This week’s letters (June 23-30)

Failing public education

It seems evident to me that the primary purpose of K-12 education is to prepare the student to become a successful adult. In our society, this means that the student should be prepared to either attend a college or university or be prepared to enter a career that does not require additional education. Unfortunately, statistics released by the state and recently published in the local papers indicate that the local public schools are not doing a very good job of fulfilling their purpose. In the Kingston, Onteora, Saugerties, Rondout Valley and New Paltz districts, the percentage of 18 year-olds that are prepared to enter college or a career is between 28% (for Kingston) and 55% (for New Paltz) with the weighted average (using the 2010 enrollment) of these 5 districts at around 37%. To put it another way, for every 100 students who enters school in one these districts at age 5 and spends 13 years in school, only 37 will be prepared to enter adult life at the age of 18.

By any definition, it is evident that the public school systems in the region (and in New York in general) are failing their mission. I don’t point this out in order to attack public education in general or the school districts in particular – I am only highlighting the facts.

Once it is admitted that public school education is failing, the next question is why it is failing and what – if anything – can be done to fix it. One of the most common answers that people point to as a factor in the failure of public education is the lack of money. However, I don’t believe that the statistics supports this belief. Using the same 5 districts as an example, the yearly educational cost per student is between roughly $17,000 (for Saugerties) and $29,000 (for Onteora). This means that over the 13 years of a student’s education, the total expenditure is between $221,000 (for Saugerties) and $377,000 (for Onteora). It seems to me that this should be an adequate amount of money to prepare a single student to enter college or a career.


Another common answer to why public education is failing is that the teachers and staff at public schools are not doing their jobs. I don’t believe this is the problem. All of the teachers and administrators that I know are well trained. They are motivated and care intensely about their students and education. Teaching is not an easy profession and is not entered into lightly. It takes commitment and dedication. Given this, I believe that the current “blame the teacher” attack is grossly misplaced.

So, if it is not the teachers and it is not the money, what is the problem with public education? Perhaps it is the system itself? Perhaps the idea of a state-mandated curriculum doesn’t work? Perhaps dividing children into arbitrary grade levels doesn’t work? Perhaps the responsibility for a child’s education belongs with the child, not the state or the school? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I do know that what we are doing in public education isn’t working and that to continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results is the definition of insanity.

Jeff Collins

Staff Member of the Hudson Valley Sudbury School



Thank you from the library

The Friends of the Saugerties Public Library would like to thank the community for their donations and support of our 14th Annual Library Fair.  The event was an outstanding success at the Kiwanis Ice Arena on Washington Avenue on June 4. The co-chairs of the event were Elaine White and Barbara Kaisik.

A special thanks goes to our entertainers: Kevin McLaren and Friends – Kevin McLaren, director; Mt. Marion & Morse Jazz & Rock ensemble – Bernard Springs, director Harvey Boyer Jazz Band – Erica Boyer, director; St. Mary’s Children’s Chorus – Bill Payne, director.

Additional special thanks go to: Janet Carter – storyteller; Audrey Klinkenberg – town historian; Ed Poll – historian & authorl Barbara Bravo – Master Gardener

Theresa Costello – Children

Tina VanVoorhis – Face Painting

Onteora School District

Hurley Library

Andy Vail & Friends – Plants

Refreshments were provided by Friends donations, Hudson Valley Deserts, Lox of Bagels and Giordano’s Pizza. Tables and chairs were provided by Rob Kleeman, director of the Ice Arena, Sons of Norway, Glasco Fire Department, United Methodist Chruch, Atonement Lutheran Chruch, and the Saugerties Public Library. In addition, tables and chairs were provided by friends members Myrna Sameth, Hans Gunderund, Lucy Stagich, Joe Gavner, Pete Kramer, Steve Crohn, John Forsythe, Elaine White, Eleanor Redder and Pat Buonfiglio.

Remaining books went to The Woodstock Jewish Congregation and Arts and Books in High Falls.

Final thanks belong to all of the Friends who donated time and talents.  Also thanks is extended to Rob Kleeman, Jim Beaver and the crew from the town.

Joe Gavner



Successful Historic House Tour

The Town of Saugerties Historic Preservation Commission’s third Historic House Tour, “A View of Saugerties in 1811,” with its focus on the 200th anniversary of the creation of the Town of Saugerties, is now history; and I am pleased to report that it was an unconditional success.

The final figures are not yet in, but more than 150 people visited the eight sites, and there were more than 50 Saugertesians who volunteered for assorted jobs during the Tour. All proceeds, after expenses, go back into the Town budget line for the Historic Preservation Commission and will be used to pay for other Commission projects on behalf of all Saugertesians.

