LES A Big Topic At Katonah-Lewisboro Candidates' Forum

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Left to right are candidates Scott Posner, Rory Burke, Carmen Delessio. Beth Rifkin (right) filled in for her husband, candidate William Rifkin.
Left to right are candidates Scott Posner, Rory Burke, Carmen Delessio. Beth Rifkin (right) filled in for her husband, candidate William Rifkin. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

KATONAH, N.Y. -- Although Monday's Katonah-Lewisboro school board candidates' forum at the Katonah Village Library included time for an array of issues, it was the impending closure of Lewisboro Elementary School that was the most frequently raised.

The closure of LES, effective for the 2014-15 school year, was discussed repeatedly by candidates Carmen Delessio, Rory Burke and Scott Posner. The fourth candidate, William Rifkin, was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict. His wife Beth filled in, but she only participated in opening and closing statements. Regarding the closure decision, she stated what Rifkin previously wrote, which was his opinion that it was "very painful" but also "prudent."

LES parent Larry Martin asked the first question, which was directed to Posner and asked whether he agreed with the closure decision. Posner, while supportive of the closure, was critical of how the school board handled the process. He felt that it should have been known early on what would happen with the money saved from closing the school.

Burke mentioned his opposition to the closure, explained that schools “operate as community centers.”

Delessio, an LES parent and vocal critic of the closure, said that the “process was not good.” He felt that information was being told that was ultimately not true.

Terrence Cheng, who lives near the South Salem-based school, asked about support for alternatives to a closure. 

Burke, while sympathetic, ruled out doing so for the coming school year, likening it to a ship that has sailed. However, he is willing to support reopening it in the future, with a rising enrollment scenario being a reason.

Delessio did not rule out alternatives, although he also expressed concern with the transition.

Posner does not support deviating from the closure and, addressing the controversy, wants the community to heal.

“It's incredibly painful," he said.

Another question brought up was regarding support for a second elementary school closure. With LES closing, Katonah-Lewisboro will be left with three elementary schools.

Burke emphatically ruled out another closure.

“Absolutely not, no way.”

Posner is also against another closure, while Delessio, who did not express support for the idea, would rather have a conversation about it now than in the future.

Another person brought up a question about what should be done with the building. None of the candidates have a firm answer but kept open minds. Delessio and Posner also elaborated on deferring to the public about what should happen. Posner also stated his opposition to selling LES, as well as signing a long-term lease with a tenant for it.

“We need to keep our options open," he said.

Non-LES questions asked include getting involved with state mandates.

The forum was supported by the League of Women Voters chapter that covers Bedford, Lewisboro and North Salem. The candidates will have another forum, supported by the district's Parent Council, on May 15. It will be at 7 p.m. at the John Jay Middle School library in Cross River. 

For Daily Voice's previous coverage of the school board elections, click here. For previous coverage of the LES closure, click here.

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