, so we ran it for him. Now, all he has to do is to show up
on shows like SNL and Ellen DeGeneres and show what a regular guy he
is, just as Bush did, and avoid the issues. And what will McCain do
for us once
he’s in. Well, surely, bring us another war, creating more enemies,
and surely a definitive plunge into an unmanageable economy. Of course,
not all will lose. We’ll need more contractors, unless we get
a draft back, and since it’s working so well for Blackwater, and
other insider corporations, why not stick with what works? Oh, some
will have to die, but we won’t dwell on that.
As I see it, the Democrats are at the wheel and heading for a cliff,
and unless we take action to turn the wheel, we’re going over.
I believe that Obama can lead, just as JFK did, but he can’t do
it alone. We just have to support him. We have to stop nodding our heads,
along with Hillary, yes, yes, he’s BLACK!!!!!! He can’t
So let’s not keep our hands off the wheel. Let’s be active.
Let’s talk to everyone we can, let’s have meetings, let’s
invest some money, so that he can answer the Swiftboating ads, and let’s
give him a hand. Nobody can do it alone. Have we forgotten who we are?
We are The People of the United States of America.
Both Bush and McCain have a lot of explain to do, when it comes to the
war on terror. Six and a half years after 9/11, we’re less safe.
Our borders and ports aren’t secured and most of the cargo that
goes into our airplanes is not inspected. Iran’s nuclear program
is going full speed ahead, our military has been ripped to shreds in
an illegal and unnecessary war. The occupation of Iraq has created more
terrorists than ever existed before we invaded that country. The war
in Afghanistan has been neglected. Consequently, the Taliban has reconstituted
itself and now controls of most of that country. Less we
forget, Osama bin Laden hasn’t been captured or killed.
A debate over talking to countries that are our enemies is a distraction
from the real issue. In fact, we have talked to our enemies throughout
history. We talked to the Soviet Union when they had thousands of nuclear
weapons pointed at our cities. Presidents, Nixon, Kennedy, and Reagan
used diplomacy in talking to rogue states and terrorists. The Bush regime
talked to Libya and North Korea with some
success. The notion that we’re not going to engage our enemies
is utter nonsense. Obama is talking about have thoughtful, responsible
diplomacy not appeasement.
Bush’s presidency has been an absolute disaster, and arguably
he has been the worst president in American history on foreign policy.
Obama is simply saying, that we’re going to continue to engage
countries like Iran, who we don’t have a friendly relationship
with, on a diplomatic level.
Bush and McCain have resorted to mischaracterizing Obama’s foreign
policy, because the only foreign policy they have to offer is more death
and destruction. If elected, John McCain would continue Bush’s
disastrous foreign policy.
WARNING: WILDFIRE IS A TERRORIST WEAPON (they have said so) and must
be stopped. I want to mention that we only have one Supertanker firefighting
aircraft in our entire country (the DC-10 in California that can squelch
an area of fire of 12 football fields in a single drop of retardant
which the U.S. Forest Service refuses to use, see: DC-10 Supertanker
(on internet). This policy appears to be a continuation of the scorched
earth policy (see: JBS.org (search: wildfire) seemingly employed by
the U.S. Forest Service and by their deliberate refusal to use ANY Supertankers
for over 12 years (see: waterbomber.org (or: 1-804-240-4065 for the
Russian Supertanker fleet that‘s now available) during which time
scores of people died horribly and tens of thousands of homes were burned
including national defense nuclear facilities. Supertankers could have
saved all that destruction but were never called. We must continue to
demand that the DC-10, and Boeing- 747 (twice the capacity of the DC-10)
(see: evergreen supertanker (on internet) also, be used as initial attack
firefighting aircraft, for if we don’t we’ll be condemned
to continuous mega-fires destroying our lives, homes, and country by
so-called fire officials who apparently value their paychecks, full
employment for firefighting personnel, sweetheart subcontractors, disaster
benefits, and profits from deliberately protracted wildfires more than
human life or suffering. This is out of control monstrous bureaucracy
that has fed off the charred bodies, homes, and national defense facilities
of American citizens for over 12 years and we have to compel the U.S.
Forest Service and state agencies by public pressure to use the DC-10,
and Boeing-747 to put out fires IMMEDIATELY. Building only five more
Supertankers would END ALL uncontrolled wildfires in our entire country.
We can’t allow this deliberate carnage to continue! Call ALL representatives
and governors NOW.
Today, people are blaming the oil companies for high gas prices. We
are awash in oil, but the U.S. Congress refuses to allow drilling in
the huge tracts offshore and in Alaska. Congress is the culprit, not
the oil companies!
There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that authorizes Congress to
meddle in our marvelous free market system that was working very well
without federal interference. However, massive interference has stifled
production of oil and nuclear power. Visit www.thenewamerican.com for
In addition, Congress is mostly legislating in areas unauthorized by
our Constitution. Foreign aid and regulating education are just two
of many examples. In areas where Congress is authorized, it has created
several major disasters. Our military is dispersed in many countries
around the world, but it is not protecting our southern border to keep
out the illegals. In addition, Congress gave up its power to declare
war to the President. Therefore, we now have perpetual war to achieve
perpetual peace as George Orwell wrote in his classic novel, 1984.
A citizen who does not obey the Constitution would quickly be arrested.
However, Congress truly is a criminal enterprise because it continues
to violate our Constitution after taking an oath uphold and defend it.
We must demand that Congress obey the Constitution, or we soon will
see the destruction of our nation.
Nancy Barker Brennan
Bernardo says, "It's not about the party?"
Wikman retorts, "It's totally about...party."
