Four incumbents run for four open seats
Four incumbents are running for four open seats on the nine-member Beacon school board. The election, along with a vote on the budget, will take place from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday (May 18) at Beacon High School or Glenham Elementary School (for district voters who live in the towns of Fishkill or Wappinger).
The budget includes $76.9 million in spending. The district’s state-mandated tax cap for 2021 is 2.35 percent, which translates to a $42.6 million tax levy, or $980,000 more than last year. It estimates a $97 property tax increase on a $300,000 home in Beacon that participates in the STAR tax relief program. (The estimated increased would be $121 in Fishkill and $120 in Wappinger.) Money received from federal stimulus packages is not part of the budget; in most cases, it must be spent on pandemic-related expenditures.
Voters will also be asked to approve the district’s sale of 33 acres underneath and around Dutchess Stadium, the home of the Hudson Valley Renegades. Proceeds from the $627,000 sale to Dutchess County, if it’s approved, would go toward a $22 million-plus capital project that the district plans to present to voters this fall.
For information on absentee ballots, see beaconk12.org. The top three vote-getters will serve three-year terms and the fourth-place finisher will complete the final year of the term of Michael Rutkoske, who resigned in July.
What challenge facing the district needs immediate attention?
Elissa Betterbid: Grappling with the effects and after-effects of the pandemic on our students, faculty and staff as we prepare for 2021-22. My hope is that students and teachers will be back in classrooms five days a week and will return to a more normal routine in the fall. This will present challenges, including greater need for social and emotional support, additional resources for learning losses and intervention, continued professional development and an evolving strategy for COVID-19, which is likely to remain a threat. Along with those challenges, the coming school year presents exciting opportunities, such as summer programming, new extracurricular programs and a renewed sense of school community and pride. I’m proud of the way the district has weathered this public health crisis and I look forward to serving the community for a second term.
John Galloway Jr.: Diversity throughout our district. When you are working and learning with people from a variety of backgrounds in the classroom, students gain more of an understanding of the subject matter. It also teaches students how to use their own strengths and points of view to contribute to a more diverse working environment. It gives students with different backgrounds a better chance of succeeding.
Jasmine Johnson: The mental health of our children. COVID-19 has brought on isolation, causing more roaming on social media, which can bring up feelings of insecurity, contempt, fear, anger and anxiety. It’s difficult for many adults to navigate through subconscious chatter, so as growing children it is only imaginable how intense they are feeling. There’s constant display of murders on all platforms, along with grappling with regular childhood trials. Creating different protocols on how to handle stress and a sense of healthy structure would be best: developing a model, possibly a “Beacon model,” with a four- to five-step process on combatting negative thoughts, feelings and actions when dealing with such isolation. It involves (1) Identifying the root of the problem, (2) Identifying how they got there, (3) Having resources for them specific to their problem, (4) Having someone who can follow up with kids and/or parents and make sure they are using the resources, and (5) Keeping a collection of wins to show that the system works. We usually view children as resilient and needing more tough love. I agree with this, but they also need patience, compassion, direction and protection.
Flora Stadler: After the trauma of the last 12-plus months, I’d like to focus on social and emotional support for students, staff and families. The district has been doing things already — the meal program, home visits, a return to in-person school. But there’s more to do, and I’m glad we have the budget to prioritize it. Once the planned social-emotional assessment of students is complete, I’d like to see the district respond with more professional development around trauma-informed practice, additional social workers or mental health professionals if needed, and other supports, maybe in partnership with local organizations. It’s also about social well-being: for example, strengthening a sense of safety and belonging by continuing the work of responsive classrooms and restorative justice. All of this work needs to be supported by consistent communication, to build trust and foster a sense of community. That approach will help us come back together and create an environment where students can thrive emotionally and academically.