Local Volunteers Honored as Champions of Education

Ten local advocates of education, including former school board members, current staff, volunteers, and members of the business community, were honored by the Ulster County School Boards Association (UCSBA) for their commitment to education.

The honorees, each representing a school district in Ulster County, were recognized at the UCSBA’s third annual Distinguished Friend of Education Awards Dinner on May 24 at the Best Western in Kingston. The award recipients were chosen by their Boards of Education.

This year’s honorees are:

  • Ken and Joan Beck, Ellenville Central School District. Both retired Ellenville educators and coaches who positively impacted students’ lives for more than 20 years, Mr. and Mrs. Beck continue to attend school activities, where Mrs. Beck volunteers her time taking photographs for the yearbook.
  • Pattie Steffens, Highland Central School District. A retired Highland High School foreign language teacher, Mrs. Steffens was the driving force behind many events that celebrate diversity and acceptance. Since retiring, she works with students with limited English proficiency.
  • Jeramie Collins, Kingston City School District. A guidance counselor and football coach at Kingston High School, Mr. Collins has inspired students and players to give back to the community and develop leadership skills.
  • Maya Eyler, New Paltz Central School District. As president of the New Paltz Central School District Foundation for Student Enhancement, Ms. Eyler has helped the organization grow and fund education-enhancing, innovative projects created by District teachers.
  • Heather Roberts, Onteora Central School District. Ms. Roberts, a PTA and community volunteer, coach and athletic booster, was instrumental in guiding the construction of a new elementary school playground in the District and in overseeing a highly anticipated annual school science fair.
  • Carl Pezzino, Rondout Valley Central School District. Mr. Pezzino served on the Board of Education and also chaired the Rondout Valley Scholarship Fund for more than 25 years, in addition to being involved in many community initiatives, and inspiring and mentoring students through Junior Achievement.
  • Steve Mower, Saugerties Central School District. A well-known and beloved supporter of Saugerties athletics, Mr. Mower has worked as volunteer manager for several Sawyer teams for decades, and has attended many Saugerties sporting events over the years to cheer on District athletes.
  • Dennis O’Mara (in Memoriam), Wallkill Central School District. Mr. O’Mara was renowned in Ulster County for his contributions to the community and his strong advocacy for students. He was, among many other accomplishments, a longtime member of the Board of Education for both Wallkill and Ulster BOCES, serving for 28 years and 10 years, respectively.
  • Harold King, Ulster BOCES. Mr. King, the Executive Vice President of the Council of Industry, was a key member of the steering committee that brought the Ulster BOCES Hudson Valley Pathways Academy to life, and has provided strong leadership in bringing together schools, colleges, and industry.

Krista Barringer, president of the Ulster County School Boards Association, as well as a Saugerties Board of Education member, said the awards dinner was an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of the honorees who have given of themselves so generously on behalf of students and schools in Ulster County.

“You’re amazing,” Barringer told the honorees. “You have each touched our schools and students and done more than anyone could have asked. Thank you.”

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