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Thursday, June 4, 2020


Why I Voted Yes on the Sullivan West Budget

To the editor:
Between now and June 9, voters in the Sullivan West Central School District will vote on the 2020-21 budget. As a three-term member of the School Board and the District Finance Committee, crafting this budget has been the most difficult task of my tenure. The decision to approve or reject the budget now rests in the hands of the community, as it should.
The budget increase of 1.98%, the lowest in three years, was arrived at after much discussion and careful consideration, representing significantly less than the 2.56% increase the District was allowed this year through a formula provided by the New York State Education Department.
It includes the reduction of seven full-time staff positions while at the same time preserving the growth of our instructional programs that will be essential to the future and success of Sullivan West students. Also included is the use of reserve funds to remove and replace the floor of the Elementary School gym due to existing health and safety concerns. These funds have already been set aside for this purpose but require voter approval for the project to move forward.
I recognize that these are extremely difficult times for many in our community. None of us could possibly have imagined that a global pandemic would affect us all and change our world. It is unclear what the future will hold as how we educate our youth has probably changed forever.
The pandemic has laid bare gaps in our technological expertise and flexibility and demonstrated the urgent need to develop new and effective ways to engage students in learning and communicate and engage parents.
The proposed budget represents an average increase of $3 - $6 per month for the average taxpayer. Adopting a 0% budget, as Board Member Ken Cohen advocated, would have meant critical cuts to instructional programming and the loss of some student programs altogether.
Should the proposed budget be rejected, the District has developed a response plan which will have serious impacts for students, staff reductions, and the inability to move forward the project to replace the unsafe gym floor.
Our school and community have already been dealt a serious blow by COVID-19. It will take a masterful effort to rebuild, recreate and restore the instructional and supportive environment Sullivan West has provided to its students. At this time, we do not know what school will look like in the fall of 2020. However, one question will be answered on June 9th.
The decision on the school budget and future belongs to you, the voters of the Sullivan West School District. Look for your ballot which is being mailed this week. Your support is appreciated.

Kathleen Meckle

Why I voted “Yes” on Sullivan West Budget

To the editor:
I write this as a community member, a parent of a current Sullivan West student, and as President of the Sullivan West Central School District Board of Education to explain why I was one of the six Board of Education members who voted to adopt the proposed 2020-2021 School District budget.
I believe the School District's administration and BOE gave significant thought as to how to develop a budget which will continue to allow our schools to be some of the points of pride of our communities and our county and which will also reflect the financial challenges that our community faces.
This proposed budget not only continues to enable our students to access high-quality courses, electives and supports in their learning, it also provides the resources for our young people to access the kind of technologies that they will need to understand in order to be successful in the world after Sullivan West High School.
Further, it provides for the replacement of the rubberized Gym Floor in the 1994 Elementary School, where mercury has recently been found to be leaching into the air, creating a potentially unsafe environment for our students, staff and visitors. This space is crucial for our entire community since so many use it year-round.
The replacement of that floor with a new wood flooring system would occur at no additional cost to our taxpayers, by using reserve funds. The New York State Education Department requires voter approval before removal and replacement of the gym floor can occur.
The proposed budget is able to accomplish these important priorities for our students, while at the same time coming in $126,000 below our tax levy cap and at the lowest tax levy increase (1.98%) that Sullivan West has had in the past three years. The average taxpayer will see an increase of $3 - $6 a month through this budget, and I am confident that the communities' return on their continued investment in our schools will result in further excellence for our students.
The District was able to propose this fiscally-responsible budget by making hard choices, including the decision not to replace 6 staff members who are retiring. A defeated budget would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to our schools, at a time when, due to looming State Aid reductions to schools, Sullivan West can least afford further funding cuts.
As community members, we all benefit from excellent schools, and we have to think about the future of our schools, and how we can maintain their quality at the highest level, and continue to improve them in the future. This coupled with our fiduciary duty to our taxpayers is our responsibility always.
In my view, this School District budget allows for Sullivan West Schools to continue to strive for excellence, on behalf of all of us.

