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Four candidates vie for 3 board of ed seats

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

RAVENA-COEYMANS-SELKIRK — Four candidates will be on the ballot May 16 in the RCS board of education election.

Candidates presented their ideas and backgrounds during a Meet the Candidates Night hosted by the board of education May 3.

Running for the board will be Michael Coyne, Michael Robbins, Jacqueline Kalney and Peter Ross.

Candidates are presented in the order in which they will appear on the ballot.

MICHAEL COYNE

Michael Coyne and his wife Judy live in Glenmont and have a blended family of eight adult children and four adopted children who are students in the RCS district.

Coyne is a retired law enforcement lieutenant/watch commander in the state’s Department of Correctional Services, and formerly served as a member of the board of education in the Cairo-Durham school district. Following his retirement, Coyne worked as a policy analyst with the state Senate and is a former Greene County legislator.

During his time on the board of education in Cairo-Durham, Coyne said the board worked to update technology, bring Advanced Placement and other college offerings, and distance learning, as well as expanded sports offerings to include wrestling and football.

He hopes to bring some of that experience to the RCS district.

“Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk is a great school district that offers so much to our students,” Coyne said. “The commitment to full-day pre-kindergarten is just an example of what we know works and makes a difference. The amount of sports, activities, clubs, the fine arts programs that we offer is another example of what we know works so well for our students. I believe in giving our students the best opportunities we can and never stopping looking for what might be.”

Coyne also said he appreciates and supports staff and administrators, who are key factors in the district’s success.

“I don’t think we need to all new ideas and programs, but rather we should research what truly makes a difference and build upon the strong foundation that already exists here in Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk.”

MICHAEL ROBBINS

Michael Robbins is a former member of the RCS Board of Education who served three terms and is hoping to return to the board. He is a resident of Ravena and an RCS alumnus with four children who works as a self-employed owner of a construction company.

“When I was on the board previously, I focused on buildings and grounds and how we can conserve money and projects and keep the money we have spent on the buildings we have protected through maintenance programs,” Robbins said.

While on the board previously, Robbins also worked on committees focused on teachers, policy and finance, he said.

“If I get back on the board, I want to bring back the focus on education,” he said. “You see the statistics nationally and it’s atrocious. It is 32% competency before COVID in math in fourth grade and it dropped down to 26% because of COVID. That’s scary, to know that three out of every four kids is not getting it in fourth grade.”

If elected, Robbins pledged to serve as “a voice of the public.” Many in the public are not pleased with the direction education is going, he added.

“From what I’m hearing, the public doesn’t really want woke ideology in our district,” Robbins said. “They don’t want transgender girls playing in girls’ sports. If you are a biological male, you play as a biological male, and biological girls play on biological girls’ teams.”

Robbins spoke out against “drag queen story time” and critical race theory.

“We need to focus on reading, writing and arithmetic, and get our kids educated so that they are successful in life,” Robbins said. “If it doesn’t pertain to educating them and making them successful, we shouldn’t be doing it. Not just my views — this is why I’m running again.”

JACQUELINE KALNEY

Jacqueline Kalney lives in Coeymans with her husband and two children, who are RCS students. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and works as a human resources specialist for the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.

“As a human resources professional, I recognize the importance of a healthy and happy workforce and in turn, the difference that morale and employee engagement can make in a staff’s ability and desire to not just show up, but to be the best possible employees who truly want to be a part of making the district as a whole a better place for all of us,” Kalney said. “In a school district, that includes our kids and our community.”

More than half of the required signatures she obtained to get on the ballot in this year’s election came from employees of the RCS district, she said.

“While the voices of all of the community members are obviously important, it’s the people who are both community members and employees who are our biggest assets,” Kalney said. “They are the ones who know the most about what is truly happening and how we can do better. And those are the ones who know the most about what is truly happening and how we can do better. And those are the folks we need to keep.”

Kalney said the district currently has “an unfortunately poor reputation as an employer,” and she hopes to improve relations with the faculty and staff to keep them motivated.

“I promise that a vote for me will be a vote for our teachers, our staff, our community and our kids,” she said.

PETER ROSS

Peter Ross is the only incumbent board of education member running for re-election this year. He is a resident of Feura Bush and his two youngest children attend A.W. Becker Elementary School and his eldest is a college sophomore.

Ross and his wife are both teachers; he has worked in the Averill Park school district for the past 22 years and also serves as a union representative.

“We live and breathe education,” Ross said. “I am engulfed in it every single day.”

As a member of the board of education, Ross is on the board’s buildings and grounds committee, and said that since joining the committee six years ago, in the midst of a major construction project, he has learned a great deal about the process.

“Now that we are starting our next building project, I am excited because I know the questions to ask,” Ross said. “I am confident in the decisions we make and I can bring a lot of that to the table. It is important for a board member to be a good listener, to be a good communicator. When you don’t agree with somebody’s views, listen and learn more, and not just attack in certain situations.”

He said he wants to give everyone in the district a voice.

“I want to know, and I want to hear, and I want RCS to be a safe place,” Ross said. “I want RCS teachers and students to know it’s OK to take risks without repercussions because that is what makes the world we live in a better place.”

The RCS Board of Education election will take place Tuesday, May 16.

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