BETHLEHEM — Seven candidates are running to fill three seats on the Bethlehem Central School District’s Board of Education. Three are seeking re-election; four are newcomers.
Each seat is a three-year term that starts July 1. All seven candidates responded to a questionnaire about their background, qualifications and motivation to run. The following are their full and original responses to the questionnaire in alphabetical order. Due to space constraints, their responses in the print version of this story in the paper were slightly summarized into mini-bios of each candidate.
Absentee ballots were mailed to residents between Wednesday, May 27 and Tuesday, June 2. The district must receive completed ballots by 5 p.m. by Tuesday, June 9.
I am an Internal Auditor for Preferred Mutual Insurance Company in Latham, NY.
I live in the Town of Bethlehem, Glenmont. My husband Peter and our three children have been residents of Bethlehem for almost 20 years.
I have been on the Bethlehem Board of Education for six years and am running for my third term. My reasons for running for a third term have not changed from when I first ran six years ago; I am committed to maintaining academic excellence for all students, fostering engaged citizenship among our youth, and promoting continued fiscal responsibility with our tax dollars. Over the last six years we have added valuable programs to the District while keeping the tax increase at or below the tax cap.
As the longest tenured Board member, I led the Audit Committee, chaired the Facilities Committee in charge of our most recent bond issue and served as Board President during my last term. I have been a member of the Policy Committee for four years and have been involved with implementing new policy during my last two terms. My experience as an internal auditor and litigation manager have allowed me to be an integral part of the Board of Education and as a parent of three children who have gone through Bethlehem Central, I bring a plethora of knowledge regarding educational programming, co-curriculars and special education.
The District is facing infinite challenges with the Coronavirus Pandemic; online-distance learning, meeting special education requirements, mental health of students and staff, re-entry plans for the fall and what will that look like, with the real threat of significant cuts to school funding.
My job as a school board member is to set policy, to ensure the continued academic excellence and safety for our students. As a member representing our community and stakeholders, I will champion policies to help our administration and faculty to continue to provide quality education including online distance learning, professional development for our faculty, meeting special education requirements and accommodating safe re-entry to the classroom in the fall. I am fortunate to be involved with the decisions that affect our children and our community, and am confident I will continue to be an engaged member, an effective listener, a collaborator, a decision maker, and a leader for our District.
I would like to thank the community for entrusting me with this important role over the last six years. It has been my honor and privilege to serve you, and I look for your continued support by voting to re-elect Beck on Tuesday June 9th.
Delmar. We’ve lived here for 13 years.
I am running for re-election because I want to be an integral part of maintaining our district’s high level of excellence. As a parent of three children in Bethlehem schools (4th, 7th, and 10th grades), I want to make our schools the best that they can be for all students at every building level. The district faces challenges ahead as we contend with school reopening and fiscal constraints. I want to use my leadership, advocacy, and communication skills on behalf of our district as we navigate these issues, and I believe my experience on the Board will be an asset.
As a Board member, I’ve had experience with all aspects of our district. I’ve spent time in the classroom, and I’ve gained knowledge about other critical functions, such as transportation, food service, and operations and maintenance. I’ve attended conferences to stay abreast of new issues, and I’ve built relationships with the Board and administration. As a writer, an editor, and an attorney with nearly 2 decades of experience, I’ve also honed critical thinking skills that I will use as the district navigates future challenges. My experience in mediation and negotiation brings additional strength to the Board – especially when balancing budget priorities.
The district’s most recent challenges have included responding to the Covid-19 school closures, implementing remote learning, planning for school reopening, and preparing for restricted state funding and budgetary concerns.
In the fall, we must be ready to respond to learning gaps and increased mental health needs. We must prepare our buildings for social distancing and provide our teachers with training so they can maximize technology if we need to continue remote learning. We also must continue work to address equity issues as school closures have only highlighted access issues in our district. At the same time, we will need to curtail our expenses. We must have an open dialogue among the Board, administration, teachers, and community so that concerns may be heard and addressed promptly.
I care deeply about our school district. This Spring’s school closures have shown us just how much we depend on our schools, not just for learning, but for community — and I want to be a part of helping our district come back from this stronger than ever in the fall. I want our schools to be able to give every student the chance to reach their fullest potential, and I want to give our teachers, students, and staff the support they need, not just to succeed, but to excel. I would be honored to continue to represent you.
My current occupation is one of the most challenging, rewarding and surprising positions I have held during my 25+year career – I am learning as a house manager and mom. Previous to this, I obtained a BS in Finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; worked for General Electric Aircraft Engines and Honeywell Int’l in accounting and human resources; supported human resources and employee relations at St. Peter’s Health Partners and The Arc of New York.
I currently reside in Bethlehem – in the hamlet of Delmar. We relocated here from Illinois in 2006 after living in Bourbonnais, IL, Cincinnati, OH and South Bend, IN for over 10 years.
