June 6, 2014

Katonah-Lewisboro turns a corner

Did you hear the collective sigh of relief in Katonah-Lewisboro? It came after the passage of the vote on May 20. The past year had its share of turmoil. The 2011 recruitment of Dr. Paul Kreutzer as superintendent was a shock to the system, almost as much as his sudden departure early this year. Dr. Kreutzer, a lightning rod for labor issues, never hit his stride in the district and was dogged by a past that wouldn’t conveniently go away. When he and board members first proposed closing Lewisboro Elementary School and transferring those students to elementary schools throughout the district, families were distressed. Those attending LES didn’t want to leave. Those outside it feared an influx of students and overcrowding. At times, board meetings turned contentious

Yet this year’s budget passed by the largest margin in recent history, with 76 percent voter approval. Voters also passed propositions to purchase buses and repair the track and field by wide margins.

Katonah Elementary and Increase Miller school voters historically support the budget. Paradoxically, elementary school areas that have shown the greatest opposition to past budgets — Meadow Pond and Lewisboro — both approved it, an even more remarkable achievement considering that Lewisboro area voters are facing the loss of their elementary school. Certainly for the 269 “no” voters in Lewisboro, this played a factor. Nevertheless, nearly twice that number in Lewisboro endorsed the budget, indicating that fallout from the closure may be less severe than some predicted.

Interim superintendent Michael Jumper attributed the budget’s success to his Q&A sessions held in each of the district’s elementary schools.

Dr. Kreutzer had served as superintendent since mid-2011. As the school board and other district-based parties did not feel he was the right fit for the district, they ended his five-year contract early with a settlement.

When Dr. Kreutzer left, there was a sense of relief on many sides, including teachers and some residents who had never cottoned to his anti-union policies — Dr. Kreutzer was notorious in labor circles for standing at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s side during the governor’s successful bid to strip labor’s bargaining powers. School board members were frustrated by Dr. Kreutzer’s inability to communicate the district’s agenda, and Lewisboro residents felt that the elementary school’s closing was poorly conducted.

Embroiled in a court battle with special ed teacher Kristin Peterson, he may have won the battle with the state education department and the first round of court battles that followed, but he lost the war. State Education Department hearing documents portray an impatient and sometimes angry administrator quick to temper.

After his departure, without the big payout that often accompanies top administration departures, there was a tangible sense of relief — and it came just in time for budget season. Voters could enthusiastically approve a budget that showed actual decreases; whether or not they were due to declining enrollment didn’t matter.

There is much to tout in the district. The administration made the right choice by bringing in full-day kindergarten, a step that residents have long awaited, and showed business acumen in the switch to a self-funded health insurance plan.

Voters appreciated the sustainability efforts, rewarded this week with a Green Award from Bedford’s Conservation Board. Last year, the district received an Earth Day Recognition Award from Westchester County for its composting and sustainability ventures.

The Katonah-Lewisboro school board is now in the very early stages of searching for a new permanent superintendent. The district needs a leader who will chart a safe future course through a complicated economic landscape.

The district wants to have a permanent superintendent appointed and ready to begin working on July 1, 2015. After some discussion with colleagues, interim superintendent Michael Jumper announced that in order to meet that deadline, the school board would need the search firm to begin its efforts by Sept. 1.

For the district’s sake, board members should search for someone calm and dependable with a strong track record in a high-achieving academic setting, a solid record of communications with both the community and the media, and devoid of partisan ties.

But they know all that already.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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