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The Villages: School Board Race Amid Partisan Backdrop


Regardless of politics, the focus needs to be on student development in the classroom. Photo courtesy Nyack Schools

This week in the Villages:  Nyack heads into a school board election next Tuesday amidst a rise in partisan politicking around the country. Also, more school board drama, ghost guns in Haverstraw and a leadership change at Rockland Community College. Plus, your local weather forecast, Covid updates, upcoming meetings and much more!

Editor’s Note: Send us all your feedback, ideas, news tips, meeting details and event announcements at

School Board Elections Heat Up

Nyack is holding its election for two open school board seats on Tuesday, May 17. With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at where we are with school boards, generally speaking.

Seemingly overnight, it appears, local school boards across the country have turned into heated partisan battle grounds.

First, we saw it over pandemic-related restrictions and mask-mandates. Lately, we’ve seen it morph into fights about racial equity training and over the subject matter of classroom discussions, texts and children’s books.

Now, it is true that throughout the history of our country’s inglorious and consistently-mediocre school system, local boards have found themselves mired in controversy. That makes sense. Shaping our children’s future — teaching them how to understand and interpret their history and apply it to the world around them — is a pretty big deal.

Honest discussions about pedagogy, curriculum and performance standards are one thing. But the concern here is that school boards everywhere are increasingly turning into proxy battles over political ideology and not about the best interests of our kids.

In a recent column, the NY Times’ Michelle Cottle writes about how conservatives in Tennessee have poured gasoline on the partisan flames in local school board elections. Most boards and board races, including Nyack’s, are nonpartisan. The longstanding idea is that, as a board member, you shouldn’t be playing politics above the needs of students.

But last fall, Tennessee passed legislation that allows districts to hold primaries and list their party affiliations on ballots.

While supporters of the law say it will drive voter participation into an arena that lacked it (probably a valid argument), critics say this will end up being disastrous for the future of school boards and their ability to keep students at top of mind.

Much like it is with local and national elections these days, the fear is that school board candidates will continue staking out more and more extreme positions and focus on hot-button issues in order to win elections. These elections could lead to wild swings in school policies that will leave our kids’ heads spinning and not focused on improving their critical thinking and problem-solving skills — not good for the whole future of America thing.

I’m not sure how controversial or partisan Nyack’s school board election is shaping into (although I’ve heard it’s at least a little testy). As an educator and journalist, of course I’m intrigued.

But as a parent whose kids will be educated here, it’s absolutely vital that I find out what’s at stake and where the interests of the candidates lie.

Fortunately, there is a virtual school board forum on Tuesday night, May 10, at 7 pm.

Hosted by the Nyack NAACP, Rockland County Pride Center and Nyack PTA Parent Council, anyone who’s interested can hear from the candidates by clicking on this Zoom link.

The candidates include Michael Mark, Antonia Sambevski and Matthew Watson. (To find out more about them, I suggest some healthy Facebook stalking.)

Check them out Tuesday night. Vote on May 17. Let’s drive voter turnout and leave the politics out of it.

Stay tuned…

In other local news . . .

Speaking of school board controversies, a man running for the school board in Carmel dropped out of a hotly-contested race after Facebook post surfaced revealing a long history of racist online comments. [LoHud]

A Haverstraw man was arrested was arrested and charged with possessing “ghost guns” (or guns made with “major components of unfinished firearms”), which is now a felony under new anti-gun legislation passed last year. [LoHud]

Dr. Michael Baston is stepping down as president of Rockland Community College and taking his talents to Cleveland. And interim president will be named in June while they search for Baston’s long-term replacement.[Rockland Biz Journal]

ICYMI (in-depth):  The Valley Table checks in on what’s going with New York’s recreational cannabis industry. [The Valley Table] Bottom line: we probably won’t see legal recreational weed sales in the Nyack area until late 2022, or more likely, early-ish in 2023. The Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame held its first induction ceremony since 2019 on Saturday. Seven Rockland sports stars made the cut this year, including 1992 Clarkstown North graduate Will Cunnane, who spent parts of eight years in the major leagues and is now a Clarkstown police officer.

ICYM our stuff last week: Bill Batson’s latest “Nyack Sketch Log”, Mike Hays’ most recent “Nyack People & Places” on our coverage in last week’s “The Villages”.

Villages-Area Weather Forecast

A great week day prognostication — clear, sunny, mid-70s — devolves into clouds and strong possibilities of rain from Friday night through Sunday. [National Weather Service]

Villages-Area COVID Update 

Through April 22, Covid rates and severe cases in the greater Nyack area remain relatively low. Masks are only required in limited designated spaces. As in other parts of the northeast, there’s been a steady rise in new positive test results in New York, but very few have resulted in hospitalization.

  • The “early warning” detector for Rockland is showing that the percentage of positive tests per day is now up to 7.4% (up from 4.65% two weeks ago), with 54.9 new cases per 100,000 people. (Still, the severity remains low with 1.53 gross hospitalization per 100,000 people.)
  • Hospital capacity is not threatened.
  • A total of 16 people (up from 9 two weeks ago) in Rockland county were hospitalized for Covid related issues, 10 out of 16 of those patients were symptomatic.
  • Rockland’s Covid-related death total is now up 1,172 after nearly a month without recording one.

To find out what case and hospitalization trends look like in your town, click here.

Here’s the CDC’s data on Rockland.

Covid Testing and Vaccine Info

Get free at-home Covid tests sent to your home, visit Or pick them up at Village Hall in Nyack, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.

