Onteora budget passes; McLaren named district superintendent

Rob Kurnit, Robert Burke Warren, Laurie Osmond and Bennet Ratcliff won seats on the Board of Education.

Approximately 874 out of 11,185 potential voters in the Onteora Central School district came out on Tuesday, May 16 and cast ballots to easily approve the 2017/18-school budget of $54,296,155, and to elect the four trustees listed to the Board of Education. Including absentee ballots, the budget passed 724-212. Aside from some last minute write-in campaigns for school board that fell far short, there were no surprises in the election.

But there was, indeed, a surprise. Before votes were announced at the May 16 Board of Education meeting at the Middle/High School, the trustees unanimously approved a three-year contract making Assistant Superintendent for Business Victoria McLaren the new district Superintendent. She will replace Bruce Watson, who resigned for personal and family reasons and her contract begins July 1 at $170,000 per year.


McLaren was brought in as Business administrator roughly 12 years ago by Superintendent Justine Winters. Several Superintendents later and certifications complete, she served as interim Superintendent beginning with the departure of Phyllis McGill in July 2015 until August 2016 when Watson took over. She is currently the longest standing district administrator.

In an email statement McLaren wrote, “While serving as the Interim Superintendent, I found the position to be challenging and rewarding. I appreciate all of the wonderful aspects of Onteora from our amazing students and talented and dedicated staff to our incredibly supportive community.”


Landslide win for budget

All four voting precincts in the towns of, Shandaken/Lexington, Olive/Marbletown, Woodstock and Hurley easily approved the budget, 724-to-212 (including absentee votes). Proposition two that allowed voter registration through the district clerk was also heartily approved 744-to-167.

Of the four candidates on the ballot vying for four seats, the highest vote getter was Shandaken resident Robert Burke Warren with 738 votes cast; he was followed by incumbent Laurie Osmond with 721, Bennet Ratcliff, also an incumbent with 714, and former trustee Rob Kurnit with 701 votes. The top three will fill three-year terms, and the one-year term went to Kurnit, the lowest vote getter of the winners. Because he is taking the seat that was vacated by Bobbi Schnell, he was sworn in as trustee and immediately took the position

Kurnit had been defeated last year, only to return again. “I’m pleased to be on the school board again,” he said. “I hope to continue to work on the issues that are important to me, like early childhood education and upgrading the facilities. I put a lot of work into that in the past and I hope to take on challenges that the board needs to tackle on in the future.

Warren, the only newcomer of the four, was ebullient. “I’m very excited to start. This is a chapter of my life as a public servant,” he said.

Osmond was also happy. “I’m grateful we are going to be able to continue with the work that we’ve been doing. I’m thrilled that Rob is back on the board and Robert Burke Warren is joining us. They are going to do tremendous jobs. I think the district is in a good place moving forward and Victoria — she will be able to provide the stability during this transition.”

Ratcliff joined his mates. “I’m glad to see that voters passed the budget resoundingly, it’s an important step in making a good district great. I’m pleased to be able to go back to work for the kids, parents, teachers, and the community.”

A quiet write in campaign mostly making the rounds via FaceBook brought in 49 votes for former school board trustee Rick Wolff and 46 votes for Olive resident Brandon Harkin. Olive/Marbletown had the most write in votes with 25 people listed. In all four districts there were a total of 52 write-in votes. Other names included Bobbi Schnell, Clayton Keefe (Woodstock Police Chief), Rita Vanacore, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.