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School Board Discusses Election Rules and Admittance of Non Resident Children

votingboothLast May the Scarsdale community was faced with an unusual situation in regard to the election of members to the School Board. Typically candidates are vetted and nominated by the School Board Nominating Committee and designated to fill certain seats on the board. For example if Candidate A is nominated by the SBNC, Candidate A is nominated to fill a specific seat that is being vacated by a current board member.

In the spring of 2018, Alison Singer was nominated to fill the seat formerly held by Pamela Feuhrer, while Woody Crouch was nominated to fill the seat being vacated by board member Art Rublin. When Feuhrer decided to run as an independent candidate for a second term on the board, she had to pick a specific seat for which to run. Rather than run against Singer for her own seat, Feuhrer decided to run against Crouch, leaving Singer to run unopposed.

Feuhrer earned more votes than Crouch and won back a seat on the board. But voters were faced with an unusual ballot showing Singer in an uncontested election for one seat, with a choice of Feuhrer or Crouch for the second seat.

Some felt it would be fairer for candidates to run at large. At the BOE meeting on October 1, the board discussed a rule change that would require candidates to run “at large” for board seats with the candidates who receive the most votes winning the seats. There would be no designation of contests for specific seats.

The Board discussed this at their meeting on July 10 and asked their attorneys for an opinion which is included here.

In a discussion of the issue on October 1, all the board members who spoke favored the change.

Alison Singer said, “I strongly support the move for the board to consider changing this policy. The SBNC process would remain in place. They would continue to name and nominate candidates for every open seat and that would not change.

It is important to remember where this is coming from. It is related to the situation we had last year where we had an independent candidate who was not nominated by the SBNC who chose to run for election

Because of the current policy, which requires the candidate to name the seat for which they are running, Pam was required to choose one of the two SBNC candidates --either myself or Woody Crouch-- which meant that one of the candidates, which happened to be me, ran unopposed while the other equally vetted candidate faced a contested election. I think it was unfortunate and unfair. A more fair process would have been to have all the candidates run for seats at large with the ones receiving the plurality of the votes winning the seats. It would have been a more fair election and given residents a better opportunity to express their preferences.

In no way do I think this change would restrict or invalidate the work done by the SBNC. Their work is a highly valued part of this process and should continue.

I encourage anyone who is interested in serving on the board to apply through the well-established SBNC process.

I don’t think this will change the likelihood of contested elections. What it will do is in the event of a contested election voters would have the opportunity to choose from among the candidates.

For those reasons I think it is important to engage the community on this issue.”

Chris Morin agreed. He added, “The seats are identical. There is no reason to make a distinction between them because we have not had contested elections. Almost nobody understands how SBNC and the CNC and Village elections work – there are few people who follow this. It is very confusing to voters. I think this change would simplify the election and make it consistent with the Village elections.”

Nina Cannon said, “I wholeheartedly agree with Alison and Chris’ remarks. It makes it clearer for the community and for those who want to run independently. I support reaching out to the League and other stakeholders and moving forward with this.”

Board President Scott Silberfein summed up and outlined his next steps, saying, “It sounds like the Board wants to move forward. I will speak to the lawyers about the timing and the wording of the referendum. I will ask for public input and find out what we need to know to post a referendum for a May vote.”

If the board does decide to move forward, a referendum on the new rules would be put to a community wide vote in May 2019.

Non-Resident Students

The board also revisited its policy on the attendance of non-resident children at the school after the untimely death of an employee this summer. The man’s children attended the Scarsdale Schools and under the previous policy they would lose their right to attend the Scarsdale Schools when their father passed away.

After many people voiced concern, the Superintendent and the Board agreed to amend the policy to allow discretion by the Superintendent in these circumstances.

The policy was revised to include the following text:

“In the event that a non-resident child has been attending the District under this provision, and the District employee who is her/his parent/guardian passes away, that student may be permitted to continue attendance on a tuition-free basis for some period of time subject to the recommendation of the Superintendent and approval of the Board.”

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