At its June 15 meeting, the BH-BL Board of Education held a brief discussion surrounding the options it can implement to fill a vacant seat on the board. Per NYS Education Law, the board can hold a special election or appoint a qualified individual to carry out the remaining term of the vacancy (1 year) until the next general election in May 2023. (Per Sections 1709(17) and 1804(1) of the New York Education Law). Additionally, if the board doesn’t opt for one of those steps, the District Superintendent of the Capital Region BOCES would then step in to appoint a qualified resident to fill the vacancy. However, board members feel strongly that it is the board’s responsibility to work together to fill the vacancy rather than have someone outside of BH-BL make this decision for the community.
The board vacancy will take effect on June 23, which is 30 days after (former) board member John Blowers announced his resignation via email on May 24. Blowers, a 17-year member of the BH-BL board, will be recognized for his service at the July 13 meeting. He has moved out of the district and, therefore, is no longer qualified to remain a BH-BL board member.
Also at the July 13 meeting, the board will have a more thorough discussion about filling the seventh board seat. Originally, the board was prepared to collect letters of interest from qualified residents who are interested in serving out the vacant term. This has been past practice in the district when a preterm board seat became vacant due to a resignation. Since then, however, Board President David Versocki has received many emails asking that the board consider appointing the candidate on the May 17 ballot who received the third highest number of votes (Emily Walsh) to fill the vacancy. Conversely, Versocki has also received a large number of communications from residents who expressed they feel the vote results would have been much different had there been three board vacancies at the time of election and are urging the board to consider a special election.
“We appreciate the input from those who have reached out to share their viewpoints,” says Versocki. “Many of which have given the board reason to seek more information, such as time frame, cost, logistics, etc., associated with the options available for filling a vacancy.”
The board has decided it will review the information collected and hold a discussion at the July 13 meeting to help them make an informed decision about filling the remaining year left on the vacant term.
“We recognize there are differing opinions throughout the community as to how to best fill the board vacancy,” adds Versocki. “We also know that the community deserves to hear the board’s open and honest discussion and see the transparency in our decision. It’s likely that not everyone will agree with whatever decision the board makes, but it’s important for the community to see how the board approaches the discussion, weighs the options, and makes an informed decision.”
Given the timeframe and number of emails the board has received, it will be difficult to respond to each one, but it’s important the community knows the correspondences are being collected, read, and shared with the entire board as part of the information-gathering step for the decision making process.