Three newcomers and one incumbent seek three seats
Voters on May 17 will decide between four candidates vying for three seats on the Beacon City Board of Education.
The Beacon City School District has been rocked by controversy and high-level turnover; it is in the midst of a superintendent search, its sixth in 10 years. Former superintendent Barbara Walkley resigned in January, almost 12 months after being promoted from interim to full-time district chief. The two permanent (non-interim) superintendents who preceded her lasted less than two years combined.
Legal issues have made headlines, as well. As accusations of impropriety swirled around the board, a Beacon parent, Melissa Rutkoske, petitioned the state education department in December to remove Walkley and school system attorney Michael Lambert. (Her husband, Michael Rutkoske, is one of the board candidates.)
Walkley and former teachers’ union president Kimberly Pilla, meanwhile, have sued Pilla’s ex-husband, who is a Beacon High School teacher, claiming he leaked personal emails that harmed their careers. Community members have also asked the board numerous times to seek competitive bids for the district’s legal counsel, a slot currently filled by the firm of Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert.
There have also been bright spots. Interim superintendent Ann Marie Quartironi has been widely praised for stabilizing the district in less than four months on the job. While she does not intend to compete for the full-time position, Quartironi has said she will stay on in the interim post until a permanent hire is made.
Parental engagement is on the upswing, too. The Advocates for Beacon Schools, formed last year, has been active organizing and engaging the community around the superintendent search.
The school board is guaranteed at least two new faces. Board president Melissa Thompson, a three-term veteran, is not running, nor is board member Christine Galbo.
What issues will the new board face? The search for lasting, effective leadership is foremost. In addition, questions about the lack of diversity among district staff and administrators and the ongoing struggle to do more with fewer resources will rank highly.
Each candidate submitted a statement at our request, where are shared below. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17. City of Beacon residents vote at Beacon High School and Fishkill and Wappingers residents vote at Glenham Elementary School. The three candidates who receive the most votes will join the school board at its organizational meeting in July.
Tracy Antalek Everett
First, I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to introduce myself and share my thoughts on my candidacy.
I have been a Beacon resident for more than 20 years, although I’m originally a “Jersey girl.” I was blessed to meet the late Shawn Antalek, move to Beacon and marry into the Antalek family, which makes my son a fourth-generation Beaconite in the school district. He is a senior in the high school and will be graduating in June. It appears he will be scheduled to pitch for Beacon varsity baseball at Dutchess Stadium on Wednesday, May 11, in what I believe will be Senior Appreciation Night, with family and friends in attendance, and for that I will miss the Meet the Candidate night.
I am a Cook College, Rutgers University graduate who had every intention of getting into a professional sports team and instead was introduced to human resources, where I work today. I have been lucky enough to work for several Fortune 500 corporations, either directly or as a contractor, including Lafarge, Avery Dennison, BASF and now Volvo Cars US. In the past I also have done consulting work, providing human resource solutions to smaller, local companies. I donate many hours to a charity focused on serving underprivileged youth around the world.
When I first moved to Beacon, there were lots of empty storefronts and barely a decent pizza place! Look at how far we’ve come! It’s exactly that growth that is both wonderful and, at the same time, challenging to our town and our schools.
Although I have already been on the Board of Education for the past three years, I am running again because I want to continue to represent all of the dynamic, diverse groups we have. More than 50 percent of our students qualify for reduced lunch and at the same time, we now have real estate properties listed for more than $900,000. We have upscale accommodations and more than 100 homeless students. We have had an influx of fairly new residents while at the same time we have escalating costs and taxes for our existing seniors, with less and less affordable housing available.
I will continue to bring the perspective of someone who has seen where we have been and balance that with the vision for our future district, to embrace the needs and opinions of all taxpayers and not just select groups or demographics. My vision for the district includes a plan focused on stability by hiring a leader who will commit to a long-term improvement plan, by collaborating and partnering with our administrators, teachers and staff. We all would like to see BCSD united and strong again. Thank you for your consideration in this endeavor.
