Board of Education Candidates (2019-20)

Four (4) seats on Cairo-Durham’s Board of Education are up for election on May 21. The terms of Dr. Peter Byrne, Dennis Burke, Robert MacGiffert and Gary Warner will expire on June 30, 2019. Three of the seats are three-year, non-paid terms ending in 2022. One seat is a one-year, non-paid term ending on June 30, 2020. The candidate with the fourth highest number of votes will receive the one-year seat.

There are 11 candidates running for four open seats. The candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot, which was determined by a random drawing (scroll down to read bios about the candidates):

  • Dennis Burke
  • Robert Conti
  • Dale Handel
  • Brock Juusola
  • Robert Poelstra
  • Gary Warner
  • Nicole Maggio
  • Steve LaFever
  • Claudia Zucker
  • Bernadette Gavin-Palmieri
  • Todd Hilgendorff


*If there is no candidate bio listed, please check back for updates (Last updated on 5/8/2019)

Dennis Burke - Dennis Burke has been a resident of the Cairo-Durham School District for the last 19 years. He and his wife have two children who are proud students of CD. Ethan attends the elementary school (3rd grade) and Andrew attends middle school (6th grade); his wife is a Cairo-Durham graduate. Dennis is a union member through his employment at Verizon, where he has worked for almost 23 years. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Network Administration from Sage College of Albany and has recently earned a Master’s degree in Cybersecurity from Utica College. Dennis is running for his third term on the Cairo-Durham Board of Education. He has dutifully and respectfully served Cairo-Durham School District for six years while being on the Board of Education, where he made difficult decisions keeping the students, stakeholders and tax payers best interest in the forefront of his mind. Ensuring all students receive the best education while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers are his main concerns. Additionally, Dennis has been seen playing Santa during the holiday season for the Cairo-Durham Elementary PTA and has also served the Cairo-Durham community for many years as a past Vice President of Cairo-Durham Little League, coach for CDLL and coach for Saugerties Youth Hockey Association.

Robert Conti - Robert Conti has lived in the Hudson Valley and Catskill mountain region for 24 years, where he’s worked as a carpenter, chef, part time for the town of Durham as a data collector, and for a local luthier restoring, repairing and building stringed instruments. He has 3 children: one graduate of the Cairo-Durham school district, one in high school, and one in middle school. He’s lived in East Durham for 13 years .

Dale Handel -

Brock Juusola - Brock Juusola has been a proud member of the Cairo-Durham community for over 10 years. I have two children currently enrolled in the district, with a daughter in 10th grade and a daughter in kindergarten. I am also the father of two graduates. I am a licensed Professional Engineer and a Partner with Delaware Engineering. My civil engineering profession has resulted in 15+ years of experience working closely with various elected boards throughout the Greene County and New York State. This experience has demonstrated that stability, leadership and ownership at the administration level ultimately translates to stability, leadership and ownership at all levels. I believe these three components are the backbone for the continued success of our school district and that supporting and creating the environment to foster these components is a critical function of the Board of Education. If elected, I will work tirelessly to promote stability, leadership and ownership throughout the entire Cairo-Durham community.

Robert (Bob) Poelstra - I am a graduate of Bergen Community College, and took many additional courses at Columbia-Greene Community College. I also have a background in finance. I reside in East Durham with my wife Michele DeCarlo, and we have a family business Michael Dees’ Motel and Country Campsites. We have a son who attends Cairo-Durham Middle School. I have been actively involved in serving the community since I moved here in 1997. Prior to that, I volunteered and coached basketball for incarcerated juveniles. I volunteered and umpired little league games, coached little league, and was the safety director to ensure the safety of our children. I am a past president of the Cairo-Durham Youth Basketball League. I currently serve on Key West Villas Condominium Association Board of Directors. I feel with my knowledge, understanding and appreciation for this community I will serve the district well.

Gary Warner - Gary Warner, current active member of the Cairo-Durham School Board, is seeking re-election. Gary is a 4th generation Cairo resident and CD graduate who is always looking for ways to keep our community and schools safe and productive. Gary works as a Senior Investigator for the State of New York Department of Corrections. He has been a member of the New York State Correction Officers and Police Benevolent Association for twenty-three years. Gary is a member of the Cairo Town Board and acting liaison for the Cairo Police Department and the Town of Cairo. He feels strongly about creating safe school environments that provide security to those entering Cairo-Durham facilities. Gary listens carefully to the concerns of the community regarding school safety, school budgets, and taxes, so that he can bring the information to the board for discussion. He supports respectful classroom environments that promote fairness and accountability for all. Gary and his wife, Marianne (5th generation Cairo resident and CD graduate), have three children: Sophie - CD '16, Gavin - 8th grade, and Drew - 6th grade. Gary would appreciate your support, so that he can continue to support the students, staff, and Cairo-Durham community.

