Letters: Haldane School Board Endorsements

Editor’s note: The Haldane school district budget and trustee election is Tuesday, May 15. Polls are open at Haldane Middle School (Room 105) from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. There are five candidates for two open seats. The Current posed questions to each candidate, and their responses are posted here.

I am writing in support of incumbent candidate Margaret Parr for trustee on the Haldane school board.

Margaret has been a member of our community for more than 25 years, has two children who attended Haldane from kindergarten through high school, and has come to know many of us through her roles as parent, volunteer, friend, PTA president and school board member.

School board service is a multilayered endeavor with a steep learning curve. Margaret’s service over the past three years provides her with a valuable asset to our school community: experience. She understands what is required of and how to best serve as a board member. Margaret has the knowledge of how school budgets work, the integrity one must keep when dealing with confidential matters, a clear understanding of the district’s strategic plan and what is required to keep it moving forward.

She has a particular interest in policy review, which is one of the board’s most important responsibilities, and has been a true leader within that challenging process. Margaret played an integral role in the hiring of our new superintendent, Philip Benante, and is committed to ensuring a smooth transition into leadership for him. This is one of the many reasons Margaret is running for re-election, and in my mind, is a perfect example of her ongoing and unfaltering commitment to our district. Please join me in voting for Margaret Parr on May 15.

Laura Hammond, Cold Spring
Hammond is president of the Haldane school board.

It’s heartening to see so many candidates vying for the open seats on the Haldane school board. There was a time, not long ago, when you had to beg someone to run. It’s a challenging position with no pay, no benefits, and seemingly few rewards. Kudos to those who have thrown their hats into the ring.

Having served on the Haldane school board for 10 years, including five as president, I know what it takes to run the school smoothly and efficiently. I know the importance of community engagement, sincerity, honesty, and the ability to understand the need to balance taxpayers concerns with education. There is a need to compromise and the need for board members to research options and verse themselves on the issues at hand.

I would guess most voters, like myself, do not know all of the candidates and will rely on friends, brief bios, and perhaps the PTA’s candidate forum to make a decision. That said, I would like to encourage everyone to vote for John Hedlund, a friend whom I respect greatly and whom I know will do a great job as trustee.

John has all the attributes needed to be a successful board member and to move Haldane in a positive direction. He’s sincere, honest, intelligent, hardworking, approachable, even-tempered and a great listener. John understands the needs of the community as well as the educational needs of Haldane. There is no doubt that John will give 100 percent to the job and will be working for all residents.

Like many, I have concerns regarding the direction Haldane has gone over the past few years. I believe we need a strong board with members willing to work collaboratively on renewing community confidence.

Please join me on May 15 and vote for John Hedlund. He’s the most qualified for the job and he will truly represent all residents.

Dave Merandy, Cold Spring
Merandy is the mayor of Cold Spring.

I have known Laura O’Connell for a number of years and worked with her when she was employed at Columbia University and then Sarah Lawrence. During all of this time I found her to be both very intelligent and incisive. She has always been able to get at the essence of an issue and had the tenacity to follow up on things to their conclusion.

She would be an excellent member of the Haldane Board of Education. I feel she will help the board develop reasonable and innovative solutions to the problems facing the district. I recommend a vote for her.

Al Zgolinski, Cold Spring

Having met with four of the five candidates running for the Haldane school board, I have made my choice for the No. 1 pick and clearly that is Margaret Parr.

Parr has recently completed the grueling process of searching and hiring a new superintendent, Philips Benante. During this changeover, Benante will need stability on the board as he navigates his new role at Haldane and learns the ropes at Haldane.

Parr already has experience working with Benante during the search process and has the edge of being a member of the Board of Education with three years of experience. Those three years can be key, as the board is young in experience years altogether.

Using my more than 10 years of past experience on the board, including as president, I will tell you that a new trustee needs at least one year to learn his or her role and get up to speed on current affairs, budgets, contracts, etc. With two seats open, I firmly feel one of those seats should be filled by Parr. She can hit the ground running without a hiccup. Additionally, her recent track record of working the long hours on the board proves she is ready to take on the challenges at Haldane.

Please join me in supporting Margaret Parr on May 15.

