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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 20, 2009

School board plans public interviews for new member

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school board will appoint rather than elect a new member to fill the seat left vacant with the July 8 death of John Dornbush.

He had served on the nine-member school board, an unpaid post, for 10 years, succumbing to cancer after a four-and-a-half-year battle. Tuesday’s board meeting started with a “remembrance” of Dornbush as his colleagues fondly recalled his contributions.

The school board has until Oct. 6 to fill the seat, according to Superintendent John McGuire.

The board’s vice president, Catherine Barber, running Tuesday’s board meeting in the absence of President Richard Weisz, outlined two options for the board — a special election, where the winner would fill out the balance of the term, until June 30, 2011, or an appointment, where the appointee would serve until the May election in 2010.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders said a special election would cost about $7,000.

McGuire advocated “striking a balance,” urging the board to use a “transparent, participatory process” to appoint a replacement rather than incurring the cost of an election.

He suggested advertising for candidates and then conducting public interviews.

“In a perfect world, I’d rather have an election; it’s more democratic,” said board member Colleen O’Connell. But, she went on, since an appointee would be serving for less than a year, she would support a public process of appointing.

She also mentioned an unpopular decision by Schenectady’s school board to fill a vacancy without an election.

Board member Barbara Fraterrigo said, “You could have a special election at one location...cutting the price to $4,000.”

O’Connell said that could alienate people and the voter turnout would be lower.

“It probably would confuse people,” agreed Barber.

The board unanimously agreed to advertise for candidates, who must submit résumés or letters of interest by Sept. 11 and then be interviewed by the board in a televised session on Sept. 16.

Letters may be submitted online at www.guilderlandschools.org or mailed to Richard Weisz, care of the Guilderland School District, 6076 State Farm Road, Guilderland, NY  12084.

The board will deliberate in private to make its selection, and is expected to make an appointment at its Oct. 6 meeting.

“I wish we didn’t have to,” said board member Judy Slack, regretting the need to fill Dornbush’s seat.

“When I think about John,” said McGuire, “this is exactly what he’d like us to be doing — carry on.”

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