Five candidates vie for three school board seats in Saugerties

On Tuesday, May 16, Saugerties school voters will choose from five candidates vying for three open seats on the school board. Running for three-year terms are incumbents Krista Barringer, Damion Ferraro and Charles Schirmer. Challengers are Susan Gage and Alex Rappoport.


Krista Barringer
Occupation: Social worker
Education: Master of science in social administration, bachelor of social work
Barringer’s first term on the school board ends on June 30.

Why did you decide to run for reelection? 
I learned so much in my first term. I jumped in with both feet and looked beyond the Saugerties board. Within my first term, I became the president of the Ulster County School Boards’ Association as well as the Saugerties representative on the Ulster County BOCES board. I went to conferences and training opportunities throughout the state. The excitement I have seen across New York State in what education can be is why I decided to run for re-election. The Saugerties school district is blessed with so many creative and innovative thinkers, from teachers and administrators to students and parents. When this excitement fills the board room, Saugerties as a whole benefits. I hope with a second term on the board I can continue to bring excitement from a board perspective and add to the other levels of innovation. Together, Saugerties can continue to benefit, both academically and economically.


What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the school board today? 
With the two-percent tax cap legislation, the need to monitor spending has changed. School boards are now able to drill down into the educational needs of today’s student. It is no longer about how much we spend but what we spend it on. The discussion of quality education and the vision for what we, the Saugerties community, want for not only today’s student but the student of tomorrow has become a board focus.

What would your goals be during your next term on the school board?
Within the past year, the board moved light-years ahead through the development of district and board goals. Within the next year, the district will be operationalizing or putting action items to these broad goal statements. I look forward to being part of discussions, in the next year and for the next three years, which advances positive academic and economic benefits for the district as well as Saugerties as a whole.


Damion Ferraro
Occupation: Program manager, IGT Corporation
Education: Associate’s degree in computer science
Ferraro’s first term on the school board ends on June 30.

Why did you decide to run for reelection?
I remain committed to being an advocate for parents and children in the district, and acting in the best interests of the Saugerties community as a whole.

What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the school board today?
Third through eighth grade state testing and an effective policy to support the entire student body, opt-outs and test takers. Increased opportunity within the arts program. Community involvement and communication: Board meetings are not well attended. Social media and its impact on students (and) holding students, parents and guardians accountable for social media actions. Social equality (and) culture within the school; LGBT, racism, anti-Semitism and bullying.

What would your goals be during your next term on the school board?

To create an effective policy, established using a shared decision making process, where the entire community can come together with suggestions and solutions as to how we can accommodate students in third and eighth grades who opt out of the state assessment tests as well as the students who are taking the tests. There has been much deliberation over the approach that should be taken, but nothing in the form of a community forum that would welcome input from all stakeholders. I would like to hear from parents, students, teachers, administrators and teaching assistants so an official policy can be created and this can be resolved.

I would like to hear from the student body with regard to the current culture that exists in our hallways in the Saugerties central school district. I sit on a board that meets one or two times a month and get reports from the administrative team members, but rarely hear from the students. As a trustee of the board, I am hoping that the lines of communication between the student body and the board of education can be opened up, and I can get a better feel as to where the students excel and where the problem areas exist.

If reelected, I would work with the board of education in establishing a process utilizing the student council to establish a way to effectively communicate successes and concerns from the entire student body to the board of education.

I would like to see increased opportunities for the arts program. Our student enrollment has been declining; however, that doesn’t mean the interest in music, art and library programs have followed the same trend. I would like to see some comparisons done to explore if there is a fiscally responsible approach to offering more opportunity to students through music, art and library programs.

Establish a policy with regard to social media. In my opinion, this is a very dangerous space where adolescents are left to govern themselves. It is also a place that students post messages and/or pictures that may be a call for help and/or an issued warning sign of something to come.

Continue to support the budget process and to stay under the allowable 2% tax cap increase.

Continue to support the safety and security initiatives for all students at SCSD and support improvements and proactive initiatives when and where necessary.

Continue to support the equal opportunity for women coaches in Saugerties, in addition to, supporting professional development opportunities for Saugerties coaches for all grade levels from modified to varsity.


Susan Gage
Occupation: Retired director of special education for over 12 years in the SCSD; previously a speech-language pathologist for 23 years
Education: Administrative certificate from NYS – district level and building level; MS from SUNY New Paltz in speech, language pathology; BS from Nazareth College of Rochester in communication
Gage previously served on the school board at the John A. Coleman Catholic High School between 2008 and 2012.

Why did you decide to run for school board?
As a recent retiree from the Saugerties school district, 35 years total in education, I wanted to continue to do something that was connected to education. The school board is a way to continue my involvement in education in our community.

What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the school board today?
First, being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of Saugerties; providing quality education to all students so that they can be successful adults in the community and setting the school district on a path to remain on top of the ever-changing state and federal educational mandates.

