Tedeschi, Miller win BKW seats, budget sails through

BERNE — In a close race, Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board President Matthew Tedeschi won another three-year term on the board Tuesday. His running mate Rebecca Miller won her first term on the board with the most votes. They closely defeated the challenging team, Mackenzie Hempstead and Robin Becker, both first-time candidates themselves.

The proposed $23 million budget for next year, with a half-a-percent tax-levy increase, and a proposition to spend up to $466,000 for five buses both passed; the budget with around two-thirds of the vote and the bus proposition with around three-quarters.

Rumors flew in what became a heated election, although all four candidates said that, after a Parent Teacher Association-sponsored “Meet the Candidates” night, it was agreed that they would contact one another if rumors began to spread; Hempstead said they did just that.

A postcard was sent out last week to residents from the Civil Service Employees Association, supporting Becker and Hempstead and suggesting the district was considering consolidating its transportation department with the Capital Region Board of Cooperative Educational Services, something that both the BKW and Capital Region BOCES superintendents said was not true (see related story).

Miller, a stay-at-home mother, was the frontrunner in the race with 449 votes, closely followed by Tedeschi, who works in insurance, with 438 votes; Hempstead, a former BKW employee who now works for Schoharie county, followed with 379 votes, and Becker, who works for a billing company, had 356 votes.

During the campaign, the views varied between the two teams. Tedeschi ran on his record, saying he and Superintendent Timothy Mundell, who supported the Tedeschi-Miller team, had turned BKW around. Likewise, Miller sees the district as continuing to improve.

Becker said she became interested in running because she saw things that could be improved at BKW, though Hempstead said she saw the district as headed in the right direction in areas like special education.

On Election Night, Tedeschi said he was grateful for the positive support he and Miller received.

“It’s hard in an election like this where so many negative things are being thrown at you,” he said.

After the votes were counted, he said that the goal would now be to “keep going forward.”

He added that the close vote indicated to him that voters need to be better educated and that the divisiveness in the community needs to stop.

“We all wanted the same thing; we all set out with the same goals,” said Becker, which was, she said, to help the students. Hempstead echoed the sentiment, saying before the vote that either result would be a “win-win”

After the results were announced, Mundell said he was grateful for the budget’s support and for all the candidates putting themselves out there. He said that the support for the budget indicates that voters want to help the students with new and continued programming.

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