Tony Fletcher: School board candidate
On April 20, I handed in my petition to run for the position of School Board Trustee in the Onteora Central School District. The election is next Tuesday, May 19. As it turns out, there are only three of us running for three vacant seats – i.e., we are uncontested – and this has made my first foray into any sort of public office a wonderfully polite (if frighteningly quiet) election process. Barring any very strange and unpredicted events, I will become a board member/trustee either on May 19 (should I finish in 3rd place, this due to a board member having resigned) or on July 1 (should I finish 1st or 2nd). My term will expire in either 2011 or 2012, again depending on how many votes I get compared to the other two candidates.
Those who live locally will know most of the above, which is why I haven’t been pounding the issue. Those who don’t live locally but are avid iJamming! readers, or know me personally, may be aware that I was actively involved in a very contentious school board election last year, where it was necessary to turn out the incumbent board members seeking re-election to save Phoenicia Elementary School (and possibly Woodstock too) from being unfairly and unnecessarily targeted for closure. “We” won that election – in a landslide – but board members come and go, and I felt it necessary to step up to the plate and serve my community. The decision took a fair amount of soul-searching – the post requires a considerable amount of time and has its fair share of aggravation – but since determining that it made sense for me to take it on, I have become very excited about the prospect.
Everyone does what they can to make their community a special place, and since moving up here in 2005, I have witnessed so many people give selflessly in so many different capacities. In “campaigning” over the last few weeks, I have had the chance to meet so many (more) wonderful members of this community, of all ages, who have so much to offer in terms of opinion, advice, suggestions and support. I’m looking forward to serving the Onteora Central School District as a member of the School Board.
The following is my full mission statement and biographical information as supplied to the local newspapers. (You can read more about the election and the budget vote in the Woodstock Times, the Phoenicia Times/Olive Press and the Kingston-based Daily Freeman.)
“I am running for school board because I believe in this school district.
I believe our community elementary schools (Bennett, Phoenicia, Woodstock) are the solid foundations on which our students’ successes are built, and that we must support and maintain them accordingly.
I believe also that these schools are core factors in the economic vitality of the various communities that make up our geographically large district.
I believe in district-wide representation on the school board, that it must never again fall into the hands of a proven minority with a hidden agenda.
I believe the teachers and other district employees are our partners in shaping our children’s future, and that they should be treated accordingly by Central Administration.
I believe in maintaining safety nets for the less advantaged among our district’s children, including those with Special Needs; if we “catch” them early, we all save in the long run.
I believe in promoting and building upon our school district’s many strengths and achievements, and working with other district and regional bodies to attract more families to raise their children here.
I believe in ongoing scrutiny of our District’s spending, keeping any budget increases to an absolute minimum.
I believe the current system of financing school districts through property taxes is detrimental to all concerned. I support the New York State Assembly’s Equity In Education Bill (A6009), and invite all members of our community to do likewise.
If elected, I promise to listen to voters, to try to reflect community opinion when it comes to board decisions, to prove open to innovative ideas, and to promote a positive spirit on the board and harmony within the district.
A little bit about me: I was raised and educated in the UK, and have spent the last 21 years living in New York State, during which time I have become a proud citizen of the United States. As such, I see education of our children as a patriotic duty, especially given the global interconnectedness of our modern world. I am the author of several books (including a major biography on Keith Moon, and the upcoming All Hopped Up And Ready To Go: Music From The Streets of New York 1927-77), have written freelance for a vast range of national and international newspapers and magazines, and have also worked over the years in many other areas of media and music. I am a keen runner, including marathon distance, and avid skier, and in 2005, my wife and I fulfilled a long-term dream of moving full-time to this area, one that we chose not just because of its natural beauty, its outdoor opportunities, and its historical sense of community, but because of its popular and successful schools.
We have two sons in the district. One is about to move into high school. The other has been designated as a pre-school child with a disability; I am happy to say that he is receiving appropriate education through our school district, which I sincerely believe will enable him to eventually integrate into regular education. We live in Mount Tremper, in the town of Woodstock but on the very border of Shandaken; our older son, who spent two years at Phoenicia Elementary, now goes to school in the town of Olive; we have good friends in all these towns and also in West Hurley.
Our sons’ age range and health issues mean that by next September, I will have been privy to four separate levels of education in the Onteora District (Pre-school, elementary, middle school, high school). In addition, over the last two years, I have attended the vast majority of School Board meetings, which means I have a clear sense of what I’m taking on and how the school board (and to an extent, the district at large) operates. This past year I have served on the Communications Committee. Our theme for the upcoming school year’s calendar is Many Towns, One District.
The Onteora Central School District is not perfect, and there are several issues that merit attention and discussion. It is, however, statistically the top-performing district in Ulster County (alongside New Paltz), and I have seen firsthand the dedication of teachers, other staff, administrators, parents, the students themselves and community members who have helped make it so. We have much more to achieve, and a positive outlook will help us do so.
I am running alongside current Trustee Laurie Osmond. Please look for campaign literature that outlines our district’s successes and areas for improvement, and we invite you to support us at our facebook page (search for “osmondfletcher09”).
I look forward to your vote on May 19 and to serving this community as a School Board Trustee.
A reminder: Voting takes place at the four elementary school buildings in the district (Bennett, Phoenicia, West Hurley, Woodstock) from 2-9pm Tuesday May 19. Local residents, please remember to vote, and to support the budget.