Onteora budget passes, new super hired

Bruce Watson

Bruce Watson

On a night when school board trustees chose a new superintendent for the Onteora Central School District, only a small number of voters came out to easily approve the 2016/17-school budget of $53,222,778. But voters also unseated an incumbent Board of Education trustee. The total yes votes were 608 to 265 no votes, out of 10,773 registered voters in Ulster County (that total does not include the portion of Lexington in Green County that is in the district). All four voting precincts in the towns of Shandaken/Lexington, Olive/Marbletown, Woodstock and Hurley easily approved the budget. Proposition two for the creation of a Capital Reserve fund that will hold up to $8 million was also easily approved, 600-to-265. “Congratulations, and we thank everyone who came out to vote,” school board president Bobbi Schnell said.

At Tuesday night’s board of education meeting at the Middle/High School, seven-year trustee Rob Kurnit learned he was defeated in the election that saw seven candidates vying for five seats. Looking shaken, Kurnit said he was “disappointed with the outcome.” He will continue as trustee and vice president until July 1. “He was never a grandstander,” said trustee Laurie Osmond, who was reelected, along with the highest vote getter was Lindsay Shands; incumbent Kevin Salem, Bennet Ratcliff and newcomer Dale Allison.

“I’m grateful, this has been and awesome experience and can’t wait to continue to learn and work on improving the district,” said Shands. She and Salem will fill the pair of three year terms that were up for election. One-year terms went to the next three winners, Osmond, Ratcliff and Allison.


“I’m grateful, I love doing this and we’re gonna miss Rob, but we welcome our new member Dale (Allison) and look forward to three years of doing what is best for the kids,” said Salem.

Osmond thanked the voters. “I’m happy to be elected, looking forward to working with the new Superintendent, I think we have a lot of work to do.”

“I would like to thank the voters of the district who came out to support the budget, I’m glad it passed and the Capital project as well,” Ratcliff said. “Those two things are necessary to continue the standard of excellence we have in the district and the voters gave me a one year term and vote of confidence. Thank you.

Allison, now the boards only rookie, was elated. “I’m very excited, a little nervous, but ready to dive in.”

District Clerk Fern Amster administered the oath of office. The seventh finisher was Leo Warren.


Superintendent from New Jersey

Before votes were tallied, the board of education conducted a short amount of business, most importantly, unanimously approving a new Superintendent for the district. Seasoned school administrator Bruce Watson will begin with a three-year contract, August 22 at a salary of $180,000 for one year. Terms of his contract are up for negotiation following the first year.

Watson will be retiring from Fair Lawn school district in New Jersey, where he was Superintendent for 15 years, and before that, a Business Administrator, High School teacher and coach. Not only did Watson go through an interview process with the Board of Education, district employees, including union representation and administrators, went on a site visit at Fair Lawn district.

In a press release Watson said, “The people who I have had the pleasure of meeting during the interview process have been gracious and insightful and very positive about their district. I am looking forward to meeting many more of the students and adults that make up this fine school system.”

Ed board president Schnell was satisfied. “We reviewed all the input shared by the stakeholder groups, from survey’s, meetings, as well as a site visit,” she said. She thanked Interim Superintendent Victoria McLaren for her leadership during the process.

Kurit praised Schnell. “As sitting in the Vice Presidents seat, I would just like to point out, our president Bobbi Schnell went above and beyond this, so thank you.”


In other news, the board approved a five-year contract with the Onteora Non-Teaching Supervisors Association (ONTSA). Salaries shall increase by 2.5 percent annually. ONTSA members include, Director of Buildings and Grounds, Assistant Director of facilities and operation, and school lunch manager.