Challengers Prevail in Beacon Schools Race

Beacon school board candidates Meredith Heuer, Michael Rutkoske and Antony Tseng (Photo by Kevin E. Foley)

New board will be seated in July

By Jeff Simms

Three newcomers will join a revamped Beacon City school board in July, as voters this week overwhelmingly elected Meredith Heuer, Michael Rutkoske and Antony Tseng to the city district’s Board of Education.

Heuer, Tseng and Rutkoske each received more than twice as many votes as incumbent Tracy Antalek Everett, the fourth candidate in a race for three board seats.

Heuer, a professional photographer, received the most votes of any candidate with 1,310. She was followed by Tseng, who is an environmental engineer, and Rutkoske, an Entergy Corporation capital asset program manager, who received 1,257 and 1,252 votes respectively.

Everett, who is completing her first term on the board, received 483 votes.

While the winning trio did not officially campaign together, all three ran platforms focused on increased transparency and accountability on the school board.

“It’s a great vote of confidence,” Heuer said. “I was encouraged to see that we all got around the same number of votes, because we’ve all been asking the same questions. We’ve come to the same place in terms of seeing the need for change.”

Beacon school board candidates Meredith Heuer, Michael Rutkoske and Antony Tseng (Photo by Kevin E. Foley)

Meredith Heuer, Michael Rutkoske and Antony Tseng (Photo by Kevin E. Foley)

The school board has been under intense scrutiny over the last 12 months, as parents and community members have questioned everything from its use of closed-door executive sessions to the district’s legal representation and its hiring practices. The board is currently searching for a new superintendent — its ninth in 10 years.

The search for stable full-time leadership will undoubtedly be the new board’s first order of business after its organizational meeting in July. Staff diversity and increased engagement with the public were also themes repeatedly championed by the three winning candidates.

In addition to the school board members, voters on Tuesday also passed the school system’s $66,750,000 budget and a separate $384,483 transportation proposition.

The budget, which was approved by the school board last month, includes $36.6 million in tax revenue and $26.8 million in state and federal aid. It maintains all existing programs and staffing levels at the Beacon district’s six schools while staying within the New York-mandated tax cap of 2 percent or less.

The budget does draw more than $2 million from school system reserves, a move interim Superintendent Ann Marie Quartironi said was necessary to stay within the tax cap.

The transportation proposition, now passed, will allow the school system to purchase three 72-passenger buses and a 20-passenger van.

This year’s race drew significantly more voters to the ballots than in recent years.

A total of 1,539 district residents voted on the budget proposition, compared to 1,290 in 2014 and 1,051 a year ago. The 2014 election also included a contested race with four candidates vying for three seats. Last year’s race was uncontested, with three candidates for three seats.

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