Rose Joyce-Turner

Let's protect our elderly

To the editor:
The name Virginia Mielski is probably unfamiliar to most of your readers.
Virginia was my mother-in-law who recently celebrated her ninety-sixth birthday.
She had been resting comfortably in a local nursing home until some COVID-19 patients were moved in, and within a relatively short time she contracted the virus and on May 3 she died despite putting up a brave fight to live.
In New York state there have been approximately 5,600 deaths to nursing home residents which is more than the total deaths in other states with the exception of New Jersey.
Why this tragedy? On March 25, the Governor of New York issued his now infamous edict stating no individual shall be denied admission or readmission to nursing homes solely on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.
On March 8, Dr. Thomas Frieden reported that nursing homes are ground zero (on CNN and other media outlets).
On March 18, CDC officials told health officials in the state of Washington that substantial morbidity and mortality might be averted if long-term care facilities take steps now to prevent exposure of their residents to COVID-19. This information was also transmitted nationally via media outlets.
The state of Florida has reported 716 nursing home deaths due to COVID-19.
Why? Because necessary preventive measures were implemented immediately.
It should also be noted that many nursing home executives privately complained of the March 25 order, but are and were afraid to come out in public for fear of retaliation. Imagine, afraid of retaliation!
It is also interesting that area elected officials have been mum on this tragedy.
Yet the one positive spin on this tragedy is that the major news outlets have come together in addressing this tragedy.
Virginia Mielski and her fellow nursing home patients deserved better and hopefully their deaths will encourage us to address this unnecessary tragedy.

Ralph John Savarese

The two Dons

To the editor:
Don Dittmer's letter about Jesus and Satan is beside the point. What does Jesus have to do with a sinner like Donald Trump who bears false witness on a daily basis?
In fact, the original settlers of this great land of ours were less influenced by Jesus than they were by the Old Testament God. They saw themselves as the Children of Israel building a City on a Hill, the New JeruSALEM. In fact, in sermons like “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God,” Yahweh, the jewish God was invoked far more often than the benign and loving Jesus.
The real question is what Yahweh would think of Trump?
So let's reformulate the question and ask if Yahweh wants to dump the democrats and keep his faithless son, Donald Trump, in the White House another four years. My guess is he doesn't. But that's only a guess. Or maybe a wish.
I envy Dittmer being so certain of what Jesus wants for this country. Or what Jesus thinks of Jennifer Young and her liberal views. I wish I could claim such certainty about my God. I can't. No one can, because one of the other Ten Commandments is “I am the Lord thy God.” And only God knows what He knows. If Dittmer says he knows what his God wants, then like Trump, he is bearing false witness.

Judith Maidenbaum

Congrats Capt. Gieger

To the editor:
Congratulations to Jeffersonville native Captain Andrew Gieger for being nominated for such a prestigious award!
I enjoyed reading about his many accomplishments in our military.
We have some fine Sullivan county natives doing good things in our country and around the world and they deserve our respect and our thanks.

Denise Connolly

Working for us

To the editor:
Our state senator, Jen Metzger, represents us tirelessly on issues that affect all of us in the day-to-day. A prime example of this is her work on behalf of our troubled farm industry, balancing the needs of farmers, farm workers and consumers.
It would be easy to make these three groups into opponents, but Jen has worked to validate the needs of all three groups, and to find solutions that recognize their interdependence so that all might prosper.
With the advent of Covid-19, the problems have increased, and Senator Metzger has worked to develop solutions on all fronts: pushing for more direct aid from the USDA; inclusion of farmers into the CARES Act; extension of the Farm Work Force Retention Credit; expanding Farm-to-School and Farm-to-Institution opportunities which would increase purchases of healthy, NY-grown foods to hospitals, nursing homes, state colleges and correctional facilities.
This benefits our farmers, the farm workers, and all of us consumers. Jen works for all of us, and she deserves credit for all she has accomplished.