Born in Detroit and educated in Detroit public schools, I am a big believer in public education.
My husband and I bounced back and forth for many years between the coasts before settling in Beacon to raise our two children. We were attracted to the natural beauty, the proximity to New York City (my husband had a job there at the time but has since moved his business to Newburgh) and the size and diversity of the community. We recognized early on there were many inspiring stories of community engagement in Beacon where someone identified a gap and used it as an opportunity. Pat Kerr and the Beacon Soccer Club is a great example. In 1978, Mr. Kerr decided he wanted to share his passion for soccer with the children in this area so he founded BSC, which has been serving the community for almost 40 years.
Inspired by his story and others like it, when my older son started kindergarten six years ago, I went looking for opportunities to help in the Beacon City School District.
This happened to be the year that Pete Seeger donated $20,000 to the Beacon Arts & Education Foundation (BAEF) to rescue the Calico Ball, a treasured tradition for all third-graders that has been in the district for more than 25 years. As a professional photographer, working toward more arts in education programming was a natural fit, so I joined BAEF as co-chair.
I had big dreams of adding new programs for students and starting a district-wide initiative that would provide an avenue for community members to share their knowledge and talents with students. As it turned out, with the economy crashing and the high superintendent turnover, our role was more about saving programs than starting new ones. In spite of this, our efforts in fundraising and grant writing have allowed us to sponsor over $100,000 worth of programming in the BCSD.
Still, I have been continually frustrated with the lack of district support of arts in education programming and with a general attitude of “I can’t” that has led to a long list of missed opportunities for the students. I believe very deeply in the talent and dedication of our teachers, but I feel our district has failed to support them and that has led to stale programming and fewer opportunities for our kids. In the last year, I have pushed hard for straight answers from members of our Board of Education about how and why decisions have been made that seem to have little to do with the well-being of the children in the district. The answers have been unsatisfactory, to say the least, and so I decided to run for the board.
Here are my primary focuses:
- Vision: As we look for new leadership, our district must ask stakeholders to participate in a meaningful conversation about who we are as a community in order to create a vision of who we want to be and how we are going to get there. Lip service has been paid to this idea but the efforts seem neither authentic nor is there any evidence that efforts of stakeholders to participate in this process have truly been heard. We live in a diverse community that could be much better reflected in our district’s staff and curriculum.
- Accountability and Transparency: There has been a serious lack of transparency and accountability for decisions made by the Board of Education. Our last superintendent’s appointment from interim to permanent superintendent occurred over the period of one weekend without a proper superintendent search or inclusion of stakeholders in the decision. The board must make the next superintendent’s search transparent with significant stakeholder input.
- Diversity: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s report on the BCSD shows very clearly that this district suffers from a lack of diversity in the staff that is crucial, especially given the racial makeup of our student body. If children of color do not see themselves in their leadership, they are less likely to succeed and if all children do not see a diverse leadership, they are more likely to grow up with bias and prejudice.
My belief in the potential of this district and my commitment to working with community stakeholders to improve it for the students of the BCSD could not be stronger. I look forward to serving this community as a school board member and helping students reach their full potential.
I have lived in the district for 10 years with our four children, three whom have graduated from the BCSD and one who will be a senior next year.
I became involved with the board following concerns about the former superintendent. I quickly found that there were bigger issues within the operation of the board itself. I started speaking to others about these issues and realized that many others had concerns and frustrations about the operation of the district. This all resulted in an amazing display of the democratic process. Those concerned came together with a common focus to improve the BCSD for our children and our community. We all identified the major problem as the dysfunctional operation of the board and their relationship with the superintendent and legal counsel. Only then were we able to speak and be heard as one overwhelming voice which the board could no longer ignore.
As anyone who has either attended or seen a board meeting can clearly see, the board does not function well, if at all:
- There have been nine superintendents in the last 10 years.
- The vice president, who has been on the board for 21 years, states its sole function is writing policy, yet Dutchess County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) clearly states it also includes judicial duties (e.g., governance and oversight).
