Four Candidates Vie For Two Open Katonah-Lewisboro School Board Seats

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Scott Posner
Scott Posner Photo Credit: Contributed
Carmen Delessio
Carmen Delessio Photo Credit: Contributed
William Rifkin
William Rifkin Photo Credit: Contributed
Rory Burke
Rory Burke Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

SOUTH SALEM, N.Y.  -- Four candidates are running for two open Katonah-Lewisboro school board seats.

The candidates – Carmen Delessio, Scott Posner, Rory Burke and William Rifkin – are seeking  seats held by President Charles Day and Trustee Janet Harckham, who did not file to run. The deadline to file petitions was extended to May 7 at 5 p.m., according to District Clerk Kimberly Monzon, due to the withdrawal of Irina Ellison.

Addressing his decision not to run, Day released a statement to media outlets: "In my opinion, this has been a wildly successful term, culminating this year with a budget that actually lowers the tax levy for the first time in at least 25 years and adds full day kindergarten.”

Addressing the district's position, Day wrote positively about the closure of Lewisboro Elementary School, along with renegotiation of the teachers' contract and healthcare plans with labor units as ways to do it. Day also endorsed Rifkin and Posner.

Rifkin, a physician, has sat on district committees for student performance and for health and safety.
Asked why he is running, Rifkin responded by citing his background, including preparation of reports providing assistance to committees.

Posner, a corporate lawyer who serves on the district's finance committee, mentioned occasions of when he spoke at board meetings, including with concern about class sizes and about spending. He wants to improve the experience for John Jay middle and high school students, with class sizes a concern.

Burke, an IT manager for an insurance company, wants a community advisory board and online surveying. Burke feels that community trust needs to be rebuilt, citing the closure process for Lewisboro Elementary School. The board voted 5-2 in January to close LES, Daily Voice reported, which is effective for the next school year.

Delessio, a mobile app developer, wants outreach for individuals, the towns of Lewisboro and Bedford, and state representatives. An LES parent, he has been a vocal critic of the closure. He cites the process for it as being why he first got interested in district issues.
Rifkin put the closure in a financial context, describing it as “very painful” but also “prudent.”

The new board will have to address hiring a new superintendent, which candidates referenced. Michael Jumper, an assistant superintendent, became interim superintendent because Paul Kreutzer resigned from the post in January, Daily Voice reported.

Candidates were invited to the board's May 8 meeting, which is set 7:30 p.m. at the high school's library, according to the agenda. The parent council announced it will have a candidates night on May 15 at 7 p.m. at the middle school library.

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The LES closure is painful, no doubt. Prudent?! I don't think so. Every metric used by the "expert" demographer that this Board used as their scapegoat has been proven false. The 1,000 petitioners who were against the closure are now feeling the anecdotal and measured effects of this farce which was over in the minds of this Board (or it's majority) before the closure hoopla ever began. They went through the motions ONLY without regard to the Community, it's values or it's request to wait and see. I am curious as to where the audit committee and finance committee stand on the numbers today? The supposed savings ranging from $1.5 - $2.million in gross savings (before transportation and other less quantifiable costs like traffic and time spent on student buses) is far shy of the overstated and padded budgets of the prior years before the Benefits Deal was done. That's a fact. Close to $5 and $6 million per annum were overstated in the benefits line respectively in the two prior years' actual benefit expenses while items like construction have been consistently under budgeted but not scrutinized because line items though "moved" have come under total "expected budgets" in "actual numbers" making this Board cheer the Finance and Administrative powers that have been. As the "highly relied upon" demographer's report has become patently false as anticipated by a group of before unknown to each other residents, what does our Leadership in Finance and on the Board have to say other than...,,, "whoops, who could have known"? The answer? The 1,000 people who asked this Board not to do what they have done. Their actions and the Committees that served to be their watchdogs failed this Community. Turnover was high in real estate since the announcement of the LES closure due to HUGE foreclosures and heavily reduced prices. All this Board has done was take the positive we had (low class sizes and quaint school neighborhoods) and further destroy value. Metrics according to their own budget for 2014-2015 show student enrollment numbers over the ridiculously thin margin of error that was based on an extrapolated decrease of population with no regard to reality by the EXPERT they lauded! (Realities such as the current population echo boomers rivaling baby boomers and moving to have children move into the suburbs to now "foreclosed upon" or heavily discounted homes in the area as discussed by several opposition to closure residents which have already come to pass!). This BoE helped fulfill their prophecy of doom except that they were wrong about an important fact. We won't have no one in our classrooms, we'll have overcrowded classes as predicted by 1,000 petitioners. I predict that once again, they'll be using that construction line a whole lot this year to move offices (again!) and build out temporary classes while we figure out what to do with all these new students. What exactly did Audit and Finance do other than say thanks for pinching your penny BoE Leadership?! Penny Wise was clearly Pound Foolish. Dr. Grip.., are you available for comment? Your statistics didn't come to fruition, as this Community of Opposed to Closing LES repeatedly tried to express at meeting after meeting which fell on the deaf ear of this Board and it's Committees. You extrapolated the prior real estate crash forward to "as if zero population" without any regard to current population data trends and for the cyclical nature of real estate markets (which you claimed wasn't your expertise...?! Huh? Then what was? You were an expert "extrapolate of doom"? The report was wholly inadequate and this Board ushered you out without so much as a question for your methodology which many called you out on in Board meetings you were not in attendance for. We know you were paid not to do the fuller more adequate report. We as a unified group of Residents Opposed to Closing LES on your report alone want to know: are you comfortable with what you did? Do you defend your work or did you merely fulfill the scope of work as authorized by the current BoE? Reputation matters. Finance, Audit... Do you defend this? Do you still believe taxes aren't going up for many to fill in the gap of certiorari necessitated by the foreclosed "sales turnovers"? This was all to save $115 (yes one hundred and fifteen dollars) on a $15,000 tax bill. What are you going to say to the residents that have tax bills that increased to "pay the share" of the revenues lost?! "Oops"?! Maybe it's not too late. Be bold. The facts haven't changed but be strong enough to change your minds! You may have thought this was a noble gesture but the facts were obfuscated and we still DON'T know what you (or some of you) were up to. If it was your mistake, be strong enough to apologize and change your minds. Thank you to all who continue to fight for truth and prudence. Please further scrutinize your analysis and disclose your findings to the Community. You will be respected for doing the right thing if even in the 11th hour.