Kathie Aberman

Phillips for Fallsburg School Board

To the editor:
As a grandparent of two young Fallsburg students, I'm responsible for their home schooling. During the past couple of months I have been teaching them 5 days a week. As a result, I've interacted with 8 teachers (4 dual-language teachers, plus the teachers of phys ed, art, music, and the library). The teachers are doing a fantastic job under difficult circumstances!
My grandchildren do most of their work on hard copies of the schoolwork that the teachers thankfully sent home. I'm also helping the kids work online. This has been a challenge, because each teacher approaches online learning in his or her own way, and not all teachers provide a learning schedule, or priorities. To complicate matters, some of the teachers communicate via an app that is only available to parents. If the homeschool teacher is someone other than a parent, tough luck!
The teachers altogether have sent me 16 recommended educational websites, each with a separate user name and password and many with different pathways for access…a nightmare, especially for kids who are just learning to read! Imagine what it must be like to navigate the system for someone trying to homeschool more than two children, or someone who doesn't speak English well!
The Fallsburg School District recognizes that many of our students have limited resources for working online. The schools sent home laptops for students who needed them and also created internet “hotspots” in some areas. But hardware is only a start.
Some teachers do a great job with online learning tools. Others clearly are still finding their way with the technology. Our school district needs to bring all teachers up to speed with online interactive teaching techniques, not just for emergency situations like this, but for the future.
You'll see my name on the ballot for the Fallsburg School Board. If elected to the Board, I will encourage training for teachers in online learning technology. I will also urge the District to provide guidelines to the staff so that access to the internet will be uniform for all classes.
Please check the box for Stephanie Phillips on your mail-in ballot, and make sure it gets to the District Clerk in the postage-paid envelope before June 9. You'll find information about my goals and credentials at

Stephanie Phillips, PhD

Why I voted “no” on SW budget

To the editor:
For the first time in my 13 years on the Sullivan West School Board, I felt compelled to vote in opposition to the resolution adopting the 2020-21 school budget. In the past, there were individual line items of the budget I didn't agree with, but I supported the overall premise and direction of the budget and always voted yes. I simply could not do that this time as I do not accept the overall premise the budget was based upon nor some of its key details.
First and foremost, the budget calls for a 1.98 percent increase to the tax levy. Doesn't sound like much and in normal times, I would not have any issue with such an increase - if it was necessary to forward our mission to provide the highest quality educational experience possible.
But these are anything but normal times and that is my first and foremost concern with this budget. What is being presented is essentially the same budget that was drafted pre-COVID. It includes no provisions, adjustments or concessions to reflect the drastically different situation we are living in now. In essence, this budget says that nothing has changed, COVID never happened, 36 million people didn't lose their jobs and everyone's financial situation is exactly as it was. That is just not the case and I cannot endorse a budget that fails to represent real-life circumstances.
In particular, this budget includes $425,000 in RAISES for all school personnel. Again, back in February when the budget was originally being constructed, this was not a problem - these were negotiated increases assuming an economy that could sustain it. That is not the current climate. The economy is severely depressed and our taxpayers, many who have lost their jobs or have taken significant pay cuts, should not be asked to pay for raises for school staff. They are in desperate need of relief, anything to reduce their financial burdens. What this budget proposes adds to their financial obligations - it does nothing to help.
That is not my idea of us “all being in this together.” It dismisses the school's role as being a community partner mindful of where the community stands at any particular time. If there ever was a time to step up and be there for our community, this is it. Why would we turn the other way?
I was told that if we went to a 0 percent tax increase this year (what I was advocating for), it would have drastic ramifications for the coming years. Again, if these were normal times, I would fully agree with that futuristic approach. But we are in a state of emergency that calls for immediate action and relief for our taxpayers. We cannot worry about what may happen 2-3 years down the line.
If the federal government had been concerned about the long-term effects of the trillions in dollars they are printing in much-needed stimulus aid and economic disaster relief, no one would have received any assistance. The repercussions of printing all this money will likely be devastating. But that was not the task at hand. Urgent times call for urgent measures - and they certainly call for some type of acknowledgement and action. This Sullivan West budget completely ignores the emergency we are in and facing.
I've been on the Sullivan West School Board longer than any member in the history of the district. I've seen the gamut of ups and downs and how unpredictable events can impact a school district and its relationship with the community. I've always been guided by one philosophy when casting any vote or making any decision on behalf of the school -- does it benefit the most amount of students possible while also being sensitive to community concerns.
While this budget might be our best possible option relative to benefiting our students, it is not sensitive to the needs and concerns of our community. The two must go hand-in hand.
Before you vote for this Sullivan West budget or any future budget, please consider what the budget represents, what it contains and its sensitivity to the community at large.

