Beacon School Board Hit With Another Vacancy

Board also names new South Avenue principal

For the fifth time in three years, the Beacon school board finds itself down a member because of a resignation. 

John Galloway Jr., who left the board last month, said on Wednesday (July 19) that his colleagues had been “an amazing team to work with” but “it is best for me to stay away from anything political.” Galloway said he is creating an organization called Make It Through Today, “which will be centered around self-love and acceptance.” 

John Galloway Jr.

John Galloway Jr. (Photo by Meredith Heuer)

Through the organization, “I can make an impact on the community without any political influences in the way — just simple love and care,” he said. The project will include community holiday events, back-to-school drives — “any way I can help my community,” he said. 

At the board’s June 5 meeting, Superintendent Matt Landahl praised Galloway, who graduated from Beacon High School in 2015. “To have someone [on the board] who so recently went through the school district, with all the connections he has in the community — he was a powerful person to get to know and to learn from,” Landahl said. 

Galloway was appointed to the board in October 2020 and elected to a three-year term in May 2021. The board can appoint a new member to serve until the next election, in May 2024, or leave the seat open. A third but seldom-used option would be to ask the Dutchess County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) to appoint a new member. 

No action was taken during the board’s meeting on Monday (July 17); the discussion will continue on Aug. 14. 

Board Member Anthony White on Monday suggested posting an announcement asking for candidates. White has opposed filling vacancies via appointment in the past but said the board should be consistent. 

Other board members noted the turmoil surrounding the 2020 appointments of Galloway and Jasmine Johnson, both of whom are Black, after an outcry over the board’s lack of diversity. (Johnson, a 2006 Beacon High School graduate, won election in 2021 but resigned in April 2022.)

While White and Eric Schetter, who was elected in May, said they have heard from community members interested in joining the board, Kristan Flynn and Meredith Heuer, the board president, each said they were reluctant to repeat what happened three years ago. With one seat already open, Board Member James Case-Leal resigned in September of that year, a week before the first in-person meeting following the pandemic shutdown, which was held on Sept. 29 with about 50 spectators socially distanced at Beacon High School’s Seeger Theater. In a resignation letter, Case-Leal said he wanted to make room for Galloway and Johnson, “two well-qualified candidates of color,” to be appointed.

Several members of the audience who addressed the board that night criticized its lack of racial diversity and suggested that its members did not represent the Black community. At one point, after the board announced it would fill only one of the open seats that night, Heuer had to stop the meeting when audience members began shouting at each other. 

“I believe that the people who joined the board were given incorrect information about the board,” Flynn said on Monday. “Looking back, it was so divisive. It shredded us for a while.”

There was also discussion Monday of reducing the size of the nine-member board, an idea that has been floated from time to time in recent years. 

“Having a stable board is important to a stable district,” Heuer said. “Does [appointing a new member] increase our stability or does it decrease our stability? I’m not sure I know the answer.”

Along with Galloway, Johnson and Case-Leal, Michael Rutkoske, in his second term, resigned in July 2020 and Antony Tseng, in his third term, resigned in March of this year. Both cited work commitments.

New principal

The board on Monday appointed Kelly Amendola as principal of South Avenue Elementary. She will start on July 31. Amendola taught middle school science in the Bronx for nine years and, for the last three years, has been an assistant principal at South Middle School in Newburgh.

Amendola succeeds Daniel Glenn. Brian Archer, the district’s director of evaluation and student services, had been the acting principal for the past five months. 

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