This year’s Board of Education for the Wallkill Central School District has three open seats with five candidates running. This year’s candidates are Joseph LoCicero [incumbent], Dustin Palen [incumbent], Clarence VanLeuvan, Ursula Petricek and Kathryn Bayer. LoCicero and Palen are both running for re-election to the board and VanLeuvan, Petricek and Bayer are first time candidates for the board seats.
Here are this year’s Wallkill Board of Education candidates:
Joseph LoCicero, has been on the board since 2010 and has been board of education president since 2011.
Originally from Long Island, LoCicero’s family moved to the hamlet of Wallkill in 1985. A member of the Wallkill Senior High School’s 1991 graduating class, LoCicero went on to attend Ulster County Community College but soon joined the military in 1992. LoCicero joined the United States Army Reserves and served for two years before being transferred to the United States Air National Guard at Stewart Airport. LoCicero held the position of command post controller, achieved the rank of 1st Sergeant and retired with 24 years of service.
LoCicero currently serves as chief of the Wallkill Fire Department with over 30 years of service and retired from the City of Newburgh Fire Department, attaining the rank of captain with 22 years of service. LoCicero also retired as the Town of Shawangunk Highway Superintendent.
LoCicero and his wife have raised two children in the Wallkill area with one currently in college and another set to graduate from the high school this spring. LoCicero has also coached community sports teams as a member of the Wallkill community.
LoCicero said he had considered stepping down but with the support of his family and fellow board members, he is happy to be running again. “First and foremost, I love the community, I love the Wallkill School District. Being an alumni here, I’m proud of this school district,” LoCicero said. “The school district gives me the opportunity to help change and make things better and go in new directions and bring forth new ideas to the school district with the help of a great school board that we have now and an amazing administration.”
With the current COVID pandemic, LoCicero was happy to be a part of the planning process to help children with their online learning and education with the utilization and upgrade of technology services and offering more support services to students who needed classroom assistance.
LoCicero shared that while being on the board, he was happy to see the multi-purpose field be constructed, opened and used which he had been pushing for for several years. A new program that LoCicero highlighted that he is happy to see coming to the district is the American Sign Language program that will be implemented in the school curriculum.
If re-elected, LoCicero will look to continue to work with the board to address the needs of the students in the classroom and beyond and to continue pushing the district forward.
“The Wallkill School District is my home,” LoCicero said. “I will continue to fight for every student in the Wallkill District.”
Originally from Walden, Clarence VanLeuvan and his family have lived in the Wallkill district for the past 25 years. A graduate of Valley Central High School in 1986, VanLeuvan entered the workforce after completing his education and became an apprentice welder. Currently, VanLeuvan works for Post Material Handling and has been a professional welder by trade for the last 37 years. He and his wife have raised two daughters that have gone through the Wallkill schools.
In the Wallkill community, VanLeuvan has been an active member of the Wallkill Lions Club for the past five years and is grateful to be a part of this organization. The Lions Club provide and host events and fundraisers for the greater Wallkill community. This will be VanLeuvan’s first initial run for the board of education and he shared that he has full support from his family in running for this position.
For VanLeuvan, being a part of a team is important to him and what he hopes to bring to the board of education is a member who can enter and make decisions based on student and community needs within the district. With the upcoming changes anticipated with the capital project approval, he hopes to be a part of the board in the implementation and continuation of these changes. During the on-going pandemic, VanLeuvan recognized and thanked the district for their work in adjusting to online learning and assisting the students and parents with resources to help with their schooling and well-being.
As a member of the workforce, VanLeuvan is glad to see the partnership between the district and the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services [BOCES] program. The demand for jobs in the trades is high and VanLeuvan hopes to continue to push support for this initiative.
Regardless of the turnout, VanLeuvan believes that whoever is elected to the board, whether it be him or the other candidates, is a win for the district.
“The reason I want to run for a seat on the school board is to ensure that each kid has opportunities for growth, education, education academically and socially,” VanLeuvan said. “As a board member, I want to be able to offer every student the best opportunity and the most memorable times of their life.”
A graduate of Monroe-Woodbury High School’s 1994 class, Ursula Petricek has lived in the Wallkill district for the past 19 years. She and her husband have raised three children who currently attend schools in the district.
