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School board elections set for May 16

DUTCHESS COUNTY —  The three school districts of Millbrook, Pine Plains and North East-Webutuck will have voting on Tuesday, May 16, for special referendums and to fill school board member seats.

Millbrook Central School District (MCSD) has  two incumbents who are running for reelection. They are the only two candidates.

The first is Howard Shapiro, who has been on the board for the past six years, three of which as vice president. When Shapiro first came on the board, he used his skills as a retired state education investigator to review past school district contracts and uncovered $100,000 in overcharges all of which was returned to the school district.

His goal continues to be that the students receive the best possible education: “We owe it to them to prepare them for tomorrow’s world—their world—by giving them the skills necessary for them to be the best individuals they can be.”

Chris Rosenbergen is finishing his first three-year term. He and his wife live in Pleasant Valley; their two daughters attend MCSD. Employed in the financial field for 30 years, Rosenbergen has sat on the boards of United Way, the American Bankers Association and the Millbrook Education Foundation.

Rosenbergen said: “The students of Millbrook are truly amazing and deserve the best learning options, best safety available, a great support system and top-notch educators. While we look to get the best programs for our high honor students, we need to find better ways to raise up those who are struggling every day.”

Pine Plains also has two incumbents running for their seats. Heidi Johnson is running for her fourth term on the board. She has lived in Stanfordville for 30 years, and both her children attended Pine Plains schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“I am running for reelection because I feel that strong Board of Education leadership is vital to the health of our community,” said Johnson. “We have been very successful at raising the academic success of Pine Plains school district in the nine years I have been on the board, and I believe that we if we continue with the same membership, we will continue to maintain our goal of excellence in education.”

James Griffin, an IT networking and security professional with over 30 years in the trade, is also finishing his third term. Living in Stanfordville with his wife, a Pine Plains teacher, they have three children in the district.

“Our students are well served by this district,” said Griffin. “We have kids who make regional music conferences, state championships and receive high honors, but tucked here in the northern corner of Dutchess and the southern portion of Columbia, we’re seeing our kids have opportunities removed.

“Recently, Dutchess County Community College has started charging for dual enrollment classes. These are classes taught in our school, by our teachers during our school day, paid for by Pine Plains taxpayers. The students of these classes are going to be required to pay per credit to where a class will cost approximately $300. I believe this will just widen the equity gap where the haves get to go, and kids whose parents may not be able to comfortably pay these fees will not.”

The North East-Webutuck Central School District has four seats with three incumbents running for reelection, one of whom is finishing serving a term for another person and will be running herself for the first time, and one person who is also running for the first time.

Board President Judy Moran is running for another term because she feels that the board has been a good team and made great strides in the past. She also feels that the current superintendent is good at his job, that there are some fine teachers, and that the administrative staff and the union are in a good place.

Moran said that fresh blood is good, but experience is also invaluable. “I feel that we’re accomplishing something good,” she said, and hopes to keep doing it in the future.

Richard Keller-Coffey is vice president of the board, running for his fourth term. He is a retired teacher with over 30 years’ experience. He currently works out of Poughkeepsie fighting against child abuse.

He’s lived in the school district for more than 10 years. “It’s a team effort,” he said, and is proud of the fact that the board has kept tax increase at little or none by using Silo Ridge and COVID-19 funding.

Aimee Wesley was asked to fill in for a board member mid-term; this is her first time running for a seat. She has three children attending school in the district, having lived in Amenia for 12 years. She has been an elementary school teacher for more than 20 years in Dover, possessing a Bachelor of Arts in language arts and a Master of Science in curriculum. Being a teacher and knowing how the system works is something she feels can be put to good use as a board member.

Jerry Heiser is new to the school board candidacy, but not new to the school system. He retired as head of the school’s transportation system after working there for more than 19 years. He feels that he still has more to offer after all those years, and wants to help get the students what they need. He thinks the way to do that is through building bridges.

Voting will take place on Tuesday, May 16, from noon to 9 p.m. at the Millbrook Middle School auditorium; from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School; and noon-9 p.m. in the Eugene Brooks Intermediate School gym.

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