I recognize Bethlehem invests in education, with my oldest a graduate and my youngest entering into high school. I hope to support the administration in maintaining and creating meaningful policy and programming to support different learning styles, using our community investment wisely. I also hope to learn about and promote activities and clubs that offer space to grow and learn, at a student’s pace, guiding them to discover skills and interests. You can get a wonderful grade but not really learn the subject or figure out if you enjoy it or not, so supplemental activities will give them more input. I learn something daily from all different sources, and kids develop over time, at their own pace.
Working with BMA and various PTO/PTA groups there was a learning curve; I expect one here too. My prior HR and finance skills in resource planning, policy, employee relations, and budgeting would assist the decision-making the administration is called to consider. I want to be able to support the review of data and the leadership team of the district, particularly at this difficult moment in time – when programming, budgets, and resources might look different based on what has been learned during this national shutdown period. We will emerge from this experience and go through more change – that is scary and exciting and I hope to be part of it.
I am a local attorney employed at Burke Scolamiero & Hurd in Albany. I handle defense of physician and hospitals and other health care professionals as well a number of employment law cases involving wage and hour disputes and discrimination. I have been practicing as an attorney since 1998 and relocated from Nassau County and a practice in NYC to Bethlehem NY with my family five years ago. I also have taught at many levels including middle school in NY and various college courses.
I live with my husband and four children on Font Grove Rd in Slingerlands. My children have been Bethlehem students since 9/2015 and we moved to Bethlehem in June 2015.
My son Vincent is a 2018 Bethlehem graduate, my son Christian will be a 9th grade student in the Fall and my daughter Emma will enter fourth grade at Eagle in the Fall.
My family has had a fantastic experience in every level of the district so far (elementary, MS and HS) and I would love the opportunity to help keep our school district as great as it truly is. I enjoy the opportunity to work in the education arena and have worked in many schools as a teacher as well as in the several roles as student mentor, and currently I am working with Bethlehem’s Bridge to College program with first generation college applicants.
I think my most beneficial skills are those I have honed in communication and negotiation as a litigator. Other the last twenty years I have developed skills in speaking to people from all walks of life and all fields of work while selecting and speaking to juries in courtrooms all across our state as a trial attorney. In addition to those litigation communication skills, I have spent many years resolving cases in the arena of alternate dispute resolution. Mediation has provided me with a strong ability to make my point while also listening to others and keeping an open mind.
Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge the district has ever faced and will continue to face is the shutdown of our schools as a result of Covid 19. The shutdown has created and will continue to create challenges in education delivery, social alienation of students, lack of physical activity, and many other issues that affect our students and their families on a daily basis. I also believe that our District has done a great job under some extenuating, unexpected circumstances and has had the unique opportunity to push our ability to communicate and reach students to levels that were never used before. That will be a blessing for or future.
I believe that the District and the Board will need to be ready to help students and families address the above issues when students return to school whether it be in September or at a later date. In the meantime I believe that the Board has to evaluate the educational deficiencies that have been created and work with the community to address the needs that arise as a result. Unfortunately, until there is more information on what learning will look like in September it is hard to evaluate needs more specifically.
I am an attorney and partner at the law firm of Smith Hoke, PLLC.
I grew up in Delmar. After living elsewhere for several years, I moved back to Delmar eight years ago.
I am running for re-election to the board because I believe in the power of public education to change lives, and I want to continue to serve my community during this difficult time. Seeing our school buildings close this year has been hard, but it has shown how vital our schools are to our community. In the next year, our schools will be asked to do more than ever before, all while facing a devastating economic downturn. I believe my experience will help guide our community through this difficult time.
After three years on the Board, I have gained valuable insight into how our schools function. I believe that institutional knowledge is critical as we emerge from this crisis. As a school district, we have never seen anything like this. We will be asked to put into place new policies and procedures just to keep our students and community safe and healthy. I feel as though continuity is important during these unstable times, and I would like to be able to use my experience to help inform our Board’s decisions going forward.
Our biggest challenge will be creating an environment that is safe and healthy for our students, staff, and community, and that also complies with constantly changing public health regulations. Additionally, when our students return, they will need more support than ever. Teachers will need to make up for educational deficits, and students will inevitably experience social and emotional difficulties adjusting back to school after this experience. Teachers may see more behavioral issues as children adjust to structured classrooms. We will see more children needing services such as OT and speech therapy. All of these things will require our faculty and staff to be more creative with less resources.
We will have to have several different plans for the type of education we may see for the fall term, as it is impossible to predict what the public health regulations will be at that time. It is imperative that our teachers receive professional development on educational practices for distance learning, so that if we are required to continue with distance learning, we can do so using the best possible strategies. I believe we will need to emphasize mental health and support our counseling department as we deal with the aftermath of the school closure.
It has been an honor to serve on the School Board the last three years. I am proud of the way that our district has come together during this crisis. This process has been painful, however. It is important to take the time during the summer to assess our response, and determine what we can do to lessen the negative effects of another such crisis in the future. Additionally, formulating the budget in the upcoming year will be difficult. Cuts will need to be made as our economic crisis grows. I believe my experience and relationships with the administration and my fellow Board members will help me engage in a frank and productive discussion of these matters.
