Write-in candidate Caroline Jerome has been elected to the Onteora School Board, besting incumbent president Emily Sherry in a vote that brings in three new trustees after a recent board decision to close the Phoenicia and eventually the Woodstock elementary schools.
Jerome, who was not even a candidate until ten days before the election, bested incumbent president Emily at Sherry 958-889 in results certified May 18. A count of the 55 outstanding affidavit ballots kept Jerome solidly over the top.
Jerome was a third candidate added to the OPEN (Onteora Parents Engaged Now) slate. The other two, Emily Mitchell-Marell (1183 votes) and Clark Goodrich (1179), were seated May 16, filling the unexpired terms of Laurie Osmond and Bennet Ratcliff. They replace trustees David Wallis and Kristy Taylor.
Jerome, a Woodstock Library trustee, will begin her term July 1.
OPEN is opposed to the district’s reconfiguration plan, which has set a goal of a central campus by 2028, eliminating the need for the Phoenicia and Woodstock elementary schools.
Overall turnout was more than two and a half times last year’s, with voters forming a line the length of Woodstock Elementary School in an election that typically gets somewhere around 700 voters. Based on votes on the budget, including absentees, there were 1846 this year, compared to 686 last year.
The $61.3-million spending plan passed, 1404-462. A proposition for $8.8 million in capital improvements passed 1535-341, and the creation of a capital reserve plan not to exceed $10 million over the next decade passed 1371-461.
There were 887 in-person ballots cast in Woodstock, 497 from Olive and Marbletown, and 306 from Shandaken and Lexington.
There are 12,470 registered voters in the district.
Many were angered by what they believed to be a lack of transparency and a rush to make a decision before the election. The vote on the reconfiguration was added to the May 2 agenda just hours before the meeting.
That night, Sherry said the item had been added at the last minute because the resolution wasn’t approved by the district’s attorneys until that afternoon. She asked trustees if they were in favor of delaying the vote until a future meeting, but the motion failed.
The plan also faced criticism for a lack of cost estimates for required modifications to other buildings to accommodate the proposed changes. Beginning with the 2024-25 school year, Woodstock and Bennett will become k-5 schools and the middle/high school will serve grades 6-12. The board recently approved moving the sixth grade to the middle/high school.
The transition to a central campus comprising the middle/high school and Bennett Elementary and leading to the eventual closure of Woodstock Elementary will require voter authorization of a bond.