Some vital statistics:

The tour consisted of eight stops at structures with a date range capped at approximately  1811. The tour went from the River at Malden to Katsbaan and Blue Mountain and from  Rt. 212 to the Greene County border. It included stone structures, e.g. the  Katabaan Reformed Church, the Wynkoop House, and the Trumbour Homestead; and, for the first time, two wooden homes as well. New this year was the 1st Ulster County Militia encamped outside the Wynkoop House while the band Tiddly Pom played period music inside.

Having now for the third time chaired the subcommittee that produced this event, I must say that I could not have done it without the help of my subcommittee, Renate Belville, Barry Benepe, Renata Corcoran, Jeanne Goldberg, and Myles Putman and Michael Sullivan Smith (ex-officio), who all gave generously of themselves. They did the research and write-ups for the brochure’s concise history and architectural descriptions of the eight  sites, the detailed map directions and interesting annotations in the route descriptions, the practical nitty gritty stuff like selling tickets and arranging and coordinating volunteers, and a myriad of other tasks. I thank them for their “over the top” expenditure of time, energy, and effort.

Thanks also go to: Myles Putman, MLPC/T’amam Designs for the brochure’s route layout and sidebars; Mark Smith, for the design and layout of the tour brochure;

Barry Benepe, Nancy Campbell, Mark Smith, and Micheal Sullivan Smith for their photographs and drawings of the houses; Audrey Klinkenberg for genealogical information; Arzi McKeown, who built the website (;

Bill Mayer, who allowed and facilitated the use of the Visitor Center as the beginning of the tour at his Rt. 212 McDonalds; and Smith’s Hardware and the Hudson Valley Dessert Company, whose owners graciously allowed their staff to act as facilitators for our advance ticket purchasers. They collected cash/checks and filled out receipts.

Thank you to everyone at Town Hall, for their support and help to the Historic House Tour Committee, and Daniel Honig, for providing stakes and tape used at some of the sites for pedestrian safety control; Gregg Chorvas and Bernie Ellsworth who provided us with the accoutrements for parking control; Town of Saugerties Police, with Sgt. Don Tucker as interface, who arranged for vests available to our volunteer parking coordinators, and special thanks go to: William and Kathy Nieffer who acted as docents and shared their knowledge of the Katsbaan Reformed Church history and Jen Dragon who docented at the Bigelow House; the seven historic house owners who graciously allowed and welcomed “the public” to visit; as well as to the strangers who took the tour and who were courteous, enthusiastic and appreciative.


We have now begun planning for the fourth annual Historic House tour in 2012.  Stay tuned for how the Committee fine-tunes that event!

Susan Puretz

Town of Saugerties Historic Preservation Commission member and chair of the Historic House Committee

Respect for the flag

On Wednesday, June 15, the Riccardi School in Glasco held its annual field day for students in grades kindergarten through six. Sgt. Bruce Williamson, 466ASMC and Sgt. Mark Hall, 727L&O DET, were in attendance at one of the many stations to share with the students the proper way to fold the American flag.  The students were taught respect for our flag as well as its proper handling. Sergeant Williamson and Sergeant Hall also were able to answer the many questions presented to them by the our students. Riccardi School students and staff would like to thank these brave men for taking the time to come and be with us on our field day.

Joanne Longendyke



School Budget Vote

While this letter will be too late to appear before the school budget vote, I would like to comment on your recent editorial. I agree that there have been very few letters either for or against the budget. I also agree that the lack of communication is a major part of the problem. The Board of Education meetings, which usually only have a handful of teachers and taxpayers attending, have provided little solid information regarding the contingency budget or its implications for this vote. The deadline for submissions to your paper occurs the day before the meetings. The mailing with the budget and vote specifics did not get to taxpayers until after the last BOE meeting before the vote.

If you look at the official budget information on the school district web site, the only contingency information on the Superintendent’s web site (there is none on the BOE site) incorrectly shows the  “Proposed Budget v. Contingent Budget” as “53,3278,601 v. 53,554,001. The text and calculations are meant to expound on the Budget Cap Calculations, but are incorrectly stated, implying that the contingency budget is in fact higher than the proposed budget by $226,400. This issue was brought up at the 6/14/11 BOE meeting,. and was supposed to be corrected, but still remains the only contingency information on the web site.

The School Budget re-vote mailer at least has a concrete picture of the Contingency budget, which changes next to nothing from the proposed budget. The mailing also has the ever-present comparison of Saugerties spending per student versus Onteora’s spending per student. What it fails to show is that the property tax for homeowners in the Onteora district pay about 2/3 of the tax rate that the Saugerties taxpayers are stuck with.

