Vote expected on filling Beacon vacancy
The Beacon school board is expected to vote Monday (Aug. 28) on whether to appoint a new member to a vacant seat or leave it open until the election in May.
The seat was vacated by John Galloway Jr., who resigned from the nine-member board in June. If a new member is appointed, he or she would have to run to keep the seat in the spring.
The board said at least two people have expressed interest in the seat but did not release their names.
During their Aug. 14 meeting, board members appeared to be leaning toward waiting until the election. It was noted that the campaign process, which includes submitting a nominating petition with district voters’ signatures, helps candidates prepare for the work that is to come if elected.
“You are a better board member when you have those 100 conversations” while gathering signatures, said Kristan Flynn, who was appointed in 2016 and has been elected by voters three times since.
Alena Kush, who was elected last year for the first time, concurred. Gathering signatures “was not an easy thing to do,” she said. “And it was a testament to say, ‘You want to be a part of this thing.’”
Galloway was appointed to the board in October 2020 and elected to a three-year term in May 2021. In their meetings in July and earlier this month, board members noted the turmoil surrounding the appointments of Galloway and Jasmine Johnson, both of whom are Black, after an outcry over the board’s lack of diversity.
Johnson, a 2016 Beacon High School graduate, was appointed a month before Galloway, who graduated from Beacon High School in 2015. Johnson was also elected in 2021 but resigned in April 2022.
Flynn said Aug. 14 that it was “super uncomfortable” being a white appointee, along with Craig Wolf, in 2016, when two Black candidates, Frank Bugg and April Farley, were not chosen. By 2020, when the board again had two vacancies, “it felt like it was appropriate to make a correction” by appointing Johnson and Galloway to the nearly all-white panel, she said.
Anthony White opposed appointing Johnson and Galloway but has said the board should be consistent and consider an appointment in this instance. On Aug. 14, he said the board could solicit applications but make no appointment if it isn’t satisfied with the candidates.
“I would have been devastated” had that happened when she was a candidate for appointment, Flynn said.
Vice President Flora Stadler, who led the Aug. 14 meeting because Meredith Heuer, the board president, was absent, said she would like the board to also discuss on Monday setting “parameters,” so there are clearer guidelines when a vacancy should be filled by appointment and when the board should wait until the next election.
In addition to Galloway and Johnson, James Case-Leal, in his first term, and Michael Rutkoske, in his second term, resigned in July 2020 and Antony Tseng, in his third term, resigned in March of this year. Rutkoske and Tseng both said they were leaving due to work commitments.
Case-Leal wrote in a resignation letter that he was leaving so the board could appoint Galloway and Johnson, who had both expressed interest in Rutkoske’s seat.