Meet the candidates for Highland School Board

Highland voters on May 16 will be asked to approve two incumbent candidates on the ballot running to retain their seats on the Highland Central School District Board of Education. And it’s a bit of déjà vu for voters, as the same two candidates ran unopposed in the 2014 election three years ago. This time around, board president Alan Barone will run for a sixth term and Heather Welch will run for her second full term; she first served on the Highland School Board as an appointee, finishing out the term of a resigning trustee. The terms are for three-years, beginning July 1.

Also up for the vote will be a proposed 2017-18 operating budget for the district of close to $43 million. The budget comes in under the tax levy limit, so it will require a simple 50-percent-plus-one majority to pass. A separate bus proposition of $750,000 is also on the ballot to purchase five 65-passenger school buses and three 29-passenger vans for the district.

New Paltz Times asked the two incumbents to tell us in their own words what they believe the biggest challenges facing the district are and what their priorities as trustees will be for the coming term.

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Alan Barone

The Highland Central School District’s current Board of Education president will have held his seat on the board for 15 years as of June. A lifelong Highland resident with a career in commercial construction, Barone put three sons through the Highland school system. Born and raised in the community, he says he still enjoys living here and giving back. He has an extensive history of volunteerism, entering his 38th year as an active volunteer firefighter, recently elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners. He was involved in Little League for more than 40 years, as a coach and later umpire, and was the organization’s president for 20 years. Barone served on the Town of Lloyd Recreation Commission for more than 16 years and was its chairman for two.

Why did you decide to run for re-election to the School Board?

I made a commitment to myself and the rest of the board to see the capital project to completion. I also feel my background in public/commercial construction can help inform the board and staff of the issues and concerns that arise during these projects. Another reason…. We were able as a whole board to bring economic stability to the district during the rough times. Hopefully the district — with the help of Albany returning full funding — can soon entertain new initiatives and move the district forward, giving students greater opportunities.

What qualifications or experience do you have that make you well-suited to the position?

This will be my sixth three-year term sitting on the board. I believe I bring stability to the board and insight to where we were ten years ago and now. I am able to inform the board of previous issues and how we dealt with them. Sometimes a revisit to old issues might have a better outcome moving forward.

What are the greatest challenges facing the Highland district right now?

Completion of the capital project, and continuing the high quality of education provided to our students. Improving how we deliver it, keeping in mind the impact that will have regarding the budget, and keeping the district ahead of the curve with the increasing updates in technology. Also, informing students about the issues facing them concerning what effects misusing social media and peer pressure involving the use of opioids has on them and their future.

 

(Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Heather Welch

Welch was born and raised in Highland. She graduated from Highland High School in 2000, going on to the University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting in May of 2004 and a master of science degree in accounting in December of that same year. Welch is employed as manager of the Internal Audit division of Central Hudson Gas & Electric in Poughkeepsie and is a certified public accountant (CPA), licensed in the state of New York. She is married with three kids, ages 4, 2 and 10 months.

Why are you running to retain your seat on the Highland School Board?

Since joining the board, I feel that we, as a team (board, administration, teachers, support staff and community) have made much progress in providing great opportunities for the children of Highland. However, there is always more that we want to do to get better, and provide more opportunities. With two of my three children entering the district over the course of this term, I will personally experience the impacts that these opportunities can have. As a graduate of Highland, I really look forward to my kids benefiting from the great opportunities that were presented to me.

What qualifications or experience do you have that make you well-suited to the position?

Consistent with the reason that I originally ran for the board, I feel that my background in accounting and business has provided me with good and relevant experience to serve as a trustee. I remain committed to continually seeking to maintain a balance between the taxpayers’ support while also offering the best educational opportunities for our children.

What will be your top two priorities this term?

I want to continue to work toward long-term financial stability for the district. Over the past few years we have made significant improvements in this area, and have even been able to create and allocate some funds toward the capital reserve fund. This fund will be beneficial in the future as our facilities require continual upgrades and improvements. Any funds allocated into this fund still require voter approval to use, but can lessen the financial burden of future capital projects.

The capital project is another area that I look forward to seeing achieve completion. Our facilities are critical in supporting the services and opportunities that we can provide to our students. We need to continue to work to maximize the improvements that can be made through the current project.

What are the greatest challenges the district faces at this time?

I think one of the challenges is having the funding necessary to provide the offerings that the children in our district need to be able to be successful while in Highland, but also to be able to compete after going on to higher education. Over the past few months, we as a board have been visiting each of the schools within the district and have had the opportunity to experience some of the amazing things that are happening. It has been an incredible experience and really brings to life what the board continues to strive for – providing more opportunities for our students. All involved are providing the opportunities that they are able to, and I must say that they are doing a tremendous job working with what resources they have; I can only imagine what could be if the funding received by Highland was not so severely impacted by the financial problems in the state over the last ten years.

Polls will be open on May 16 in the Highland High School band room at 320 Pancake Hollow Road from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.