I hope the community will support the district and vote to pass this year’s budget using the absentee ballots that will soon be arriving in the mail, and I hope that I receive your support, as well. Thank you.
I am partner at Rivkin Radler LLP a law firm with offices in Albany, Poughkeepsie, Uniondale, Manhattan and Hackensack, NJ.
I live in Selkirk with my wife, my son, Jack, and my daughter, Maya. We moved to Bethlehem in 2005, after relocating back to the area from NYC, after Jack was born.
My interest in the school board is a different extension of my involvement in Bethlehem and its youth, for many years now. I am interested in working with the school district and in volunteering my time to share my perspective, shaped by my own diverse professional and personal experiences with and in public school systems, and also my experiences as a government and private sector attorney.
My involvement with youth sports and with organizations, such as Albany PAL, as well as my former management positions with the NYC Law Department (where I left in 2004 as Queens County Deputy Borough Chief), set the stage for my subsequent positions as managing partner of my former firm, which later joined Rivkin Radler, and a current seat on Rivkin Radler’s Executive Committee. I have experience managing, monitoring and measuring finances and performance metrics and strategically planning, while also representing clients, many of whom operate and exist in a highly regulated and structured environment, such as healthcare, labor/employment, disability services, and clients that are involved in commercial, contract and business disputes.
In sum, the balancing act of doing more with less, and in that context, reacting and planning for the shorter term waves, while keeping a close eye on the future strategic plan. The immediate challenges are defined by COVID-19, the impact of which will evolve. Addressing the tension between budget constraints and provision of high level service and support to students, teachers and the community will be paramount. Challenges in instructional delivery, addressing special and individual needs, and providing extra-curricular activities for all, and proactively addressing mental health and wellness needs will be priorities.
I plan to address our challenges, by constant and serious fact and opinion gathering, assessment, attention and evaluation of metrics. We must ask how each event and decision will be judged and how it impacts the community differently and design creative approaches to meeting the need. Collective input and flexibility of thought by the district, outside experts and stakeholders will be key as we work together to address the current and future challenges.
Bethlehem is fortunate to have a nationally recognized education program situated within a strong community of committed parents, students and educators. I have little doubt we will meet these challenges. My experiences should prove valuable to providing a fresh, and perhaps unique, outlook to assist the district in facing the short term challenges, and in shaping and preparing the district for future generations of students and all district residents. Too often, the tendency is to revert to the way things have always been done but, at times, such as now, a fresh look proves useful. I offer a fresh look and a diverse background and am willing to jump in to work hard and help. I think I can.
I am a Board Certified Emergency Physician and Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians. I graduated from Albany Med in 2008, and was the Chief Resident during my residency at Stony Brook University. I’ve been in practice at various capital region hospitals since 2011.
Since 2011 I’ve lived in Delmar with my wife Kathryn, a pediatrician, and our 3 wonderful kids. The two older kids attend Eagle Elementary and our youngest goes to Bluebird Montessori.
During the Covid-19 pandemic our entire way of life has been upended. I am running for the school board to keep our children and community safe. There are many unprecedented challenges ahead of us and we need a strong school board that is willing and able to lead. Many important decisions will need to be made to safeguard the health and well-being of our students, teachers, families, and also our residents who are most at risk for dangerous complications. As the system’s elected representatives, the board will need to balance the needs of all the members of the district. I am committed to the health of our community, fiscal responsibility, and creating a just and outstanding school district.
As a physician in the ER I am both scientist and healer. I am accustom to working in difficult environments with imperfect information, and still strive at all times to act with compassion and caring. During the current pandemic, information is moving swiftly, and the data are often conflicting. The school board needs to be able to objectively understand difficult scientific concepts, and at the same time strive to treat our entire community with understanding. Contradictory guidance from the state and federal government will continue to flow and my background as an emergency physician will allow me to help the board to make the right decisions for our community.
Apart from the obvious concerns over keeping our community safe, our district faces many challenges. From possible budget shortfalls to the difficulty in planning for future school years that are likely to be interrupted by prolonged shutdowns, the board is going to have to make some tough decisions. We also have to be aware of the effect this chaos has on our student’s mental health, and ensure that everyone in the district has the same opportunity to continue their education no matter what happens in the years ahead.
I will meet these challenges as a parent and as a physician, by following the data and leading with compassion. Safety is the top priority during the pandemic, but we need to promote social, environmental, and economic justice as well. Difficult decisions need to be made, and I will make these decisions to keep our community safe, ensure all our students have access to the tools they need to succeed, and make our district stronger and more resilient for the future.
This is a difficult time, and although things are starting to improve we must remain vigilant. The challenge ahead will be to keep our community safe while maintaining high educational standards and moving our district into a brighter future. I am father, a physician, and a proud member of the Bethlehem school district. I am excited to be running for the board, and hope I can count on your support. Please follow me on Twitter @rwhrichman and at my website Richman2020.org.