School candidates runs unopposed; another candidate sought for MCS

By Pauline Liu
Most of the school board candidates for the Andes, Margaretville and Roxbury school districts will be running unopposed on Tuesday, May 15.

That’s when school district voters across New York are being asked to cast their ballots for new school budgets and school-board members. Two of the candidates are incumbents. A third candidate is a newcomer. The fourth candidate will run as a write-in.       

On Monday night, the Parent Teachers Association for MCS sponsored a “Meet the Candidates” forum. Parents were introduced to Kate Van Benschoten of Margaretville, who will be running for the seat that was held by Barbara Funck.

“Barbara Funck personally asked me to run for her seat,” she said. “I have a young family and my children will be in the system in a few years. My husband and I are firm believers in performing our civic duties.” Her husband, John, is a Margaretville Village Board member and a former mayor. Van Benschoten currently serves on the Middletown Planning Board and the Margaretville Zoning Board of Appeals. “We’re already very involved in other facets of the community, so the school is the last step,” she said.  The Van Benschotens have two children, ages two years and four months. She explained that she is taking time off from her job as a customer service representative for MANG Insurance in order to help raise her children.

   The members of the PTA also met Kurt Holcherr of Fleischmanns, who will run as a write-candidate for the MCS School Board seat that was held by Robbie Martin. Holcherr, who is married without children, has attended almost every MCS School Board meeting in the last five years.

“I’ve come to most school meetings, because I’m interested in what goes on in the school community,” he said. “It was my own decision to run. I was going to run on a ballot, but I was a little delayed.” Holcherr, who is semi-retired from his job as a golf course mechanic at Hanah Mountain Resort and Spa in Margaretville, explained that he wants to give back to the community. “I’ve been coming to every meeting for five years, I might as well get into it all the way,” he said. “Class is over and I might as well get into it with both feet.” So far, it’s not clear if Holcherr will be facing any write-in opponents.

 At Roxbury Central School, incumbent Tara Poniros, who is a member of RCS Class of ’93, is wrapping up her first term on the school board. Her reason for seeking another five-year term is about “commitment.”

Big commitment
“I’m committed to doing it,” she said. “I thought long and hard about running again. I thought, ‘There’s a need on the board.’ It’s a big volunteer commitment. It’s difficult to find the time to commit to this work. I don’t want to leave the school looking for somebody. I have my hands full with three children and I make time for it.”

She’s a mother of three and her children range in age from nine to three-and-a-half months. Poniros is a graduate of Marymount College, where she studied fashion merchandising and interior design. After graduation, she became a home stylist. “I think we have a gem here,” she said. “I have wonderful things to say about Roxbury Central School. I really take pride in the community, and not just the school.” 

In Andes, incumbent School Board President John Hopkins, RCS Class of ’57, is running for his third five-year term. “It’s a necessary job,” he said. “Somebody has to do it. I think we’ve done a good job and I enjoy working with the board.”

Hopkins grew up in Roxbury and received his bachelor’s degree from Boston University. In the past, he has served as an Andes assessor, a realtor and a substitute teacher. He is now retired and he’s a locally well-known artist. Though the school board job offers no pay, Hopkins takes pride in the board’s accomplishments.

“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve put kids first, but we’re fiscally responsible,” he said. “Some schools are having a problem. We’re in reasonably good shape and we’re still providing a really good education for children.”