SOMERS, N.Y. – For the first time in four years, voters will choose from among competing candidates next month to fill seats on the Somers school board.
A five-candidate field has one incumbent trustee, as well as a 2015 Somers High School graduate, a designer of advanced digital-information systems and two education professionals running in pursuit of two openings on the seven-member board.
The candidates are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m., May 3, in the Somers Middle School library for a debate moderated by the Somers League of Women Voters. The Somers Record will also be asking the candidates for their views and will publish the responses in the May 11 issue.
On May 16, voters will elect two of the candidates to three-year terms. They will also pass judgment on a proposed $88.3 million budget for the 2017-18 academic year. The budget, which increases spending by $1.4 million and hikes tax rates by $2.43 to $160.23, will have a public hearing May 9, one week in advance of residents’ voting. An additional ballot proposition will ask voters to approve a $1.7 million resurfacing two artificial-turf fields and acquisition of new equipment for the high school’s fitness/wellness center. Reserve cash would cover the project’s cost, so it would not impact taxpayers’ bills.
The Somers Central School District board adopted the proposed budget last week amid calls for strong voter turnout. The plea is a perennial one, and it is usually futile in a community that routinely sees record-low turnout for school votes.
This year’s contested school board election, however, could change that. In this year’s field, each candidate offers attractive qualities, creating the potential to increase the number of residents going to the polls.
Chadwick Olsen is filling the final two years of a former trustee. A Lincolndale resident and former business consultant, Olsen is a stay-at-home dad with three daughters in the Somers school system. He is now seeking a three-year term of his own.
Jonathan Welsh of Yorktown Heights is mounting one of the more attention-getting campaigns. Less than two years after graduating from Somers High School, he’s seeking to join the elected board that oversees SHS and every other aspect of the district’s mission. An official of the New York State School Board Association calls Welsh’s bid both unusual and “awesome.”
Jay Worona, the association’s deputy executive director and general counsel, said, “It’s so infrequent that we know of individuals of this age [running], and we really try as an organization to celebrate that when we learn of them because I think it’s an awesome thing.”
Welsh, who is thought to be about 19, could not be reached for comment by press time.
But while he brings the advantage of being only two years removed from the real-world classroom, another candidate, MaryRose Joseph of Katonah, is going into one every day. A science teacher at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, she has two daughters in Somers schools.
For her part, Dr. Lindsay Portnoy of Somers, an educational psychologist, helped found an educational company focused on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, the STEM approach. She has two children in Somers schools.
Raina Laredo of Katonah, an IT professional, specializes in information architecture, content strategy and user-experience design. Her three children, including one now in college, have all gone the Tusker route.
Trustee Linda Graffitti announced last month that she would not seek another three-year term, creating a situation similar to that of 2013. That year, one of three incumbents up for re-election did not run, prompting a five-way contest for three seats. That race brought Trustee Joseph Marra to the board.
Two years later, the resignation of Trustee Harvey Kreidberg again created a three-seat vacancy. But it was filled by two incumbents defending their seats and Olsen’s election to the remaining two-plus years of Kreidberg’s term.