Beacon School Board to Fill Vacancies by Appointment

District residents will be invited to apply

By Jeff  Simms

The Beacon City Board of Education has decided to fill its two vacancies by appointment rather than holding a special election.

Residents of the district who are interested in completing the terms of Jose Munoz and Frank Garnot, who each resigned this summer, will be asked to submit an application and participate in two public forums. The appointees will have to run to keep the seats in the May 2017 election.

Candidates will be invited to participate in a “meet the candidates” forum similar to the one held at Beacon High School on May 11 and to also make a public statement at an upcoming board meeting. The seven members of the board will then interview candidates privately before voting on the appointments.

During its Aug. 8 meeting, the board again debated the extent to which the public will be involved in the interview process, since voters are not being asked to decide who fills the seats.

Board member Bill Zopf questioned the logic of holding a candidates’ event, saying “the public is not going to be giving their opinion” about which candidates are best.

Board Vice President Kenya Gadsden said she’d rather give the public insight into the candidates being considered, even if the vote is ultimately private. “The final decision is with us,” she said, “but we’d be allowing the public to ask the questions they want to ask.”

Anthony White, who is board president, told The Current on Aug. 11 that he hopes to have the vacancies filled by the Sept. 26 meeting, adding that he hoped the public component of the interviews would lend transparency. “What I hope is that the public will know what [the candidates’] beliefs are, even if they can’t make the determination,” he said.

In other business…

  • The board agreed to discuss at its Aug. 29 meeting the five bids the district has received for legal counsel, including from its current counsel, Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert. In recent months, many parents have asked the board to sever its longtime agreement with the firm, and on July 5, the board voted unanimously to issue a request for proposals. That same night, board members extended the agreement with Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert for a year, with the provision that the contract can be terminated with 60 days notice.
  • Board member Meredith Heuer said she would come to the next meeting with a proposed charge for the creation of a diversity committee on the board. The perceived lack of diversity among teachers and administrators has been a frequent topic at board meetings.
  • The board approved its contract with Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA), a firm based in Illinois with offices in Jersey City that will conduct the district’s search for a superintendent. The contract with HYA was for $20,500, down $1,000 from the firm’s initial estimate. HYA will begin interviewing district employees on Aug. 30 to gather information on needs and expectations. The firm will also hold public forums on Sept. 14 at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. HYA representatives say they hope to fill the job by Jan. 1.

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