Michael Junjulas, Cold Spring

I am writing to heartily endorse Margaret Parr for re-election. She is the kind of person who truly understands the impact of volunteering for community. In the 18 years I have lived here, I have always admired her commitment to the youth of Philipstown and her passion to help them in any way she can.

Margaret’s experience as mother of two remarkable Haldane graduates, as PTA president and her years on the Haldane board is invaluable, particularly as a new superintendent learns what is important to our district. Margaret Parr’s service to her community is clear.  I encourage the community to honor it by voting for her on May 15.

Katie Bissinger, Cold Spring

With the upcoming Board of Education election edging closer, I am writing to express my gratitude to the current board and in particular, my support for the re-election of Margaret Parr.

Over the years I have developed a keen appreciation for those who dedicate a portion of their lives to serve on the Board of Education. Such a decision is not to be taken lightly. Haldane’s board, and those across the country, find themselves managing an increasingly complex environment. While educational governance and academic achievement remains a core tenant, today’s school boards must also address issues such as substance abuse, security, technology, social media, staffing, infrastructure and limited budgets. A successful candidate must be highly versatile.

Governance requires board members to collaborate and render sound and impartial judgment in the best interest of our students, district and community. A great board does its homework, possesses a high degree of learning agility, seeks to understand and never rubber stamps a decision. A great board listens to the community and will not let individual passions overly influence its judgment. Above all else, a great board member is committed to our community and the academic achievement of our children.

As a devoted trustee for the last three years, Margaret Parr has embodied these qualities and knows how to cut through the “hype.” She is a positive force with a demonstrated commitment to the students and community as well as a natural problem-solver who seeks to understand all sides of an issue. I encourage you to cast your vote to re-elect Margaret Parr, a candidate with experience and leadership.

Damian McDonald, Cold Spring

I am writing to endorse John Hedlund for the Haldane school board.

Over the past five-plus years, I have had the pleasure of working with and observing John’s efforts in several volunteer organizations. Over that time, I have come to admire both his dedication to the community and the capabilities he brings to these groups.

Through this professional experience as a senior executive in financial services, John has developed a pragmatic, objective and analytical approach that will help the board assess options, measure its progress on the district’s goals, and make thoughtful, evidence-based adjustments as needed.

Most importantly, whether coaching on the soccer field or debating a grant request as a trustee for the Haldane School Foundation, John has always demonstrated empathy and kindness. On the Board of Education, I am certain these traits would translate into a commitment to listening to all voices in the community and clearly communicating the board’s deliberations and decisions.

These qualities will make John a valuable addition to the Haldane school board. I encourage all members of the Haldane community to cast their votes for John in the upcoming election.

Jeffrey Keegan, Cold Spring

I was very glad to see Laura O’Connell’s name among the list of qualified candidates for the Haldane school board. As a member of the committee that has reviewed the school’s facilities, she has proved herself to be knowledgeable and insightful.

The reality is that the school will have to undertake capital projects in the next couple of years. We have corroded 80-year-old pipes in the walls, windows that may no longer be adequate as a second means of egress, water damage and more. We need a real strategic plan for these capital projects.

Laura is the only candidate with the expertise to guide the district and ensure that these projects are done correctly, efficiently and cost-effectively. I sincerely hope that she will be one of the candidates to take a seat on the board.

Diana Hird, Cold Spring

I am writing to support the re-election of Margaret Parr to the Haldane school board.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Margaret since my now middle schoolers were little kids. I have witnessed Margaret support so many of our children over the years – whether it was as a class parent or as a part of the executive committee of the PTA and now in her role as a member of the school board.

In all of these roles, Margaret has effectively and tirelessly advocated for our school and our children. As a member of the school board, she has demonstrated her business acumen, common sense and ability to work with others. Margaret knows our district and knows what it takes to make it a great one. I know her to be an excellent listener who fully considers options before making important decisions.

Margaret cares deeply about the quality of education for all students and she has advocated fairly and passionately for students, families, teachers and administrators, whether it be in negotiating  contracts, addressing curriculum requirements and changes, maintaining our schools’ educational excellence under a strict fiscal regimen or selecting a successor for superintendent.

With a new superintendent coming onboard, Margaret is the right candidate to ensure a smooth and successful transition, ensure continuity in our strategic plan and maintain focus on preparing our students for success.

I urge us all to support Margaret on Election Day.

Kathy Gordineer, Cold Spring

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