New Paltz School Board members honored people in the district who achieved one of two significant career milestones this school year: tenure and retirement. Eight staff members secured tenure and 13 retired. Teresa Thompson called the former a “dream team of tenure candidates,” and superintendent Angela Urbina-Medina spoke about the hundreds of collective years of service and experience held by those retiring. All those honored were given certificates to mark the occasion.
There are also endings in the school board itself. Michael O’Donnell, who did not seek a third three-year term in this year’s election, was thanked effusively by colleagues during this last meeting of the current term. Several of O’Donnell’s colleagues spoke about their working relationship. Bianca Tanis came onto the scene as an organizer in the testing opt-out movement, and recalled how O’Donnell exhibited “calm leadership” as board president, and was willing to “go down a rabbit hole of research” rather than base decisions on assumptions. Sophia Skiles, who stepped down as trustee in December, sent in a letter praising the “quality of labor” O’Donnell provided, along with a sense of humility and willingness to admit ignorance on a subject. Current board president Glenn LaPolt described their early relationship as “tense,” but one that evolved into friendship. Diana Armstead praised O’Donnell’s blunt honesty and openness to learning.
Matthew Williams has reached the end of service, but this is the third time Williams has been wished well. After leaving the board upon completion of an elected term, Williams was tapped to step in when Skiles resigned early, in December. It’s common for former board members to be named for these short-term appointments, because they have already climbed the learning curve of being on a school board at all. When there is an appointee on the board, an elected replacement is seated as soon as possible; Williams kept Skiles’ seat warm until the votes were counted in May, rather than waiting until July 1, when the winners of full terms begin their work. That short straw is given out last, with the candidates who got the most votes securing full terms. In a twist, the fourth-place winner this year was incumbent Diana Armstead. To be put in Skiles’ seat, Armstead had to resign from the current one, and Williams completed the shuffling around by replacing Armstead until the end of June. This gave Williams three times to say goodbye.