In the Pine Bush Central School District, four seats are available for the 2022-2023 Board of Education election. The three highest grossing candidates will receive regular three-year term seats and the fourth place candidate will complete a two-year term. The candidates are: Erik Buckley, Dori Johnson (Incumbent), Gretchen Meier (Incumbent) and Matthew Watkins (Incumbent).
Erik Buckley is a lifelong resident of the area and a graduate of SUNY Orange. He has worked for Rockland BOCES for the past 20 year, working with students in kindergarten through eighth grade with emotional and behavioral disabilities, as well as students with autism and developmental disabilities. Buckley, a resident of the Town of Wallkill, has lived in the Pine Bush Central School District since 2011. He and his wife have two children, ages 5 and 9, who attend Pine Bush Schools. This is his second time running for school board. He ran in 2019, but did not win a seat.
Buckley is hoping he can bring a fresh perspective and be a strong advocate for Pine Bush students, staff, and families.
When asked what he feels the “Top 3” issues now facing the school district are and what would he do to solve them Buckley explained, “I think closing the learning gap due to the pandemic, safety and security in the schools, substance abuse education, diversity, equity, and inclusion are all issues that need to be addressed. I would also like to look into reducing class sizes. I know some of our schools currently have 25 or more kids in a class. ...I want to make sure we keep our great teachers, they really went above and beyond for our students during COVID and we need to remember their dedication.”
Dori Johnson is completing her second term on the Pine Bush School Board after being elected in 2016. She is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz with both a Bachelor of Science in geology and a Master of Science in education. She has been a teacher at Monroe-Woodbury for the past 28 years and is also an adjunct professor at SUNY Orange. Prior to her teaching career, Johnson worked as both a Geologist and Hydrogeologist in the private sector. She has two children, one is a graduate of the Pine Bush Central School District and the other is a student at Pine Bush High School.
Johnson has been the Legislative liaison for the past three years (2019-2022) working with the New York State School Board Legislative Advocacy representatives to work to improve federal and state initiatives that impact Pine Bush and our students. She has been a member of the district’s Audit Committee for the past four years (2018-2022) helping to monitor internal practices, reviewing risk assessments of district operations, financial policies, procedures, and practices. Additionally, she has been a member of the Parent-Teacher Association and, for part of her first term she served as both vice president and acting president.
When asked what she feels the “Top 3” issues for the school district are Johnson explained, “I feel the top three issues facing our school district would be our children’s recovery from the educational slide due to the pandemic. The social and emotional gap that many of our students face also because of the pandemic. And making sure that funding for our district continues for this year and into the future to support program, and to ease the burden on the taxpayers.
Gretchen Reinwald Meier
Gretchen Reinwald Meier has been on the Pine Bush Central School District School Board for nine years. She has served as president for 3.5 years. Meier is married to a Pine Bush graduate, Class of 1984, and has two kids who graduated from Pine Bush, Class of 2014 and 2017. She has been involved with the Pine Bush Central School District since 2001, ranging from class volunteer, many years on the Parent-Teacher Association, building level team, Odyssey of the Mind and a sports mom, Girl Scout leader and Sarah Wells Counsel delegate. Meier helped create the Excelsior Academies for seniors in high school. In 2020, she received the Mid-Hudson School Study Council award for Excellence in School Board Service. She is running because she is dedicated to the vision of this district and wants to support the transition of the newest central administration team.
Meier said the top three issues facing the school district are, “Our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic on all levels – students and families, combating growing drug exposure/use, and supporting all staff as they navigate forward.”
Matthew Watkins, a lifelong resident of Pine Bush, has served on the school board from May 2016 until June 2017, and again from July 2019 until the present. He received an Associate’s degree in marketing from SUNY Delhi and a Bachelor’s degree in general business from Penn State University. He formerly served as a councilman in the Town of Shawangunk and as a trustee for the Pine Bush Area Public Library. He and his wife, Allison, have three children, two who have graduated from Pine Bush High School and one currently attending Pine Bush High School.
Watkins said he feels the top three issues facing the school district are offering a quality education, keeping politics out of education and keeping school taxes down. He shared, “Educating of our students through the Covid pandemic had been a herculean task. Long term effects have significantly and detrimentally affected the students including social, mental and delay in studies. We need make this our first and foremost concern.”
The district’s annual budget vote and board of education election will be held on Tuesday, May 17.