The Putnam Examiner

Four Candidates for Carmel School Board

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Michael Plotkin
Michael Plotkin

In addition to voting to approve or reject the proposed annual budget to operate Carmel schools on Tuesday, May 15 Carmel Central School District voters will also vote to fill two open school board seats, for which there are four candidates, comprised of one incumbent and three newcomers. The two candidates who receive the highest number of total votes will be seated for a three-year term that will begin this summer. Profiles of each of the candidates, Michael Plotkin, Cathy Alexander, Richard Kreps and James Reese are presented according to the random order on which they will appear on the ballot. The various Carmel school PTAs and PTOs will host a “Meet the Candidates” night at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 3 in the library at Carmel High School.

Michael Plotkin and his wife have lived in Holmes for the past decade. They have four children, one who attends Carmel High School, a second who attends George Fischer Middle School, a third who attends Kent Elementary School and their youngest who is a pre-schooler.

Plotkin is the assistant principal at the Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School in Croton-Harmon, a position he has held for five years. Previously, he was a high school social studies and history teacher in New York City and later in Chappaqua for 14 years.

While he was a teacher, he coached the wrestling team at several different schools and actively does volunteer work through the Lakeview Community Church in Carmel.

Plotkin said he was inspired to run to be a part of tackling what he said are growing fiscal and educational challenges for school districts, as well as his interest in strengthening the relationship with the school board and the community at-large.

“Our schools are facing the biggest challenges in American history: the financial challenges and the challenges to prepare students for the 21st century,” Plotkin said. “I would like to enhance, if not improve on, the connection with the community….people deserve answers to their questions.”

If elected, he said he saw coping with ongoing financial challenges as being a priority of the school board in future years.

“It’s the fiscal challenge…how do we find a balance between bringing fiscal responsibility while still providing our students with a quality education and at the same time enhance the school-community relationship,” he said, noting that even with rising costs and declining revenues, implementing new technology in classrooms is a must. “The world is changing very fast and the schools are not.”

Plotkin said he is just one person, but has hopes that if he participates, he can contribute to what he said are needed changes in the school district.

“I see it as my civic duty. You can only complain for so long before you have to do something about it,” Plotkin said. “I think we need to get…a new perspective on the board.”

Cathy Alexander
Cathy Alexander

Cathy Alexander and her husband have lived in the Town of Kent for 11 years. They have two children; one who attends George Fischer Middle School, another child who attends Kent Elementary School.

Alexander has worked in administration at Pace University Law School for 21 years, formerly as the dean of admissions and currently as the assistant dean of Internal Operations with oversight of financial aid, registrar and student services departments.

Alexander is the troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 1422, a member of the Kent Elementary PTO and a volunteer with the Pied Piper Youth Theater, working both on the scholarship committee and backstage during productions. In the past, she was a volunteer basketball coach with both Kent and Patterson Recreation.

“My main motivations are my kids and all of the kids in the community…I want to get involved with the school district in a pro-active way while my children are still in school,”she said of why she was inspired to run for one of the open seats. “I feel strongly that the board needs more representation of parents who have school children.”

She also said she hoped to bring more transparency to the dealings of the school board.

“The board needs to be accountable and accessible to residents. We are headed into a challenging time fiscally and we need to find a balance between providing programs for kids and the financial constraints on the community,” Alexander said.“We always need to put the needs of the kids first.”

Alexander said that her professional role as a college administrator has included managing budgets, including major cuts, while at the same time having the responsibility to generate revenues. She said this experience would be asset to sitting on the school board.

“I know how to deal with the stress and the pressure,” she said of how to balance difficult financial challenges while maintaining high educational standards. “If you have to fight for it, then you have to fight for it….you have to be creative and find a way to do it.”

School Board President Richard Kreps

Richard Kreps has lived with his wife in the Town of Kent since 1983. Their two sons graduated from Carmel High School in 1996 and in 2000 and went on to earn college degrees; one is now a school teacher and the other works in finance.

Now retired, Kreps was a New York City Police Department detective, who, over the course of 20 years, taught at the police academy, worked patrol and with emergency services and with the crime scene investigative unit.

He is the past president of Carmel United Soccer Club, a position he held for eight years, and has coached youth basketball and baseball in the past.

Kreps was first seated on the Carmel school board in 1999, when he won election to finish out one year left on a three-year term and has consecutively won reelection since then; running for his fourth term on the school board this year.

“It is a way for me to give back…it’s an honor to serve my community,” Kreps said of why he was inspired to run again. “It’s my belief that we have built a very good foundation in the school district…I would like to continue to build on that.”

Kreps said that foundation included improvements to the schools infrastructure – including the buildings, the grounds and technological advancements in the classroom.

In addition, Kreps said he and his colleagues on the board planned ahead and set money aside in reserve in anticipation of a significant tax certiorari settlement, so as to lessen the blow to district taxpayers once it was settled this year.

If reelected, Kreps said he wants to see even more growth with technology introduced and a continued focus on fiscal responsibility. In addition, new state-mandated core curriculum standards, which will entail computer-based testing, as well as a new teacher-administration evaluation system, will be implemented next year.

“I think my experience would be of help in the district fulfilling these challenges,” he said. “It’s easy to tell someone how not to do something. It’s more of a challenge to tell them how to get something done in a positive way.”

James Reese
James Reese

James Reese and his wife, residents of East Fishkill, have lived in the Carmel school district for 12 years. They have three children, all of whom went on to attend university after graduating from Carmel High School. Their youngest daughter was the Class of 2008 valedictorian and will graduate from Stanford University in California this spring.

Reese began his professional career as a middle and high school math teacher and for the past 29 years has worked as a business administrator for school districts throughout the Hudson Valley; most recently for 10 years in the Irvington School District in Westchester and currently doing the same for a regional district in Connecticut.

In the past he coached for the Carmel Soccer Club.

Reese said he was inspired to run for the Board of Education to give back to the schools his children and so many others had benefited from.

“Carmel High does produce some great talent,” he said. “After all I’ve gotten, it’s time to pay it back and serve as a board member.”

Reese said the new school board will continue to face challenges handed down by the state, including the financial constraints of the tax cap, the new common core curriculum standards and the new teacher and administration evaluation system.

“I feel that with my background…I can provide some leadership and guidance for the school district,” he said.

In addition to test scores, Reese said a new focus had to be paid to graduation rates, where students attend college and tracking what professions former students end up in.

“We need to take a comprehensive look at the success of the school district,” Reese said.

If elected, he said he would like to work on a three to five year budget projection centered around specific educational goals that would drive the budget process, as he had done while working in the Irvington school district.

“My goal has always been how to control non-instructional costs, so you can provide the best programs to support children as they go through the school system,” Reese said.

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