Ken Cohen

Hold your head high

To the editor:
On this Memorial Day, I first want to thank WJFF and The Democrat for not forgetting the men and women who gave their lives for our Country.
The following is a letter by William Silberman, PFC WW II of Hurleyville. He had a premonition that his 10 man patrol the next day would be his last and yet he, like so many that day, before and since, went willingly into harm's way out of a deep-seated sense of duty to his Country. They did it for you and me. They did it so the generations that come after would be able to enjoy the hard fought Freedoms our Democracy promises.

From William Silberman, PFC.
Somewhere in Italy
January 12, 1944
Dear Mom, Pa, & Sisters,
I'm sure I could express my thoughts better by writing a Jewish letter but time is so short and right now so very precious that speed is very essential. Now I'm going to write a lot of silly things so take it at its face value. If I come out of this alive you'd never receive it but if instructions are carried out accordingly it will be all over with me. I'm only taking this step so that you will all know that I went into this thing willingly and not reluctantly. I was always curious and in this case you would say curiosity was a factor in contributing to my death.
Don't infer from what I just wrote that I was slightly crazy because that would be very far from the truth. I was inducted because there was a war to fight and certainly that wasn't any of my doing. I believed that what I received was written in the cards and nothing would change it. You can also realize that as an American I had something to fight for and because I am Jewish I had something more to fight for. I wasn't going to let somebody else do my fighting for me. Anyway I figured that whatever fate had in store for me I wasn't in any position to change her plans.
I write this so you would know in what frame of mind I was in a day before my buddies and myself were scheduled to go to the front. I'm sitting at a table in a little Italian farmhouse, which is not far from the front. I'm not the only one writing and there are quite a few waiting to get a seat. I wonder if there is anyone else who has the same plans that I have, namely writing in the same view as myself. My morale is high and I feel that luck is with me but anything can happen.
This fighting business is only a lot of common sense and a lot of luck but I suppose luck was against me.
I'm in a swell outfit and since being here have made a number of friends that I know I can count on and naturally vice-versa. Quite a few things might happen, Anne, so if it's God's will I might still be alive but the chances are very slim if you are notified by the government. I want you to feel proud of the fact that I made the supreme sacrifice as they say and you can hold your head high knowing that I never did anything that would make you ashamed of me. I want life to go on as usual as far as the family is concerned and that Chuck comes home and you live a happy and normal life. I haven't any regrets that I can think of and know what life is. I know that it's going to be hard on Mom and Pa but I wish, I mean, I demand that they carry on with their life and not let my death in any way deter them from enjoying a peaceful life. It's hard to explain my feelings because I'm in the best of health right now and only pray to God to be able to write happier letters than this one.
I spent the day by being present at a gathering of our Battalion today and was thrilled by having General Mark Clark present the Congressional Medal of Honor to a lieutenant for doing combat that really deserves far better than that. Four other noncommissioned officers were also given the Distinguished Service Cross. General Truscott was there too and so I feel that very seldom is such a ceremony possible to be seen by a soldier who just got under the wire in being assigned to an outfit. It really gave me a thrill. You'll probably see them in the News Reels.
Tonight I attended the Jewish Services conducted by a Protestant Chaplain. I was accompanied by a staff Sergeant and it relieved me a great deal. There were only twelve of us besides the Chaplain and he also took part in the Services. He's a swell guy.
If you think it's easy to end this letter you're mistaken but end it I must so again I'm begging you. Don't take it too hard and hold your head high. I'm going to do all in my power to do my job and to keep this letter from being delivered but as you see you wouldn't know anything about it if the unforeseen didn't happen.

This young soldier was my Uncle who I was named after. I never got to meet him. He was sent out as a scout on Patrol the next day. He was killed by an enemy company that came up from behind. Although Uncle Willie's body was never recovered, years later another soldier from that patrol said he died when he stood up to alert the rest of the men. He died saving lives.
This is why Memorial Day is special for me and always will be.

