Five candidates are running for three open seats on the Saugerties school board next Tuesday. With only two incumbents running, at least one of those seats will be filled by a challenger.
The three challengers — Katie Emerson-Hoss, Elena Maskell and Paul Van Schaack —are running under the Working Together: Families, Schools and Community umbrella. None of the three have ever served on the school board. They were interviewed here last week.
Polls will be open at all four of the district’s elementary schools next Tuesday, May 17 from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.
A nurse for 50 years, Flo Hyatt is a nursing manager at HealthAlliance in Kingston. She moved to the area in 1960 to study at the Kingston Hospital School of Nursing and SUNY New Paltz. Hyatt has been a trustee before, though this would be her second consecutive three-year term following a six-year absence when she was on the BOCES board.
Why are you running for reelection?
Hyatt: There’s much work to be done. I really enjoy school-board service. This is my 21st year in total between Saugerties and BOCES. I’m invested in public education, I’m invested in children, and I think this district has come a very long way but there is always more work to do. There’s more to do for children, there’s more to do in terms of fiscal responsibility, and so much more to learn. I find it to be a great learning process while at the same time doing public service, and most of all taking care of our kids.
I started my board service when my daughter was in the first grade, and was still on when she graduated in 2001 with very high honors and went on to get her master’s. It’s been a very good district for her. My son is 46, he went through Kingston High School. But my daughter is 32 and she graduated in 2001.
What are some of the most pressing issues facing the district today?
I think communication is always a pressing issue. You need to work on it continuously. Because no matter how hard you work on it, it’s never good enough. I believe that we communicate well, but I feel we have to continually improve that on behalf of parents and community members. The community members are paying the taxes, as well as the parents. The parents have their children invested in our district, so we need to have maybe a little more community outreach. I’d like to see some public forums on topics that interest parents of children in the district so that we can sort of come together informally a couple of times a year and have those topics presented by people who are experts. And that certainly is not board members; that is the professionals as well as the parents.
And I really feel that we have to continually look at the bottom line, because the taxpayer is at the bottom line. I think they’ve gotten a little bit of relief with the tax cap and the STAR benefit. But as a taxpayer, of course, it’s never enough. Especially for senior citizens.
I think the issues around Common Core and state testing is always going to be a hot issue unless it goes away. And I have no idea whether it will or will not. But I think we need to keep on top of that throughout the year, not just in April before they test. And I think we need to just up the ante and reach out to parents.
I would like to see more people come to board meetings so we could hear from them and know what they want. That’s a key. We don’t have wide attendance at board meetings. It can be boring, perhaps, because it’s a lot of routine stuff. But (parents) also have an opportunity to speak, and I would like to hear more from them, as well as community members.
When the crowd rises up, the crowd increases. I think we might have less of a hostile rising up if we had more on a continuum. I know that is a challenge to the administration, because while we might want these things, they are running a district day-to-day. We have to remember that they’re there to do the job we pay them for. We have to work with them in order to produce what we feel ls necessary.
What would you like to focus on in your next term?
I would like to do a study on pre-kindergarten for four-year olds. I feel that’s very, very critical to the child’s development and success. We don’t have it yet. There are other districts that do. I would like to see what it would cost us, where we could house it, and how we could make that happen.
A Saugerties resident for the past eight and a half years, Angie Minew is the owner of the Speckled Frog Playcare, Minew cases for and educates children from the ages of six weeks through twelve years. Minew has an associate’s degree from Ulster County Community College and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business management and communication at Marist College.
Minew is nearing the end of her first three-year term, a period during which she’s served on the audit committee for BOCES, and is currently the school board’s liaison for BOCES and the county legislature. Minew also serves on the policy committee for both the school district and BOCES.
Community service is important in her family.
“My children and I complete various community service projects to raise money for local organizations like the Saugerties Food Pantry,” she said. “This year we will complete a backpack drive with school supplies, help Saugerties Animal Shelter, free library drop at our location, help SOS, clothing and sneaker and bags for the homeless to distribute to NYC.”
What were some of your accomplishments during your first term on the school board?
Completed over 200 hours of school board and school function training at no cost to the district, on my own time, and earning two awards for excellence. Challenged the sex ed and HIV education being taught in forth grade which is now taught fifth and sixth grade. Changed procedure for head lice policy: ‘No nit’ procedures now in place. Was able to get the board support to sponsor an ad in the yearbook as well as in the Mum Festival program; this was the first time the board has ever done this. Served on the school board’s legislative committee to battle the GEA (Gap Elimination Adjustment) and spoke personally with [assemblypersons Pete] Lopez, [George] Amedore, and [Kevin] Cahill in reference to how the loss to our district personally affected us. Voted against the extension of the superintendent’s contract as it was and is not fiscally responsible. Voted to table the new administration plan as this also does not seem fiscally responsible for the district when we have lost 52 FTE and countless part-time teachers in the district. Achieved all board members receiving district-wide newsletters on a monthly basis in order to have a greater attendance at our schools events. Support the resurrection of the science fair and club in addition to full support for their trips. Support activities schoolwide and attend all my schedule permits. Attended all commencement ceremonies. Distributing diplomas at both Saugerties and BOCES. Successfully completed CSE negotiations.
What would you like to see the district focus on in the future?
Push for a drug education program in the district. Pre-K: Children are entering school not ready for the curriculum, Farm-to-table with better use of our local resources to offer healthy quality choices designed by a nutritionist. Over half of our kids receive free or reduced lunch. The key club makes 99 backpacks full of food every Friday for children that otherwise wouldn’t have. I’d like to look into year-round breakfast and lunch program as offered by other districts, and move the starting age of kindergarten to avoid having a six-to-eight-month gap between the maturity and development of students entering kindergarten.
Better educational experiences outside of the classroom. More awareness of mental illness rather then misdiagnosed of mental illness as special ed. Continued increase in AP courses. Increase in guidance counselors hired with potential psychology degrees and education background. Push for a hockey team. Push to rehire the art, music, and library teachers we lost in addition to more full-time teachers to reduce class sizes that were eliminated by the GEA in 2009. Push to see a school board operations manual in order to have a successful and organized means of operation to promote solid-quality board relations. Have a more open, active and informed board where we receive all bids, grants, contracts. Spend time truly examining the effects of the legacy cost, increase in minimum wage, and changes in county contracts will have on the district two to five years out.