Highland voters on May 20 will be asked to approve two candidates on the ballot for two seats opening up on the Highland Central School District Board of Education. Incumbent Alan Barone will run for a fifth term and former Highland School Board member, Heather Welch, will run to re-gain the seat she first filled in 2011. The trustee positions carry three-year terms to begin July 1.
Also up for vote will be the proposed 2014/2015 operating budget of just under $40 million and two separate propositions; one to purchase school buses (for which state aid will reimburse approximately 60 percent of the cost) and the other for maintenance equipment replacement (for which the schools cannot get state aid).
At the recent board meeting on Wednesday, April 23, schools Superintendent Deborah Haab said that the propositions are separate from the operating budget because there are so many items that need replacing — equipment so old that parts to repair the items aren’t even available — that putting the costs into propositions will spread the costs out over five years, and in that way, minimize them.
The budget aligns with the New York State tax cap, so a 50 percent vote is all that’s needed to pass it.
New Paltz Times recently spoke with the two candidates for School Board to get their take on what they feel the biggest challenges facing the school district are and what their priorities will be as trustees.
The School Board’s current president, Alan Barone, is no stranger to the election process: this will be his fifth run to maintain the trustee seat he’s held for 12 consecutive years now. A lifelong Highland resident with a background in commercial construction, Barone put three sons through the Highland school system and has an extensive background in community service. He’s been involved in Little League since 1973; first as a coach, then as the organization’s president (for some 20 years) and now as an umpire. Barone served on the Town of Lloyd Recreation Commission for more than 16 years, was its chairman for two, and is entering his 35th year as an active volunteer firefighter. “At this point in my life, I enjoy giving back to the community,” Barone said. “Every one of those positions is a non-paying position — I think that’s part of life. You get involved in it, you enjoy it and you continue to do it.”
Why did you decide to run for re-election to the School Board?
Probably one of the biggest reasons is the capital project. With my background in commercial public construction at the supervisory end — I’ve been a project estimator and involved in a lot of school and municipal projects — this is something that I think I can lend a helping hand to the district to see them through with, if the voters accept this project.
I’ll work hard getting the community to see the value of the capital project so we can move forward with it. Hopefully the community will see the needs that we have. I’d like to be involved as the watchdog, if you want to say it that way; some community members in the past have spoken negatively about the 2000-2001 project, where some items weren’t completed, asking who was [overseeing the project].
I value the work that the board does. I think we look out for the interests of the community, our staff and the students. It’s very important and I think the current board balances the needs of each one of those individuals to the best of our abilities. It’s something I like doing. I really enjoy working with the staff and administrators.
What experiences, skills or positions make you a competent board member?
My experience. We have a great board right now, and we all seem to work well together. We do have our moments when we agree to disagree, and that’s good; that makes for a healthy board. But as I found out myself as a new board member, it takes two to three years, sometimes even longer, to get a grasp of public education; all the acronyms that are used, and just to understand everything. You don’t do it in a year or two; it takes a while. With our board at this point, for the most part, the majority have three years or less under their belt. Some have four or five years, but with my experience, being able to help the other board members with past history is a benefit.