William Kapito
Acting Commander of Jessie Brahms Post 206 JWV

Self-serving liar

To the editor:
At the end of his May 5 letter John Pasquale signs off, adding the letters, “BS,” which not only probably cites an educational degree but doubles as an accurate description of the letter's content.
After several paragraphs in which he expands on his professional qualifications, Pasquale parrots the same falsehood often cited by Donald Trump that the media is “feeding us the usual hype” (fake news). If anything the mainstream press, in its zeal to come off as “objective” has often failed to expose Trump for the self-serving liar that he is.
My view of the press' role is that of the premier guardian of our democracy, and should not simply report on what elected officials say and do, but help the public to understand the ramifications of such actions. The media should ask probing, sometimes skeptical questions, and not just powder puff queries like those from Fox “News.”
Pasquale's example of “hype” is when the media often raises the issue of youngsters that are infected or die from the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, Pasquale argues, statistically far fewer young people are adversely affected, so why keep bringing them up? He goes on to denounce mandating that children remain at home or wear face masks and gloves in public since they're at far less risk than older, more susceptible individuals!
As with most of Pasquale's letters he attempts to sanctify his ridiculous and often mean-spirited statements by citing passages from scripture, but in doing so, it provides evidence as to how far he strays from biblical teachings. I don't expect that should Pasquale read my response it will convince him to change his thinking, but hopefully it will help to convince others to join the cause against the miserable Trump cult that threatens our continuation as a free nation and even that of our natural world.

Marshall Rubin

No clue to WWJD

To the editor:
In response to WWJD by Jennifer Young:
It's not bad enough that the cry babies have come out of hibernation for the next 6 months but Jennifer doesn't have a clue as to what Jesus would do.
“Other religions” stone their women to death in public, treat women like garbage and demean them; they get no pass from Jesus for they do not love thy neighbor. Religions that shout death to others, he wouldn't give respect for they go against the Ten Commandments and they don't believe in him.
She forgets this nation was built on Christian-Judeo principles, that elective abortions go against the 5th, “Thou shall not Kill”. She's happy that liberal-progressive-democrats brought back infanticide and “kill at will” abortions. Jesus is appalled because Jesus is pro-life.
Court Justices that are pro-constitution, it's about time. How about accountability on those women that lie, tried to defame another person with their lies, oh that's ok with Jennifer though I know Jesus doesn't approve of this.
I didn't know the Northeast is Liberal? Add in progressive's and their agenda of “get Trump out at any cost” has wasted $$$millions of our tax money, they've wasted massive time with NO results and do nothing for the country.
Guns are severely regulated against the law-abiding, not against criminals and democrats have no idea what “common-sense” is with any issue. Liberals are finding out what their common-sense gun laws are about since they too are buying guns now and have to wait ten days to take possession of them as they don't understand this.
Jennifer has no clue to WWJD, doesn't know Jesus IS Wise nor knows that bad things she is for comes from Satan. She should re-visit Christian beliefs. To say “IF Jesus cared” shows no clue to who Jesus is!
Save us, dump the democrats in November!

Don Dittmer
Lake Huntington


To the editor:
Oh my gosh what is next
Upon us now a shocking hex
Our looking forward to every day
Seems it's just so dark and grey
Vacations all a real bad choice
Stay home some alone, just the doctor's voice
Cancel whatever you made in the past
No one knows how long this will last
The virus far short the rest is all there
Destruction is spreading we all are aware
Follow the surgeons who are helping the sick
If you are far from home
Please get there real quick.

Catherine LoBosco

Give me a break

To the editor:
March ok, April and May still feels kinda cool
June, July the temps go high
My days are in the pool
But this is a bummer, where is our summer
Enough all this distress
It's just not fair
Doesn't anyone care?
At least try your very best
Gimme me a break for goodness sake
I bought a new bathing suit
It's a real bright red and my parents said
In it I look real cute
Well I'll hope and wait a little fate
We still have lots of time
Soon as that hot sun peeks right through
My suit and my pool just fine.

Catherine LoBosco

The Blessed Beginning

To the editor:
Religion is a gift from God
Born a blessing, rest is hard
Must follow Ma Ma's don'ts and do's
As she helps put on your shoes
When you grow and all seeps through
Attending church for sure for you
The priest up front will preach non stop
He's there if you must ask him what
So much more to this sacred life
Soon you become a husband or wife
Never forget the Blessed Beginning
Won't lose I bet, you'll always be winning
Have faith in every direction
Be thankful and look above
Your days and nights I promise
Always full of undying love.

Catherine LoBosco

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