Nicole Maggio - I am a graduate of Cairo-Durham Central School and the mother of three current Cairo-Durham Central School District Students. Steven is in tenth grade; Jenna, is in eighth grade; and Rachel is in sixth grade. Currently, I am the Senior Human Resource & Civil Service Aide for the Greene County Civil Service Department. Prior to having my children, I worked as a Lobbyist for the NYS Teachers’ Retirement System for five years. In addition, I served for seven years as the President of the Board and the Director of the Joyful Christian Preschool at the Resurrection Lutheran Church in Cairo. I have been involved in the Cairo-Durham community in a variety of ways. I have served as the coach of the JV Girls Soccer team and coach of the Varsity Boys Soccer team. While my children were in the elementary school I served on the PTA Board. I was also a member of the Cairo-Durham Little League Board for many years until my children aged out of the organization. I am a past member of the Board for the Resurrection Lutheran Church and am still an active member of the church. I believe that my professional experience and my involvement in our community has prepared me to serve on the C-D Board of Education. I am ready to address the needs of all students in a way that will prepare them to move to the next level, whether that is college or the work force. I’d like to see more continuity and stability in our district’s administration in order to create a foundation that our faculty, staff and students can trust and count on for support. Finally, as a tax payer in this district, I vow to be fiscally responsible while providing the best education for our students.

Steve LaFever - A resident of Greene County and the Cairo-Durham School District for over 15 years. Married to Nancy LaFever with three children, Neil, Eric and Brandon.

Claudia Zucker - I have been a resident of Durham, NY since 1987. Both of my children attended and graduated from the Cairo-Durham School District. My career started as a high school history teacher in New Rochelle. I also substitute taught, at all grade levels, for Cairo-Durham when my children were young. I currently have one grandchild attending Cairo Elementary School and another who will be starting in a year and a half. My ties to our community also include operating my company, Living Structures Hal Zucker Realty Inc. on Main Street in Cairo. We have been a local business for over 30 years, and as a realtor I know the importance of having a successful school district to attract both business and residents. My career also gave me the opportunity to serve as a Director on the Regional Board of Realtors and I therefore w the New York State laws for Boards, as well as the rules governing conduct and procedure. My Board experience has made me familiar with interpreting spread sheets, and developing and managing budgets. Most importantly, I have learned how to listen to all points of view and how to compromise with other board members so that we reach decisions that lead to the best results. I look forward to bringing that experience to the Cairo-Durham School Board.

Bernadette Gavin-Palmieri - Bernadette Gavin-Palmieri is a mom of four children in the Cairo-Durham School District. She also is the Innkeeper of Gavin’s Irish Country Inn and Co-owner of the Irish Tea Shop in East Durham. She is an active member of the Sacred Heart & Our Lady of Knock Church. She has served on many local community boards and understands the importance of including as many individuals as possible to make decisions that are in the best interest of all. Bernadette Gavin-Palmieri would like to see more awareness on mental health and special education for the best interests of all. She would like to see more stability in administrative leadership. Lastly, Cairo-Durham needs to continue and improve to offer the best possible education to all students with various avenues to achieve that goal.

Todd Hilgendorff - I am a graduate of Cairo-Durham CSD and went on to earn a bachelor of science in biology from Cornell University and a master of science in education from the College of St. Rose. For the past 14 years I have worked in the field of education. For eight years I taught middle school science in the Guilderland CSD. I then made the shift to educational leadership and served as high school principal for four years at Greenville CSD before being appointed as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Greenville, a position I’ve held for two years. At the same time, I’ve enjoyed being the Rotary Youth Exchange Officer as a way of building connections between the school district and community. Education is not just my profession, but also my passion. I come from a family where an importance has always been placed on education. If elected to the C-D Board, I will become a 3rd generation board member following in the footsteps of my mother and grandfather who both served on C-D’s board at different times. I value creating relationships between school and community and developing programs to serve the varying needs and interests of our youth. Cairo-Durham CSD faces complex challenges on a daily basis and as such requires a Board of Education that is diverse, collaborative, and willing to put students first. As a Round Top resident, I am interested in becoming a Board of Education member for Cairo-Durham CSD so that I can use my expertise and knowledge of education to serve as a member of a team dedicated to continually improving our school for all students and faculty members.