The Republican bosses admit (1) they're ashamed of their elected officials,
so they've gone outside their party. Wonderful! I love it. A laughingstock.
(2) if Bernardo is so confident that he can do something for the "people,"
how come he needs (multi) party-endorsement? To whom would he be loyal:
Independence Party boss? Republican party boss? Conservative party boss?
Certainly NOT the people.
I challenge him to be specific about what he'll do for "the people."
And, as for Quigley, just another party hack pussyfooting around the
issue of tax cuts.
I, Allan Wikman, more than a year ago, VOWED to cut the Budget ten percent,
property taxes ten percent, total family taxes five percent.
And Veto any/all new property tax.
Do you dare report this?
The Phoenicia Library is holding its annual Book Fair on Saturday, June
7th, from 10-2 in front of the library on Main Street in downtown Phoenicia.
In addition to an assortment of thousands of books for sale, records,
tapes, and videos will also be sold. There will be a bake sale that
will satisfy the sweet tooth in all of us, along with a plant sale that
will include annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs, and houseplants. Face
painting will also be offered.
The library invites you to stop by and visit us as you acquaint yourself
with Phoenicia…a small town with something for everyone. Enjoy
the art galleries, shops selling antiques, home furnishings, international
imports, local restaurants, or stores offering hunting and fishing gear.
Perhaps you’re coming through to go on one of the local hiking
trails or to visit the beautiful Esopus. Whatevever your tastes, you
are sure to find something that will bring you back to Phoenicia. So
please join us on June 7th, and when you return, stop in the library
and let us know what tickled your fancy and brought you back.
We look forward to seeing you!
The Phoenicia Library Board
Most of the ideas listed in your article, “Smart Growth?!“
(May 22 issue) for the Smart Growth Initiative seemed like a lot of
expense for something that would do little to increase tourism or improve/preserve
the beauty of the Route 28 corridor. Forget more kiosks (especially
those perched under Catskill Corner billboards) -- How about an idea
that thinks outside the box, serving the needs of our local folks AND
the tourists who help us pay the bills?
Here’s an idea that I think would increase tourism and beautify
the corridor, while also serving the needs of low-income local folks
All along Route 28, one can see once-beautiful old or old-ish houses
that are in need of love. Many are even abandoned; some have been for
sale for ages. Similar homes, restored/preserved in other communities,
help to create an aesthetic that is not only beautiful but that preserves
local culture. Think of places like Marblehead, MA; Greenwich Village,
NY; Annapolis, MD; even our own Woodstock! The old homes there are no
different from old homes anywhere else — they’ve just been
restored or preserved to wonderful effect, helping to sustain the economies
of the towns in which they’re found by being part of the appeal
that draws people there.
For a Smart Growth project — how about a fund that would purchase
and restore these houses, using basic preservation guidelines (e.g.,
no vinyl, appropriate color schemes and materials, etc) -- and of course,
green building materials and native plantings? (And don’t forget
that restoring an old house is much greener than building the greenest
possible new house!) Whenever possible, the volunteer or reduced-cost
services of local architects/builders/suppliers would be sought. The
houses would then be offered at the cost of purchase/restoration (with
low-cost loans) to qualifying low-income families in our communities.
A Habitat for Humanity model, in which the purchasing family helps with
the labor, could also be used. Basic guidelines for maintaining the
historic character of the home would be part of the terms for the low-cost
In this way, we would restore the beauty of our Route 28 corridor in
its more dilapidated spots, and at the same time we would provide much-needed
low-cost permanent housing for local families.
I’ve read about similar programs in other towns, most notably
one in East Orange, NJ; they have turned neighborhoods around! While
we don’t need to turn our corridor around, it surely needs some
perking up (and preventative medicine to avoid the fate of Route 28
just north of Kingston)— and many of our local families need housing
that doesn’t plop down a townhouse subdivision in the very lands
we’re trying to preserve.
I’d love to work on such a project and have many other ideas for
community-oriented projects that pull people into towns and away from
big box stores — Smart Growth panel people, recruit me!
Woodland Valley, NY
I am a concerned college student who has worked for the Town of Olive
for 6 faithful years as a lifeguard and counselor for the Recreation
Program. This year I received a letter one month after it was written
on May 15th, 2008 letting me know that I should not apply for a position
with either the recreation program or pool positions for the 2008 summer.
Problem is that the letter said a post-season review, which they did
not give me, was the reason why they came to this conclusion. There
is absolutely no reason why my job was taken away from me and I'm upset
and concerned that this town can make their own community members feel
at bay and unwelcomed. I've been praised by parents and been commended
by co-workers on my work ethics and how responsible I am.
I look forward to meeting with the Recreational Board if and when they
agree to meet with me. One area of reasoning that I have come across
in my thinking about their decision was that they figured it would be
good that I get out as a college student and move on. But my previous
boss at the town pool worked there until her late 20s and some of the
other Burkhardt family members were lifeguards for many many years and
stopped working close to the age of 22 or better. I'm getting penalized
because I want to work one more summer and I'm only 20 years old.
My biggest fear has come true that politics have coroded the most important
part of the program; the community. My mother once said, and ironically
she was Pool Director for many years there, that the older you get the
more politics get involved.
I was just writing out of concern for helping the youth in the community
hold onto their jobs and the place we grew up in. As a member of this
community and I feel obligated to tell parents that I was wrongfully
requested not to return.
Upset and Confused,
Editor’s Note: Although we believe no municipal government would
intentionally hurt its young employees in such a way, we believe the
bravery it takes to question government actions in such a public fashion
warrants this letter being published, since those whose actions are
questioned are public officials.