The Riverhead Board of Education has decided to appoint people to fill the vacancies left by the resignations of Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Amelia Lantz last month.
In a four to one vote, with member Laurie Downs opposed, the board decided it will appoint people to serve until the 2018 election.
“I still do believe we should appoint in the next few weeks,” board vice president Susan Koukounas said. “Showing that, as we have two new members with positive, constructive outlooks looking out for the school district and the community, the community at large will come forward. This would be the opportunity for them to do so.”
The Board of Education is inviting interested individuals to submit a one-page letter to district clerk Barbara O’Kula introducing themselves and explaining why they want to serve. Letters are due no later than July 27.
Board members will then hold a special meeting to consider the applications and expect to appoint two new members at their regular meeting on Aug. 15.
The board had three options following the resignations: appointing people to serve until May 2018, holding a special election to fill the positions, or leaving the seats vacant until May 2018.
A special election, which Ms. Downs called for, would have cost the district an estimated $12,000 to $15,000, Superintendent Nancy Carney explained in a presentation at Wednesday’s special Board of Education meeting.
“I still think we should hold an election,” Ms. Downs said. “We don’t have to spend the whole $15,000. We can hold it [at the high school], we don’t have to have all seven schools with people in it. We just hold it in one school, that would save a significant amount of money. I do believe it’s the public’s choice. It shouldn’t be me picking someone to sit with me.”
Greg Fischer of Calverton, who ran for the school board in May 2017 and lost, agreed with Ms. Downs.
Ms. Carney also said a special election would delay the appointments by about a month since the district would have to post a legal ad giving at least 45 days’ notice, making Sept. 14 the earliest possible election date.
“If we appoint we could potentially be swearing in our new trustees for the Aug. 15 meeting,” board president Greg Meyer said. “I am in favor of that. Some of the past meetings we’ve had some of the community has said make it happen quick. We all realize we need to try and get it going as quick as possible.”
Some community members called for the district to appoint Yolanda Thompson and Mr. Fischer, the candidates who received the fourth and fifth most votes in the last election and therefore weren’t appointed to the board at that time.
“I’d like to suggest that you go ahead and appoint Yolanda Thompson and Greg Fischer, since they cared enough to run and they got quite a few votes at that last election,” said Sal Mastropaolo of Calverton. “You should at least give them the benefit and appoint them and save the $12,000 to $15,000.”
Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse resigned with one year left on her term, and Ms. Lantz with two. Their replacements will serve until May 2018 and will be up for public election at that time. With another current board member’s three-year term expiring in May, the top vote-getter in that election will serve the balance of Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse’s term, through July 1, and then begin a full-three year term.
The second-highest finisher will serve a three-year term starting July 1, and the third-highest vote getter will serve the remaining year of Ms. Lantz’s term, starting immediately after the election, Ms. Carney said.
Board of Education members are volunteers from the community who serve without pay. Board members must reside in the Riverhead Central School District, be at least 18 years old and be citizens of the United States, the district said in a release.
Letters of interest can be emailed to Ms. O’Kula at [email protected] or mailed to her at 700 Osborn Ave., Riverhead, NY 11901.
Photo caption: The Riverhead School Board at Wednesday morning’s meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith)