Here it is World Series time and to much surprise, the best
example of courage stepping up to the plate has come in the
form of our very own Onteora School Board of late. Despite having
come together partly from protest, and partly from unbridled
idealism, as with so much of our political world these days,
our students’ and taxpayers’ trustees have not shied
away this term from facing a series of extremely difficult junctures,
and either making decisions or moving toward understanding in
an open, knowledge-seeking, ears-and eyes-open manner.
Even their decision to hold a board retreat last week, questioned
by some as a possible infraction of state Open Meetings “Sunshine”
laws, seems to have yielded a very American sense of strength
through diverse opinion, rather than the creation of some lock-step
means of pushing an agenda whether the school community wants
it or not.
What did the board accomplish during their time together away
from public scrutiny? A lot of discussion, in the public part
of the meeting, about what they want to accomplish over the
coming years, to be released in the coming term as soon as everyone
gets a chance to look over what they talked over with some care.
Most of all, an opening up of their lines of communication,
in private, so they could better understand each other without
any of the bickering that thwarts so many boards in our area…
We applaud the way in which the board listened to the community
and passed a new policy regarding military recruiters at the
high school. Kudos to policy committee members Rita Vanacore
and Cindy O’Connor for working something out that was
even-handed and responsive, as well as responsible.
We also applaud the way in which the meetings have been held
about possible restructuring of the school district, as hard
a decision Onteora’s faced since its inception. Sure,
there have been some rough edges so far, and more bound to come.
Many people want some new options on the table. But at least
the process is being handled calmly, with patience and apparent
understanding. Anf the board is gaining new ideas from their
We also look back at the way in which the board reversed their
decision to cut special ed funding last Spring. Even though
many feel they have quite a distance to go yet before restoring
much of their constituency’s trust on these matters, discussion
has been opened. And the district should be happy not to have
ended up on the list of a dozen or so schools in the Hudson
Valley who were actually chided for their bad performances vis
a vis special ed in recent reports.
Much of the current calm, we feel, is likely the result of strong
leadership on the part of interim superintendent Jack Jordan.
It’s been a difficult time as the entire district has
moved beyond several tragedies, from the loss of former superintendent
Justine Winters to the loud splits that occurred over the onslaught
of large parcel battles into school matters. Jordan, and the
new board, have been working hard at moving beyond such things
into as full a consideration of all that really matters to our
student’s education as our students deserve.
Sure, there’s still a bit too much worrying about money
for some tastes. But that’s the nature of American politics.
For all Onteora’s faults, the district is unique, and
somehow lends those getting schooled within it both a strong
sense of wider community as well as a rare sense of individual-oriented
By actually listening to each other, and the public, the Onteora
School Board seems much better poised towards making the hard
decisions ahead of it, from the search for and naming of a new
district-wide superintendent to restructuring, renovations,
and helping to move us all ahead into this 21st Century.
Who knows, what they accomplish may end up being just the beacon
the rest of our towns need to start getting along and helping
All good thoughts to consider this Saturday, October 14, when
the high school celebrates its annual homecoming with a big
bash. Idealism, community, and the future… the stuff of
any good education.
In a separate note, we’d like to reiterate and clarify
our own plans to hold a regional roundtable for our district
towns and communities. Because of the clamorous nature of the
current election season, to be followed shortly by the usual
slew of late autumn and early winter holidays, we’re now
looking to put together our event for Martin Luther King weekend
in mid-January. We’ll likely do our roundtable, which
needs space for everyone to get in a circle and listen to each
other, in one of our schools, the more centralized the better.
But those details will come. And we’ll be sure and give
you plenty of time to make plans to attend, and speak.
And most importantly, to listen to each other as well.
Happy homecoming! PS