Meet the Tuxedo School Board candidates
Five people vying for three seats in May 15 school budget/school board election
By Nancy Kriz
TUXEDO — Voters in the Tuxedo School District will decide on Tuesday, May 15, whether to approve a proposed $13,181,372 budget and pick three people for its school board.
The Photo News invited the five candidates vying for office to speak directly to voters through the paper’s print and online platforms as a way of increasing voter awareness of their perspectives on the challenges and issues facing the Tuxedo School District, the area’s smallest district with the smallest student enrollment.
Candidates, in alphabetical order, are:
Allyson Arber: She is currently the board’s president and running for re-election. Arber has lived in Tuxedo since 2005 and has two children attending George Grant Mason School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and has spent the last 25 years as a tax professional.
Kimberly Breiland: She is the owner of a boutique design/marketing company, founder of a women’s networking group, and president of Lodge Brooklyn, Sons of Norway. She describes herself as “a creative thinker, good listener and driven.”
Paul DiPaolo: He has lived in Tuxedo for 17 years and has three children. DiPaolo is a member of the Town Recreation Department and helped lead the committee that started the Tuxedo Little League more than 10 years ago. He’s also served as Little League president. DiPaolo has worked NBC Sports for more than 15 years.
Donna Posta: She is a 25-year Tuxedo resident with three children.
Mary “Meg” Vaught: She is a lifelong resident of Tuxedo who currently has three children enrolled in the district. Vaught is running for her second school board term.
QuestionThe Tuxedo district has had its share of challenges since the contract with the Greenwood Lake School District ended several years back, with Greenwood Lake high school students attending either Warwick Valley High School or the Chester Academy.
Given this, and for consistency, The Photo News asked each candidate to respond to the following question: What is the top challenge facing the Tuxedo School District from a community, financial and academic perspective and how do you plan to address each?
AnswersTheir responses are provided alphabetically:
In Tuxedo, the size of our district continues to be our biggest strength and also our most significant challenge. There are numerous advantages to our small school setting, including low student-teacher ratios and the ability to address student needs on an individualized basis. Our high school students are actively involved, and often participate in ways they might not in a larger, more competitive environment. However, our current enrollment numbers make for a high cost per student, and there may be years that we cannot offer every academic elective, or field a wide variety of sports teams. There is also the reality that differing opinions on how best to educate our high school students has created a divide within our community.
If re-elected to the board, I will continue the work that we have started to address these challenges. An in-depth analysis of all viable high school options will be conducted, and I will approach this process with an open-mind, always putting the needs of our students first. I will encourage community involvement, as this decision will have long-term implications for all Tuxedo residents. I will continue to explore creative solutions to enhance our academic programs and extra-curricular opportunities, while doing so in a cost-efficient manner.
Despite the challenges we face, our students continue to achieve great success, in a unique, family-like setting that is unparalleled in our area. We must take advantage of what differentiates us from the rest, and make Tuxedo the choice for education. Under the right leadership, the Tuxedo School District can and will continue to thrive for many years to come, and I respectfully request your vote on May 15.
A clear vision of our future is vital. Putting in place short and long term goals for our school districts’ future which addresses financial and academic concerns is essential.
Regarding finances, the choice of remaining open or tuition-out must be carefully analyzed. This is needed for a transparent view of the consequences of the outcome, with a 10-20 year outlook.
To remain open we need a robust and dynamic curriculum which will make our district a highly desirable choice. Building off our history of high test scores and promoting STEM, with the possible addition of the arts, creates a unique and therefore attractive environment for a public school. Statistically, this increases student enrollment and real estate value with a decrease in school tax. Our community is only as strong as our public school. I am aware of the interdependence between a successful public school and business development, property values and standards of living in our community.
To “tuition-out,” it is essential to know the impact it will have on our students and families, future real estate values and school tax. As a community, we need to secure contracts insuring costs will not escalate and we continue to have a voice in the education of our students.
I will take initiative to identify all challenges from each angle, dive into research, and seek viable solutions that work. I am committed to an outcome that is in the best interest of our residents entitled to prudent use of tax dollars, our remaining a desirable place to live, a healthy community life style, and quality education for our children.
I am running for the school board to help eliminate any doubts within our community that this school board is acting on behalf of the best interests of all the children and families who live in Tuxedo. We need to have transparency, as well as a clear path for the future of this town, and our high school will play a critical role in our town’s success.
I look forward to working with the consultant to determine what is best for our high school, and to assess the impact any changes we make for the benefit of our students, will have on our taxpayers. The challenges are numerous and our town is divided on how to find the right solutions.
It is my hope we can unite and answer questions together to move forward, and ultimately, help the Town of Tuxedo become a place that will attract new residents and set an example for other school townships in Orange County. I believe we need to make judgments based on factual information to determine what is in the best interest for our high school students. The crucial issue is to decide if the school should remain open or if our students would be better served by attending another high school in the area.
We live in an incredible, magical town and our high school students deserve to have every chance to get the very best education to prepare them for life in this very competitive world. I believe working harmoniously with all the members of the school board, and listening to the advice of the consultant, I can contribute to this process.
I feel the biggest challenge facing the Tuxedo School District is low enrollment and I am eager for the opportunity to work toward building our district into one all residents of Tuxedo want their children to attend.
Our community has many parents who are satisfied with the current district but, there are also many who feel their children would thrive elsewhere. Many of these parents chose to move their children out of Tuxedo due to the small grade sizes and as a prospective member of the board, I hope to be part of the process keeping our students together from Kindergarten through Grade 12.
Academically, I feel our school is strong. I was employed at George Grant Mason Elementary School for four years as a part-time aide and greeter. I saw first-hand how outstanding our elementary teachers are as I worked in some of their classrooms.
At the high school level, I believe a larger selection of electives would be beneficial to our students and I am very willing to learn what our board and our district needs to do to accomplish this.
I look forward to bringing fresh ideas to the table to increase our student population and I hope the implementation of these ideas will ease the financial burden on our district, allowing us to expand our current curriculum.
Mary “Meg” Vaught
The largest issue currently facing the TUFSD from both an economic and community standpoint is enrollment levels in the high school. The low enrollment numbers, which are a direct result of the loss of Greenwood Lake, have created some uncertainty within the community with regard to the viability of the school.
Additionally, because there are fewer students in the buildings, many residents feel that the cost-per-student is too high when they divide the overall budget by the number of children who physically attend the school on a daily basis. While this is not an accurate way of obtaining per student costs, it seems a logical one and therefore many rely on it. The high number that results has been a cause for alarm for some Tuxedo residents.
In my view, the way to combat this issue (enrollment) is to continue our focus on expanding and strengthening what is already an excellent academic program. As we wait for the impending development, which is slated to eventually double the community population, we must also aggressively explore temporary outlets which will allow our students the option of participating in more extracurricular and athletic activities.