What would your goals be if elected to the school board?
In my first year I would work to develop a professional relationship with all board members and to be an asset to the current board in helping to achieve its goals. Over my first term I would like to help the school board work cohesively to develop foresight in the ongoing needs of the school district while helping to rein in the ever-increasing cost of education.


Alex Rappoport
Occupation: Freelance cinematographer and editor
Education: BA – Univ. of Kansas in media arts, MA – Univ. of Texas in film and video production
Rappaport has never served on a school board before.


Why did you decide to run for school board?
As our two children have moved their way through Saugerties schools — currently eleventh and sixth grade — and as I find myself at 51 feeling more and more invested in the broader community, I figure that I should step up and take a more responsible role as a citizen and parent. It’s no secret that I cast many stones over the years, in the form of letters to the editor of Saugerties Times, at former members of our school board.

And I’ve been very pleased to see that voters in the last several years have elected a more enlightened and qualified group of trustees. Now that Robert Thomann is board president, there is traction to foster an institutional environment focused less on bureaucracy and the bottom line and more on our children and the challenge of maintaining their enthusiasm for learning.

What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the school board today?

My perception is that there is an increasingly tense relationship between the board and superintendent [Seth] Turner. To a large extent this is an unfortunate hangover from the divisive tenure of former board president [George] Heidcamp. Mr. Turner was originally hired by Heidcamp and proved a loyal employee over the years. As an outside observer of past board politics, it was fairly obvious that Turner was never one to challenge Heidcamp’s leadership, which at best was focused on maintaining the status quo at a minimum expense to taxpayers. In turn, Turner became the focus of criticism — plenty of it from me — for being Heidcamp’s lackey. In a classic lame-duck move, Turner’s contract was extended for three years by Heidcamp in his last month as president.

Now that Heidcamp and the trustees who supported him are all but gone, the new board members are asking Turner to put in more effort. However, he appears reticent to do so. If elected, I want to get us all in a room and figure out how we can work better as a team and support Turner to be all he can be.

What would your goals be if elected to the school board?

My outsider’s ignorance of the red tape, hierarchy and systemic inefficiency in public education is at this point, I am sure, the proverbial bliss. No doubt, if elected, I will get a crash course on the slew of technical reasons why it’s hard to implement new ideas, teaching methods and programs for our students.

Obviously, we have to work within the constraints of our annual budgets, but I believe there is room for innovation writ large or small. And if we aren’t fostering and encouraging new ideas from teachers from the top-down, then I want to create a formal channel for those ideas — and concerns — to come directly to the board from the bottom up. I would also like to see regular communication of the board’s ideas and district goings-on to the public — a monthly column in the Times, perhaps — as well as a channel for parents and students to bring their concerns to the board which does not require their attendance at one of the monthly board meetings.

As for long-term goals, I want very much to restore the two elementary school librarian positions that were victims of the 2010 district budget crunch. There is no reason that we should consider these permanent staffing changes. Without a librarian, a library is just a room full of books. And a good librarian develops inspiring and fun programs that support the broader curriculum and our Common Core standards while simultaneously fostering an excitement for reading among our children. It is vital to instill good reading habits in young children, and it is to me shameful that we have just two librarians for our four elementary schools.

Charles Schirmer
Occupation: Retired, taught in the Saugerties school district
Education: Business degree from Ithaca College
Schirmer has been a member of the school board for a combined 21 years.

Why did you decide to run for reelection?

Schirmer: I decided to enter reelection because I’ve been at this for some time and I want to see the condition of the schools, which Mr. Turner has had a big hand in creating a very positive position, both fiscal and in terms of relations with all parts of the school district.

Many different superintendents were involved over those [21] years [as a trustee], and I can honestly say that the current superintendent is one of the best we’ve ever had. So I want to continue to give him support, and hopefully I’ll be able to do that after this next election.

There is one comment

  1. George D Heidcamp,Sr

    To address and clarify Alex’s appalling remarks to Saugerties Times, among which is his comment that, “George Heidcamp hired Mr. Turner….,” while I would love to take credit for such an exceptional selection, at the time Mr. Turner was hired, Don Tucker was president of the Board and I was his vice-president. The vote to hire Mr. Turner was 9-0, which means it was a unanimous decision.  Therefore, the BoE, not George Heidcamp, hired Seth Turner and it was a stellar decision.  

    In fact before the Board hired Mr. Turner, we arranged to have him meet with all the unions, administrative staff and the Saugerties’ senior citizens—in each and every case he was  thoroughly supported.  Mr. Turner has been an great asset to this Community and its schools, and is doing an outstanding job.  The board members who participated in his appointment should be extremely proud of their achievement.

    The comment suggesting that Seth Turner is anyone’s “lackey,” shows Alex’s astonishing lack of perception.

    George D Heidcamp, Sr.

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