This year’s election for the Valley Central School District Board of Education will see incumbents Joseph Bond and Sheila Schwartz and challenger Katie McKnight vie for two open seats.
Those elected will serve three-year terms, commencing July 1, 2020 and ending June 30, 2023. The governor’s executive order called for districts to send each qualified voter a postcard with the date of the board of education election, the date of the district’s budget hearing and the definition of a qualified voter.
All voters received an absentee ballot. There will be no in-person voting for the 2020 school board and budget election. Ballots must be received at the district office by 5 p.m. on June 9. If a qualified voter did not receive a ballot in the mail by May 22, they should contact their district’s clerk.
Bond is finishing his first term on the board, with this being his first year as its vice president. He has been employed for 26 years by a large health insurance company where he is a senior project manager. Bond is involved in youth sports, coaching football and baseball. He has lived in the district for 48 years. His son is currently in eighth grade at Valley Central Middle School.
“I have been a member of this district and community for 48 years, volunteering for multiple organizations during that time,” he said. “Serving on the school board provides me an opportunity to give back and contribute to the educational experience of our children.”
Bond believes that the current traffic at the high school and middle school on 17K is one of the board’s top priorities. It is a safety hazard for both students and residents. He believes that the board must gain community support to improve the traffic patterns on campus and work with the state to install a traffic light and turning lanes. Bond also supports initiatives that foster innovative and critical thinking for students.
Schwartz is finishing her second term. She has lived in the district for 18 years.
Throughout those years both her children and grandchildren have attended school in the district. She has been a member of the District’s Audit Committee for four years. As President of the Board of Education, she implemented the District’s policy committee to ensure district policies are reviewed annually and are available electronically for the community. Schwartz has also been the district’s liaison to the Orange County School Board’s Association for six years. While President of the Valley Central Athletic Booster Club during the 2013-2014 school year, they helped raise over $120,000 to restore junior varsity and modified sports to the district.
If she returns to the school board, Schwartz hopes that continuity will be restored. During her six years on the board, the district has seen the turnover of two superintendents, two deputy superintendents, two assistant superintendents of curriculum, five business officials and at least eight members of the Board of Education. Schwartz noted that it takes a board member at least a year or two before they fully understand and know how to do their job. The large turnover each year puts inexperienced people on the board.
During her time on the board of education, she supported the Energy, Abatement and Technology Bond and was a strong advocate for the new high school football fields and bleachers. During her tenure, the district has provided more course offerings and expanded arts and music programs in each of the schools. As a board member, she created the Parent University within the district to enhance their parent outreach program and offered community days.
“This community needs to have a VOICE on this Board of Education and I have been one and will continue to be one,” she said.
Katie McKnight has lived in the Town of Montgomery for 32 years. She grew up in the Village of Montgomery and currently resides in the Village of Walden. She has worked in finance for over 20 years. McKnight currently manages the Finance Department at Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union and has been an adjunct professor of accounting at Mount Saint Mary College for 14 years. In the community, she volunteers as a coach for the Orange County Soccer Club and also mentors high school students through a program at Hudson Heritage Federal Credit Union called Reality Checks & Balances. She helps guide students through a real life simulation to teach them about budgeting and future planning. McKnight is also the chairman of the board for the Orange County Rural Development Advisory Corporation. She has two children who attend school in the district.
“As a board member, I want to be a conduit of information between the district and the community where appropriate,” she said. “Many community members feel like they are left in the dark and/or do not understand some of the decisions made by the district or the Board. Sometimes, just a simple explanation or a single teaching point can make a huge difference towards bridging the gap and having everyone feel that they are on the same team working towards the same goal.”
McKnight believes the board’s top priorities are to make sure that the district is being fiscally responsible with budget dollars and making decisions that will benefit both the district and the community.