When residents of the Rye City School District head to the polls on May 16, they will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed $103.9 million School Budget, an increase of 4.4% over last year which calls for a 3.19% increase in property taxes, as well as the two candidates running for two open seats on the School Board.
Tom Stein is running for a second three-year term; Shaun Kloepfer, who hit the volunteer ground running when she and her family moved to town in 2015, seeks a first term.
In phone interviews this week, we asked both candidates about their backgrounds, work experiences, and goals for Rye schools.
Kloepfer grew up in New Jersey and graduated with a B.A. from Binghamton University. Her background is in human resources, from recruiting to professional development.
“I don’t have a personal agenda,” she said, “but I do bring an ability to look at things from all sides which I think will be useful as the School Board works to provide Rye children with the best educational experience possible.” Her daughters, who are now 12 and 15, have benefitted from their education at Osborn Elementary and Rye Middle and High schools, she said.
Kloepfer leaves big shoes to fill at three City schools, according to our trusted source at the School District. For the past five years, she has edited the Osborn newsletter. She edits the Rye High School newsletter, too. At Rye Middle School, she has served as co-president of the PTO.
“I’m good at editing,” she allowed. Our source believes she will be a good School Board member, too.
Stein was raised in Toledo, Ohio, where his mother was a middle school French teacher and his father also taught briefly. In fact, Stein was once in his mother’s French class. After earning a degree in Politics and Philosophy from University of Pittsburgh, he received a JD at NYU, and during that time he met his wife, Heather.
The Steins moved to Rye in 2018 and have three children at Osborn School. He is now Deputy General Counsel at CLEAR. This spring, Stein is coaching the Tigers Little League team, which was off to a 3-1 start at press time.
Shortly after his arrival in Rye, the School District proposed an $80 million bond issue. Stein recalls thinking, “Huh? Why?” and tried to learn more about the issue, and what the right decision would be. “I attended four meetings, one of which was SRO,” said Stein. “I concluded that the Board’s analysis was spot-on; I’m an attorney, used to distilling and making things simpler.” Stein’s communications to voters were critical to the narrow passage of the bond referendum in the second vote.
His experience led him to seek a seat on the School Board, and he was elected in 2020. The arrival of Covid-19 in the schools further increased his desire to contribute.
His motivation to seek a second term came about because he sees much more work to be done. “There is more construction work to come,” Stein explained. “That has become harder due to inflation.” He cites curriculum and staff development as works-in-progress due to education theories always being in flux. “Teachers and administrators need continuous training. Classrooms have more flexibility than when I was in school.” He believes there must be incremental change that is not disruptive. He sees Reading and Math as the constants in grades K-12 but teaching methods change. “Engineering and Science in the upper grades see big changes in curriculum.” Stein believes changes in classroom teaching reflect changes in how businesses are being reengineered.
Stein knows that the budget is “a little larger than some would like” but that the number is affected by society, inflation.