New member on school board

SARANAC LAKE – The Saranac Lake school board had a busy night on Tuesday, appointing a new president and vice president, swearing in two new board members and deciding to appoint a replacement to fill an empty seat instead of having an election.

Kelly Morgan and Aurora White were sworn in for a three-year term to the board.

Clyde Baker was chosen to be the board’s new president and Miles Van Nortwick was chosed to be vice president. Baker was previously vice president. He takes the position after the former President, Debra Lennon, resigned due to a family member’s health issue.

Baker and Van Nortwick were selected by a 5-1 vote with board member Katie Fischer as the only no vote for each.

Fischer said after the meeting she did not vote for either Baker or Van Nortwick because both have wives who work as faculty in the school district.

“I think it’s a conflict of interest,” Fischer said. “It’s nothing personal, I like them both.”

Public comment

At the public comment session people discussed their opinions of how the board should resolve Lennon’s vacancy.

Susan Waters spoke first. She was in favor of nominating one of the former board members who recently lost an election, either Lisa Paschke or Terry Tubridy.

Debbie Kanze said there “was a really large gap in votes” and that the board should open the appointment up to the whole community and not just one of the former board members. On election night Morgan received 787 votes, and White received 494. Paschke claimed 250 and Tubridy 246.

“There may be some people out there we don’t know who might step up,” Kanze said.

Laura-Jean Swanson said “another election would be costly” and instead favored the board choosing the third highest vote-getter, Paschke.

Sunita Halaz said “the community has lost its faith in the budget process.” She also had an interest in the school board position.

Tracey Shrader said the board should give the position to the third highest vote-getter.

Board’s decision

After a vigorous debate, the board unanimously decided to appoint a member of the community to fill Lennon’s one-year term, instead of having an election, which they said would be too costly. Assistant Superintendent Dan Bower said an election typically costs $2,500.

Baker said he favored creating an open appointment process instead of electing a former board member, saying it was the “most fair” way to handle the situation.

“I think it would be insulting to voters to appoint one of those (former board members),” Baker said.

Van Nortwick said the vote difference between Paschke and Tubridy was too close to pick one of the two. Fischer was in favor of giving the position to Paschke. White, Morgan and board member Shir Filler wanted an open appointment process. Filler warned the board that an appointment could “appear underhanded” to the community.

The board also decided there would be a nearly four-week period for interested people to send their letters of interest to the school board clerk’s office. The deadline for submitting a letter is July 25, they decided. After that, the board will review the letters at the same time and make a decision.

Letters should be sent to the District Clerk Christine Fransen at fransenchr@slcs.org.