There are five school board candidates running for three available seats; Rhoda Antonia Uszenski, James Mullen, Karen Brooks, Jeffrey Hacker and James Kuha. The Southern Ulster Times reached out to each of the candidates for statements. Candidate Karen Brooks did not respond to the request.
Jeffrey Hacker is a first time candidate and a lifelong resident of Ulster County.
“When my wife and I decided to purchase our home, we chose one in the Marlboro Central School District because of its outstanding reputation for excellence in education, the arts, and sports. Our daughter, Ella, has excelled here,” he said. “As a father, I am interested in what’s been happening in our school and I’ve attended school board meetings and kept up with what’s been happening. I would like to see some of the positive changes we’ve had in the past several years continue, but I would also like to see more diversity, inclusion, and equity for the children of our school district. Where no child is left behind or is hungry, each child will have an equal and fair opportunity at an education. As a taxpayer, I would like to see fiscal transparency and accountability [because] I believe the taxpayers and the parents should be aware of what we spend our money on for the children.”
Hacker would like to see the cell tower and solar farm projects completed before his daughter graduates High School.
Hacker supports free breakfasts and lunch for all, noting that, “Schools are not in the business of making money but to support our children.”
Hacker has been in the computer field since 1992, starting his career at Dutchess Community college in the computer graphics lab and also for the community service department as an adjunct professor teaching computer classes.
“From there I went to work for the Department of Transportation in the computer department. I moved on to Saint Francis, which merged with VBH, and then I went to work for Mohonk Mountain House, all performing end-user support, inventory, and hardware-software server support,” he said.
In August 2002, Hacker was hired as a Microcomputer Network Support Technician for the Arlington Central School District and celebrated his 20 year milestone with the district last year.
“I have been supporting teachers, administrators, office, and other staff for over 30 years. What I have learned on this journey is to treat people with respect and kindness, listen to their problems and come up with solutions. I would apply this to the position of board trustee if I am elected,” he said.
James Kuha previously served on the board for six years, concluding his service in June 2020.
Kuha said he is running again, “to serve the community and children who attend Marlboro Central School District, to ensure the district’s fiscal prudence, fair treatment of all students and staff, and to foster opportunities for students to explore all career paths.”
Kuha said because of his prior board service, “I’m familiar with school budgets and the process. I am a Member of the Town of Marlborough’s Ethics Committee and have recently attained my Associates Degree in Business Administration (graduating in May), which gives me a unique perspective about the pressures students face when trying to achieve their academic goals.”
Kuha said two key issues facing the school district are safety and providing options for students who do not wish attend college.
“We currently work with a local company to bring students in and tour the facility. I would like to see this enhanced and potentially include more local business,” he said. “Additionally, I would like students to have an opportunity to visit local colleges and trade schools alike. For safety in our schools, I believe we need to perform a study and act accordingly to its findings.”
James Mullen is running for re-election to the Marlboro School board, where he has served for the past three years. He also is the Director of Facilities for the Rockland County YMCA.
“I hope to continue serving on the school board, and I am committed to putting our students first, building better communication, maintaining fiscal responsibility, and remaining visible in the community,” he said.
Mullen stressed the importance of, “Enhancing our communication and continuing the funding of Free Breakfast and lunch for all.”
If re-elected Mullen promised to, “work with the administration to look at different districts and programs that will be able to provide a better model of delivering important information to the community. I will advocate on a national and federal level for the inclusion of all districts in the funding of free breakfast and lunch programs as well as push for it to stay within our budget if fiscally responsible to do so.”
Rhoda Antonia Uszenski
Rhoda Antonia Uszenski is a first time candidate for the position.
“I want to serve on the board because I feel as a parent of two students in the district and an educator, I have a vested interest in our schools being the best that they can be and our community being a place where our children and families can thrive,” she said.
Uszenski has a background in education and business, holding a Master’s of Science in Education from Mount St. Mary College and in 1995 she co-founded Little Harvard, a private pre-school serving 300 families, in a collaboration with the Newburgh Enlarged City School District and the Washingtonville Central School District.
Uszenski is also an Adjunct Professor in the Education Department of Mount St. Mary College, teaching Early Childhood Instruction for students with or without disabilities and the Early Childhood Practicum. She is also Board Member and Advocate for the Child Care Council of Orange County, a member of Quality Stars NY and in the NYS Association for the Education of Young Children [NYSAEYC.]
“Currently, across New York State we are experiencing crisis level shortages of both teachers and support personnel (speech therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapists, and Special Education Itinerant teachers), while at the same time, experiencing increasingly high levels of eligible students in need of quality, committed staff,” she said. “I believe in supporting teachers, and allowing them to have both a voice and choice in programming and strategies. This will allow us to support our students both academically and socially/emotionally which is key to bridging the gap left by COVID.”
Uszenski believes in promoting training in Trauma Informed Care and in Adverse Childhood Experiences and collaborating with local colleges to fast-track hiring practices and mentoring programs for support personnel.
“We need to be creative, collaborative, and to act with integrity, while always supporting our teachers, putting students first, and being mindful of our fiscal accountability to our taxpayers,” she said.