Chappaqua Board of Education Trustee Jeffrey Mester announced Wednesday night that he will seek the open seat on the Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES Board of Education after expressing frustrations with how BOCES has handled several issues.
Mester, Chappaqua’s liaison to BOCES, will run against Peekskill Board of Education President Douglas Glickert in the Nov. 18 election. He said he decided to run to find solutions to the problems he feels are currently plaguing BOCES.
“It’s easy to complain but it’s much harder to work towards a solution so when I found out they were having this [election for] the open board seat…I asked them to put my name up,” said Mester, a former president of the Chappaqua Board of Education.
In recent weeks, Mester has voiced concern about the empty seat on the BOCES board. The vacancy was created when Trustee Katherine Brechner of Croton-Harmon resigned because she moved out of the district.
Mester, along with other Chappaqua trustees, agreed that the vacancy is particularly problematic because BOCES scheduled the election the week after its board is expected to vote on a proposal that could change the formula for how payments from the 18 districts that make up the regional BOCES are computed. Earlier this year, the Bedford Board of Education wrote a letter to BOCES requesting a change.
Currently, the amount a district pays BOCES is based on two factors–the number of students who attend the program daily and the property tax values within each district. Bedford asked the board to base fund allocation solely on student attendance, arguing that districts that have high property values generally send the fewest students to the program but contribute the most.
Mester said only about 10 Chappaqua students use BOCES’ vocational or special education programs each year.
“It’s not supposed to be a reallocation of wealth,” he said.
The BOCES board is scheduled to hold a public hearing for component board members regarding potential changes to the allocation system on Nov. 10. They are expected to vote whether to implement a change two days later, six days before the election to fill the board seat.
While Mester said that he didn’t believe scheduling the election after the vote was done intentionally, a full board should decide how hundreds of millions of dollars given to the program should be allocated.
“This is such a big item, that [BOCES] should have a full board, regardless of how they vote,” said Mester.
Over the past few years, Mester has regularly attended meetings of BOCES’ Advisory Committee and Capital Projects Committee. He said he’s acquired a comprehensive knowledge of the organization’s inner workings and goals.
Mester noted that he has neither met nor seen Glickert attend either committees’ meetings.
Also, on May 18, Mester sent a letter to all component districts urging them to participate more, but received little response. He stated that less than one-third of the districts participate on a BOCES committee regularly and that he wants to see diverse representation on the board, something he hopes other districts want as well.
Despite his complaints, Mester explained that his decision to run is more than just an election issue. He said he is concerned about the direction of Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES and he also wants to help children.
Mester stated via e-mail that he feels BOCES is a “terrific organization” and that he strongly believes in and supports its mission of preparing diverse populations of students, “providing cost-effective shared services to school districts and initiating collaboration to close gaps in student achievement.”
Each of the 18 districts that are part of Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES will vote in the Mester-Glickert election. The term lasts until next June.
Mester said that his eight years of experience as a Chappaqua trustee would benefit BOCES and that he would be able to bring a unique perspective to the board to help serve all students.
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