While the proverbial “less than the cost of a cup of coffee” has constantly been used to promote the budgets that have gotten us where we are today, all of that “coffee” has put us in an unsustainable position. Your own request looking for a “$700 a month including utilities” rental belies the fact that many townspeople are paying that much just in property taxes. Adding heat, electricity, food, and medical costs reveals the real situation occurring here. In some neighborhoods, over 1/4 of the properties are for sale or about to go up for sale due to the high taxes, and they practically have to give them away because no one wants to buy into these high taxes.

Since the proposed budget and the contingency budget are effectively identical, the only reason I can see for the BOE to go through the trouble for a re-vote is to say that they didn’t quite understand the NO they got on the last vote, and are hoping it will change this vote.

The fact remains, the current budget is unsustainable for the people who are paying for it. The BOE discussions are moving to how to expand services and curriculum, but very little discussion is being had on how to realign to fit an education that well prepares our students into a containable budget.

Mark Hoffstatter


Thank you on behalf of the animals

On behalf of the staff of the Town of Saugerties Animal Shelter, I would like to thank the teachers and students of St Mary of the Snow’s first Communion Class of 2011, for their generous financial donation to the shelter. Ms Costello and Ms Ressa and their students are to be commended for caring about the welfare of the dogs and cats at our facility. How kind of them to take time and effort to raise funds for the shelter. We are presently doing some renovations at the shelter to make a nicer environment for the pets in our care. Their donation will be used towards paying some of the expenses of the changes that are being made. Anyone who is interested in joining these good samaritans with funding for the improvements being made at the shelter, please call 845-246-6211or  845-679-0339.  God bless these teachers and their students.  Marie Post

Shelter Manager

Dysfunctional silence

State of stupor or moral coma? There is a kind of dysfunctional silence in American society today. In the face of wide spread hardship, suffering, uncertainty,and misfortune, no longer do these things seems to evoke compassion. Now, it creates disdain and even hatred.  Both major political parties now try to impose harsh penalties on the poor, elderly, young people, immigrants, and all other groups they consider disposable. Mainstream politicians call for cutbacks in public funding in order to address the huge deficit they themselves have created. With the help of our government, corporate capitalism has turned into corporate fascism! The deficit that needs to be addressed first is in morality and truth. The deficit is now being used as an excuse to reduce vital entitlements such as medicare. If the funds we have placed into the medicare system had not been an easy money pot for the government to draw from  every time they deemed it necessary, we would not have to be worried about it. Was any of our medicare finances used to keep our county in a war state? We will never be informed if it was. Theodor Adorno,  a German philosopher, wrote “The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have happened in the midst of  more or less civilized and innocent people.”

Barbara Terwilliger Ambrosano



United they stand

Have you noticed that the Republican Party stands united behind no “new” taxes for the wealthy; more “natural” gas and no regulations for the Big Oil and Gas Industries – i.e. BOGI’s?  Have you noticed that many Democrats are joining them and do you wonder why?

Have you thought about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow corporations unlimited amounts of money for TV and radio advertising during elections and how it’s affected our democracy? Have you noticed that our representatives no longer represent their constituent’s but instead represent the industries that fund their campaigns?

Could it be because in order to be elected they still need our votes, and since elections are now bought and paid for, and since the distribution of wealth is so unequal, in order to be elected candidates simply must succumb to the billionaires demands?

Once the billionaires have bought their candidates, they then fund advertisements that sell their product, (the candidate) to the public, just as the cigarette industry sold their products to us despite the fact that they would make us sick.

Yes, we’ve been had – and now with a few exceptions, (like Maurice Hinchey) we no longer have candidates to represent our needs.  Instead we’ve become customers who are manipulated to vote for candidates that will serve their client’s needs, (like the Bogi’s and Big Pharma) and not ours.

Is there still hope for us?  Only if we stick together and not allow the corporations to divide and conquer us, as they have been doing successfully for some time now. One of their methods is to distract us with issues like gay marriage and abortion rights, in order to take our focus off their unequal distribution of wealth, and their stunningly successful agenda of eliminating all regulations on our formerly free clean air and water rights.

What’s left for us to do? Get together – organize, show up at meetings and rallies, sign petitions. Drop our differences and stand together on the larger issues. It’s summer time – time to get out, before the winter comes and you’re stuck in front of the propaganda machine. That’s what they’re counting on. Let’s not let them divide and conquer.

Jill Paperno


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