At its June 5 meeting, our school board voted to fill the board vacancy created by the recent resignation of Patrick Foye, with a board appointee. The board had other options, one of which was to hold a special election to fill the vacancy. Such an election would, by law, have to be held sometime in July, at the latest. Board members and Dr. Gordon, our superintendent of schools, gave various reasons for not holding an election. The following three quotes appeared in a local newspaper:
"Board member Mark Marcellus said, 'It wouldn't be democratic to hold an election in July when people are out of town.' "
"Superintendent of Schools Dr. Geoffrey N. Gordon added, 'Timing is everything. A small number of people could select a candidate who would not be good for the board.' "
"Board member Jean-Marie Posner concurred, 'The wrong person on the board could cost a lot.' "
I do not take issue with the board's decision to fill the vacancy with an appointee. Since I see no difference between having a school board composed of six rubber stamps for Dr. Gordon's policies, or seven, why should our community go through the expense and bother of choosing the seventh through the election process? However, I do believe it interesting that the elitist and imperious attitudes of our board members and Dr. Gordon are revealed by the above quotes.
I find it comforting to learn that Mr. Marcellus possesses a calendar that informs him which months of the year are more conducive to democratic activities than others and that his calendar also tells him "when people are out of town." My calendar only tells me what months of the year I can eat oysters in. If Mr. Marcellus explained at the board meeting why a vote cast in July is less democratic than a vote cast in May or June, it was not reported in the newspaper. Of course, if he meant that because of vacation schedules, fewer voters might cast votes in July than in May or June, who is he to say that those fewer voters should be denied their right to select the person to take Mr. Foye's place on the board?
And as for Dr. Gordon's comments, I would ask this of him. Would you, Dr. Gordon, in your next letter to our community, after you have finished debunking some more myths, please enumerate for us the kinds of persons who might be elected to the board by the voters, but "who would not be good for the board." We would also be grateful to you if you would enlighten us as to what the characteristics are that make those persons "not good for the board."
Mrs. Posner, being the chairperson of the board's budget and finance committee, usually manages to reference her thinking on important matters to cost. If she informed our community at the board meeting about who a "wrong person" on the board might be, it was not reported in our local press. Like my request to Dr. Gordon, I think that our community would be grateful to Mrs. Posner, if she enumerated for us the kinds of persons who might be elected to the board by the voters, but who would be "wrong persons" and why. I have thought about her comment that a "wrong person" could cost our school district "a lot" and cannot come up with an answer as to how this might come about. Since each board member has only one vote and four votes would be needed to approve any spending proposal, how would a "wrong person" on a seven-member board be able to decide any school district matter that could "cost a lot?" Perhaps Mrs. Posner will explain this to us when she informs us about who "wrong persons" elected to the board might be.
My final comment about the elitist and imperious mindset expressed by our school administrators and school board is this. If you, board members, believe that a special election held in July, with possibly "only" 2,000 - 3,000 voters casting votes would be undemocratic, how can a vote by only six board members instead, possibly be more democratic?