- The board attorney attends all meetings and executive sessions, which is in direct contrast to attorney conduct at every other school present at a BOCES training I attended.
- Information was provided to the vice president and attorney regarding the inappropriate relationship between the former superintendent and former BTA president, but their only action was to conduct an undocumented investigation and then do nothing with the results.
As recently as April 26, the board would not agree to even discuss competitive bidding for new legal services representation.
The board does not know the basics for conducting a meeting in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order and constantly refers to the attorney for guidance.
The president of the board made known her bias against the current BTA president during a board meeting on April 26 when his request to amend his letter of resignation due to incorrect information was not approved.
I took the time to speak with a class of high school seniors about the election and budget vote process this past March. I was not campaigning, nor did I mention my candidacy. However, the president contacted the state to ask if I had violated campaign rules without discussing her concern with me. She stated that I may have a “leg up” on the other candidates even though no one else took action to reach out to our young people.
The president then went on to say how having speakers go to classes to discuss topics such as the vote is a great opportunity. The list goes on and on.
My platform is simple:
- Governance and oversight
- Financial responsibility
The district needs to start with the basics and focus on children, community and education professionals. We will then build trust and maintain strict financial responsibility. Only then will we be prepared to work on improving our programs and education and have the funding to do so.
In order to make this work, however, Tseng, Heuer and Rutkoske all need to be elected; here’s why:
There are nine members on the board and almost all decisions require a majority vote. Of the nine, there are seven who currently vote on one side of issues without question and one or two who challenge the issue. With the addition of Tseng, Heuer and Rutkoske, the board will be much more balanced, which will drive greater discussion and progress.
We represent the new board, ready to take action. The other candidate, Tracy Antalek Everett, is a current board member and represents the “no action,” “business as usual,” “can’t do” attitude that has paralyzed this board and taken the focus off our children. She has even declined to participate in the Meet the Candidates night planned for May 11.
The BCSD is not operating properly and needs a change in leadership. Please elect all three, Tseng, Heuer and Rutkoske in order to make that happen. You can read more about me on my Facebook page.
I believe we can do better through more community engagement with the Beacon City School District, accountability of the board as public elected officials and fostering a can-do environment to benefit our children. I have volunteered in parent committees and the experiences varied from fulfilling to frustrating. Proper public engagement involves all stakeholders to make a school district better. A good idea can be a much better idea if we can bring diverse perspectives to the table for conversation and the likelihood of success can increase incrementally from stakeholder buy-in. However, this takes work. I am not afraid of work nor afraid to have difficult conversations. I have the sincere desire to represent all segments of the community, be responsive to human needs, able to listen for real consensus and willing to obtain all the necessary facts before making a decision.
What I would bring to the board: I have held various positions of leadership with nonprofits and other community service projects, advocated for issues concerning diversity, parents, and quality of life, and am vested in the success of the local community. I am a first-generation American. I was born in Manhattan, grew up on the edge of Chinatown speaking Spanish and English, sometimes have relied on public assistance growing up, put myself through college, and moved to Beacon in 1999 to raise a family.
I believe that my mother’s value of education is one of the greatest gifts she could have given me. In spite of struggles and challenges that are a part of life, I have been able to use my knowledge, curiosity and willingness to work hard to solve these problems and to help others. Throughout my work in both the public and private sector, I have made the quality of my work and professionalism my biggest priorities. In my personal life, I am a single parent and I have tried to lead by example, teaching my children the importance of social responsibility and contributing to the community we live in. I don’t intend to forget where I came from and I have a sincere desire to address the education needs of all children in our district.
My vision for the district is continuing to evolve as I continue to have conversations with stakeholders to help put a vision into focus, and I appreciate every one of them. From recent conversations, I have adopted the top three beliefs for a district vision: a physically and emotionally safe environment that is inspiring, joyful, and beautiful which invites curiosity; a rigorous curriculum that inspires students to learn and facilitates a challenging academic experience, establishes age appropriate expectations, and cross-curricular creativity; and work to break down the walls.
For more information on me, visit tinyurl.com/tsengforschools.