More than 80.4% of eligible people in Rockland County are vaccinated with at least one dose. To schedule an appointment for a 1st dose, 3rd dose (for immunocompromised), or booster COVID-19 vaccine from any Rockland County Department of Health Clinic visit To search for additional COVID-19 vaccination opportunities nearby visit

Find a COVID-19 testing site near you, by visiting Individuals who have questions regarding eligibility or access for testing should call the New York State COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-364-3065 or visit the NYSDOH website

Village of Nyack Updates

The Board of Trustees meets to discuss a variety of issues on Thursday, May 12, at 7:30 pm. Here’s a look at the agenda. Here’s the Zoom link to participate in the meeting.

The budget workshops are all wrapped up. If you haven’t seen it, take a look at the second draft of Nyack’s Appropriations budget (what they plan to spend). And the second draft of their Revenue budget (how they make their money). Not clear how or if it all those numbers have changed, but we’ll keep you updated. As of now, the budget is $6,055,600.91 coming in and going out 2022-2023.

Drop off humanitarian aid for victims of the war in Ukraine (, including first aid, painkillers, blankets, baby food, diapers, non-perishable food, antibiotics and more, at Village Hall, 9 N. Broadway (or at the Orangetown town hall, 26 W. Orangeburg Rd.).

Here’s the list of all upcoming meetings posted for the Village of Nyack.

Order Military Tribute Banners

It’s time to order your Military Tribute Banners for 2022. These banners make a beautiful tribute to honor your veterans, active-duty, reserve, and National Guard members. Banners will be displayed from Memorial Day to Veterans Day in the village downtown area. For more information, contact Ann Marie Tisty at 845-358-0548 ext. 283 or at

(The Dissolved) Village of South Nyack Updates

Alas, the Village of South Nyack officially dissolved on Thursday, March 31. All municipal services are now provided by the Town of Orangetown after that date. Police and DPW services transitioned to Orangetown on January 1, 2022. For more info on dissolution plans, visit here or here. No word yet on any movement to revive South Nyack’s villagehood. Please email us if you hear anything:

Village of Upper Nyack Updates

Nyack Public Schools Updates

Nyack public schools were closed for spring break from April 15, through April 22. Classes will resume on Monday, April 25.

Applications are now being accepted for universal pre-K and full-day kindergarten.

Masks are currently optional for all students and staff in all Nyack district schools.

However, they posted this notice on circumstances where masking would be required, including close contacts and other scenarios.

The district also posted a listing of resources for parents:

NYSED Social Emotional Wellness
NY Project Hope
Social Emotional Learning Parent Resources (Fordham University)

Find out what else is going on in Nyack-area schools at Home Page – Nyack Public Schools (

Town of Orangetown Updates

Several meetings this week in Orangetown, including the Town Board on Tuesday, May 10, at 7 pm at Orangetown Town Hall, 26 Orangeburg Rd. and he Planning Board meets on Wednesday, May 11, at 7 pm in the Greenbush Auditorium in Orangetown Town Hall, 26 Orangeburg Rd.

Check out the draft chapters of Orangetown’s new 2022 Comprehensive Plan.

ICYMI: Here’s the official resolution Orangetown enacted with regards to the sale of two South Nyack properties, which appears to say the proceeds will go toward wiping out South Nyack’s debt, which is what South Nyack officials were lobbying for as the dissolution date approached.

Help limit greenhouse gasses and curb pollution by joining this new food scraps recycling program.

Check out the Orangetown YouTube channel, and this video of a recent special town board meeting, which included renderings of a new town hall.

Children’s Playground at Veteran’s Memorial Park To Close Temporarily

The children’s playground at Orangetown’s Veteran’s Memorial Park will be out of service. The old playground will be removed and a new, all-inclusive playground will be installed. The grand re-opening is expected to be held in the spring.

Town of Clarkstown Updates

The Technical Advisory Committee, which “evaluates the technical adequacy of land development applications and decides their readiness for Planning Board review,” meets most Wednesdays, including Wednesday May 11, from 10 am to noon, in the town hall’s Historic Map Room.

The Town Board meets on Tuesday, May 10, at 7 pm. Visit here for more information and a link to join the meeting remotely. 

The Planning Board meets on Wednesday, May 11, at 7:30 pm in the Clarkstown Auditorium. Click here for details.

Ambulance Corp Volunteers Needed

There is currently a nationwide shortage of EMTs and Ambulance volunteers. Within Clarkstown, there are five ambulance corps serving the community that are in dire need of volunteers. If you are interested, or know someone who may be please consider contacting and volunteering with one of these great organizations: Nyack, Congers/Valley Cottage, Nanuet, New City, or Spring Hill.

Rockland County Updates

Reviving Rockland Restaurants Grant Program

The Reviving Rockland Restaurants Grant Program will reimburse businesses between $5,000 and $25,000 for past expenses or fund future expenses for eligible outdoor dining COVID-19 mitigation equipment. Eligible entities include restaurants, food stands, food trucks, bars, saloons, lounges, taverns, bakeries, delis, cafes, breweries, wineries, and other similar places of business.

Eligible expenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Tents
  • Heat Lamps or other electric heating equipment
  • Additional tables and chairs for outdoor dining
  • Market Umbrellas
  • Plexiglass Shields
  • Tarps
  • Patio Fencing

For more information and to download an application visit

Editor’s Note: We want to hear from you! Send thoughts, ideas, news tips, as well as meeting and events announcements to us at

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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