Who are the New Paltz school board candidates?

Patrick Rausch, Stephen Bagley, Steve Greenfield and Aimee Gertler Hemminger.

Patrick Rausch, Stephen Bagley, Steve Greenfield and Aimee Gertler Hemminger.

This year’s New Paltz Board of Education race on May 20 will pit three men and a woman against each other for two open seats.

Patrick Rausch, an IBM program manager and past school board president, has served on the board for 16 years and he’s running for election a seventh time. His six kids graduated from the district.


Stephen Bagley, the current board president, is running to keep his seat as well. He’s an accountant by trade, and he ran back in 2011 with a focus on finding efficiencies in the school budget. Bagley has also been a soccer coach and is a former firefighter for the Rifton Fire Department. He’s got four kids, who are either still in or have graduated the public schools.

Steve Greenfield, a former school board member who declined to run for re-election back in 2011, is a community activist, father of three, professional musician, volunteer fireman and a well-known public figure in town. He’s stayed active advocating for public education since, but recent events have made him want to get back on the Board of Education.

Aimee Gertler Hemminger was born and raised in New Paltz, attended the public schools here and graduated from SUNY New Paltz. After briefly living in Kingston, the mother of three moved back to New Paltz with her husband in 2009. She works at Ulster County BOCES as a substitute teacher coordinator. Her kids are attending our public schools here, too.

We asked all the candidates the same four questions. Here’s what they had to say.


Patrick Rausch

Why did you decide to run for the Board of Education?

Basically, I guess I’m seeing that there’s just a lot of changes coming to education in general. I believe that we really need to sit down and have some good team discussions and bring solution-oriented ideas to the board table — in order to keep our schools the best in our area.

With all the changes coming, with challenges we have, I just felt like there was still service to give.


What experiences, skills or previous jobs make you a competent board member?

I have been on the school board for 16 years. And I’ve had six kids graduate from the New Paltz schools. I’ve worked 42 years as an engineer, programmer and program manager at IBM. I believe all of this really gives me the skills.

I’ve had to face a lot of change at work and that is the kind of the environment we’re going into as a school district. It’s facing change and how do we adapt and deal with change.

Also, I try to approach problems logically, through a data-driven approach.


What do you see as the biggest challenge (or challenges) facing the district?

The biggest challenge, in my book, right now is the change that we’re going to be facing. We can’t always get our individual ways, so we need a team at the board table that doesn’t come with agendas. A team that can discuss the needs and the wants and then find solutions that work for our New Paltz schools.

We’ve got the top-rated schools in the area. I think we’ve got an exceptional staff right now. I think all of us now have to become a community that’s focused on addressing the changes coming our way.


What are your top two priorities if elected? How would you enact them?

I’ve been on the board long enough to know that what I might think is important today may not be important tomorrow. But we do have two issues right now. The first is we’ve got aging facilities.

While I personally believe that a consolidation of our school buildings would in the long term would be less cost to all of our taxpayers, I understand that the initial investment to build two new schools just is not feasible in these economic times.

We really need to work on a plan to improve and maintain our buildings, in a way that doesn’t financially strap our taxpayers.

We’ve been talking about a building project. I think it still needs a lot of work. We have to stay focused on that to get something that makes sense for our community.

The second major issue we have is our overall cost escalations. I believe that our administration and staff are doing an exceptional job, educationally. And we need to really sit down, sharpen our pencils, cut out all of the unnecessary cost adders we can. We need to work as a team — that includes administration, staff and community — to keep our focus on education, without breaking all of our banks.


Stephen Bagley

Why did you decide to run for the Board of Education?

The main reason I am running for reelection to the BOE is continuity. Continuity on the board will enable us to achieve the goals we set for this year. Our primary goals were to address the continuing financial issues that we must contend with and the capital project.

I do not believe that switching our board members midstream is going to be beneficial to our students or taxpayers. A midstream switch is going to cause a delay due to the need for new members to get up to speed on the issues we are working on.


What experiences, skills or previous jobs make you a competent board member?

I have over 30 years as a CPA. I’ve held various corporate leadership positions throughout my career, starting at the bottom and continuing to work my way up. Within the district itself, I was a volunteer member on the audit committee. After being on the audit committee, I have spent the last three years on the school board.

At the tail end of my second year on the board I was vice president. This year, I’m serving as president. This year, I think we were able to create a pretty cohesive board. We worked to get all these people together to discuss “here are the ins and the outs, the ‘what ifs’” and try to make cohesive decisions. The decisions may not have been unanimous, but that is to be expected with people from different viewpoints.