Petricek attained an associates degree from Orange County Community College in 1996 and a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Dominican College in 2000. Petricek has worked as a nurse for the past 22 years and attained a Masters in Nursing degree from Mount Saint Mary College in 2015. In 2013, Petricek started as a registered nurse working in Wallkill High School and upon receiving her nurse practitioner degree, Petricek stepped into the role as district wide nurse practitioner. Petricek chaired the Wellness Committee and was a member of the Health and Safety Committee in the district. Now, Petricek currently works as a current nurse practitioner for a local urgent care agency.
With the last two years with the current COVID pandemic, Petricek was grateful for the work that was done by both the district and each of the faculty and staff to adjust and navigate the pandemic. As the district-wide nurse practitioner, she connected and grew with her fellow community members and feels that running for the board will further strengthen the commitment and dedication to the families and children. Even after she left her position, Petricek shared that she wanted to come back and be part of the changes coming to the district and parents continued to reach out for support and input from her and she is honored to be a part of that work. “I love my community and I want to continue to serve it,” Petricek said. “I want to see us succeed.”
This will be Petricek’s first official run and she said she is ready and willing to learn more about her community if elected to the board.
“Those of you that know me, know that I show up. I listen to opinions other than my own and I will fight for anyone who needs an advocate. I have dedicated my life to helping those around me,” said Petricek. “I will do what I can to make sure they receive every opportunity they deserve to carve the path to their future.”
After only just retiring from the Wallkill district in 2021, Kathryn Bayer has announced her first run for a seat on the board of education.
Originally from Jackson Heights in Queens, Bayer and her family have lived in the Wallkill District since 1984. During that time, her three children have attended and graduated from Wallkill schools. Bayer’s daughter is an elementary educator and her son is a head custodian within the district. Bayer was also a member of the inaugural graduating class of Mater Christi High School in Astoria in 1965.
While in the district, Bayer worked as an office manager in Clare F. Ostrander Elementary School for 27 years, served as president for over 20 years for the Civil Service Employees Association [CSEA] unit for the non-instructional employees and also served as a member of the Health and Safety Committee. With the last two years of COVID, Bayer remembered the struggles that students and teachers had to adjust to during that time and Bayer even worked from home at some point due to rising health concerns.
With the capital project being voted on in the coming weeks, Bayer looks forward to the building repair work and also highlighted the district’s work of not raising the taxes.
As a former employee of the district, Bayer shared that her experience on the administrative side and creating the many relationships with her students, student parents, teachers and staff is what she believes she contributes if elected. “I’m more concerned about everybody. It’s not about me,” Bayer said. Bayer said that she is ready to contribute her voice to the board, ready to contribute her experience and knowledge and is ready to listen and learn.
Entering into his sixth year as a member of the Wallkill Board of Education, Dustin Palen will be seeking re-election for a third term to the board.
Born and raised in the Wallkill district, Palen is a member of the Wallkill High School class of 1993. Palen furthered his education and received an associate degree in liberal arts from Orange County Community College in 1996. Palen and his wife have both raised two children here in the district with one already graduated and one graduating this coming June. Palen’s wife currently works as an educator in the district. Palen is a 1st Sergeant in the Orange County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Officer Unit with 24 years of service behind him. Palen has also entered his 26th year of service in the Modena Fire Department.
As an officer, Palen pushed for a police presence in each of the buildings and within the last several years, there have been officers placed at each of the schools in the district. Palen also highlighted the work done by the district to remain fiscally responsible and not raise taxes.
Palen has also served as a coach of the Wallkill Youth Football teams and also serves on the board as the chairman of the Health and Safety and Policy committees within the district.
If re-elected to the board, Palen looks to continue the work he has done and to continue pushing the Wallkill district in the right direction. “I’m extremely proud of the work that the administration and the board has done in my six years. Especially the last two [years] during COVID,” Palen said. Palen said he will continue to provide a safe place where students can learn and get the best quality education if re-elected.
The election will take place on May 17 along with the Wallkill Annual Budget Vote and Capital Project Vote from noon to nine that day. District residents can cast their votes at Wallkill High School, Leptondale Elementary School and Plattekill Elementary School.