REGIONAL – It was a tumultuous election night for local school board candidates this past Tuesday, May 16, as each of our coverage area's three school districts posted upset winners, and the promise of new blood come the start of 2017-18 school years July 1.
In Ellenville, district residents approved a $49.9 million budget 590-183 and returned two incumbents to the board of education while denying another term to the current board president in exchange for the election of a former district teacher. In a six-person race for three, three-year seats, incumbents Philip Mattracion and Willie Bruce won re-election, with tallies of 471 and 448 votes respectively, while former teacher and coach John Burns, who used to write a controversial column in these pages, came in second with 464 votes, winning a seat as well. Out were board president Karen Osterhoudt with 332 votes; Cassie Spoor with 319; and Francis Gurgui with 105 votes.
"I think the taxpayers were ready for a change and were ready for a new direction, and I think it was reflected," Burns said Wednesday morning of the vote. "The kids are first and that's what we need to get back to, and to provide the most for our kids. I'm very excited."
In Pine Bush, where four candidates were running for two seats held by incumbents, the top vote getter was newcomer Kristi Kheiralla, a registered nurse with three children in district schools who got 921 votes, and incumbent Cara Robertson, a former bus company owner who got 868 votes. Not winning terms were incumbent Matthew Watkins, a Shawangunk councilman who was appointed to fill out a term a year ago, with 621 votes, and Montgomery-based Joan Miller, mother of an elementary student, who came in with an unofficial tally of 338.
The $114.2 million budget easily passed 1,145 to 364 across all schools in the district.
"We're very pleased not only that the budget passed but by the margin of that approval," said superintendent Tim Mains. "On the school board elections, we're pleased to keep one incumbent, and sad to lose Matt Watkins. But we are delighted to gain a fresh new face with Kristi Kheiralla. I had a chance to meet her in the course of the campaign. She has young kids and a son in the high school, so has a full perspective on our schools."
Voters in the Rondout Valley school district overwhelmingly supported a $63.4 million budget for 2017-18 906-230. In a five-way race for three seats left open by retiring board members James Ayers, James Blair and Glenn Dannaham, the top winner was Chris Schoonmaker of High Falls with 885 votes. Megan Snair of Accord came in second, also winning a three year seat, with 629, while former board of education member Breanna Costello of Kerhonkson won another term with 611 votes. Also running were Fallon Wynkoop of Kerhonkson, with 449 votes, and Kim Cohen of Accord with 310 votes.
"I'm ecstatic about the support for our program," said Rondout Valley superintendent Rosario Agostaro, who retires after this year, of the large vote numbers.
More on what this all means in our coming issues.