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Students host a BOE Meet the Candidate party | Hv360

Four Catskill High School students from the school’s Leadership Greene Club, seniors Andrew Holliday and Stevenson Arp, and juniors Ava Edmond and Alexandra Hallam, emceed the event. Students gave each board candidate a series of seven questions to answer in an effort to get to know them better and why they ran for school board.

School board candidates Board President Jeremy Engelin, Board Member Lee Heim, Jeffrey Holliday, Former Board Member Michael Dedrick, Karen Van Wie and Mike Konsul were in attendance. Candidate Andrew Jones was absent from the forum. Jones did not respond to calls for comment about his absence from the event.

The forum gave candidates an opportunity to publicly present their views on school issues ahead of the May 21 school elections.

Candidates had one minute to introduce themselves, one minute to answer each question and one minute to make a closing statement.

Each question was asked, followed by separate responses from each candidate.

The forum started with a question from Arp.

“What skills or goals will you bring to the table as a board member,” Arp said.

A common response from candidates was to listen and research.

“It’s kind of a life skill,” Heim said. “I appreciate it more and more and it’s listening to people. It’s about engaging in conversation and hearing what they have to say so you can better understand their truth, but also better understand the fuller truth of different parties to a concerning argument, and then make the best decision possible if it is not the right decision. This is the best decision to encourage this truth and show people that we are listening and doing our best, even if it’s not easy.

Dedrick agreed with Heim with his answer.

“At the end of the day, it’s about listening to different opinions and bringing pride back to the district,” Dedrick said.

The second question of the evening came from Hallam.

“How will you ensure that your decisions as a school board member are student-centered and match the scope of responsibilities outlined for the role,” Hallam asked the candidates.

“It starts with listening to students and taking their perspectives into account,” Heim said. “I would suggest perhaps that a senior should serve on the school board, not as a voting member but as a member who could be heard and represent the student body.”

Engelin agreed that listening is the best thing the board can do, but there is more to do, he said.

“I want to be very clear that there have been many issues in our community recently and I know that not everyone has felt like voices are being heard,” Engelin said. “There are many voices that are quieter and others that are louder and that also deserves to be heard and understood. It’s a tough position and I think it’s one we try to do a good job with. Listening is key, and beyond that, we need to understand the repercussions of action, and when action is justified and when it is not. Sometimes there is more to the situations that meets the eye and we need to be firm enough to understand that you are doing the right thing, even though everyone may not like it.

Edmond asked the candidates a question about the strategies they, as school board members, would use to create the school district’s annual budget.

Holliday began his response by asking members of the public to approve the budget on May 21.

“I think it’s very important as a district to support our kids,” Holliday said. “It’s sometimes very, very difficult to look at budgets when they continue to increase and our ability to fund them is reduced. We don’t want to go into an emergency budget, this severely limits what we can offer children. Teachers will be paid, but we will lose a lot of programs and we don’t want that to happen. So I encourage everyone to support the budget.

“I think it’s also very important to think about as we pass budgets, and as we work to develop a long-term financial plan,” Holliday added. “We want to make sure we can do what we can in an emergency budget. So support the budget. Let’s give kids the programs we have and make adjustments throughout the year for the coming year so there are no reductions in services, no reductions in programs and no reductions in staff .

Konsul said he wasn’t fully familiar with the budget, but was willing to learn.

“That’s one of the areas I’m really going to have to learn because I’ve never been on the board,” he said. “I’ve done budgets for clients, but it’s a little different in the carpentry world. But there is no increase in the tax levy (in the proposed district budget for 2024-25). This is a good thing for the community because Greene County is not a wealthy community. There are people who have difficulty paying their taxes and voting for this budget would be a good thing.”

Konsul said there are things going on in the school district, including budget restructurings, that he doesn’t agree with, but that budgeting is one of the reasons he is hesitant to run.

“I’m going to educate myself, I’m going to learn more and try to make a good decision for the taxpayers,” Konsul said.

Still on the topic of budget, Holliday asked candidates how they would prioritize student needs and educational quality with a fixed budget.

Dedrick said it’s imperative to take a close look at the spending package items.

“I think ultimately what it takes is taking a line-by-line budgeting approach, accounting for every dollar spent and making sure it’s spent in the most appropriate way,” Dedrick said. “It is difficult. Every year, significant costs increase and you cannot avoid them. Instead of relying on one person and going by what that person says, you have to work together and look at the budget line by line .

Van Wie also isn’t very familiar with the budget process, but she agrees there’s still a lot to learn.

“I think looking at the budget line by line is a good idea,” Van Wie said. “There are so many things in the budget that none of us completely understand that we really need to educate ourselves on and that would be one of my goals, to do some research and learn as much as possible about it .”

Student confidentiality and how each candidate would handle that information was the next question Edmond asked.

“Often the complaint and the handling of the complaint can produce a very emotional response,” Heim said. “When people get emotional, they say things that don’t satisfy them and to keep privacy as secure as possible, I think we should have a flatter conversation and not let the issue or complaint take over. moment when the whole community or all the local news outlets are talking about it, where suddenly everyone has an opinion and no one is listened to.

Konsul said having the board meet in executive session and not repeating what is said or discussed outside of executive session is key to keeping information confidential.

“But that’s what it comes down to: keeping your mouth shut about sensitive and confidential things and they don’t leave the boardroom, plain and simple,” Konsul said.

For the final question of the evening, Holliday asked each candidate what they believed the chain of command was within the school district, including the roles of the school board, superintendent of schools and teachers.

Each candidate agreed that the board has the final say, even though it does not manage day-to-day operations in district buildings.

Van Wie led the section in saying the board is accountable to taxpayers.

“I believe that as a board member, I am responsible first to the taxpayers, to the students and to the teachers,” Van Wie said. “For balancing student budgets, for helping them achieve their goals, and for the superintendent working for the school board and not the other way around. »

Holliday said the board is the governing body of the district, but students come first.

“Any board of directors is the governing part of the organization, it’s our job as people who are part of it to collaborate with our operational side,” Holliday said. “We need to meet with our superintendent to find out where the problems are. Our responsibility is first and foremost to the students. Help them graduate from high school with a good education, put them on the path to move forward.

The school board meeting and budget vote will take place on May 21 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.