BENNINGTON -- The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union board met for the first time since elections earlier this month, and elected officers in what turned out to be two very close votes.

With the departure of former chairwoman Sean-Marie Oller, superintendent Catherine McClure asked the board, which is made up of representatives from each of the district boards, to elect a new chair as their first order of business. The SVSU is made up of six members districts, Mount Anthony Union, Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, and Woodford.

Bennington School District vice-chairman George Sleeman nominated fellow Bennington representative and chairman of the BSD board, Ken Swierad, for the position. The nomination was seconded by Larry Johnson, Shaftsbury representative. Mount Anthony Union vice-chairman Leon Johnson then nominated Cynthia Brownell, chairwoman of the Pownal board. That nomination was seconded by Avis Bruce-Hurley, Woodford representative.

Leon Johnson asked the candidates the explain why they would be the best choice to lead the board. "We want to move this district forward," he said.

"I think its time for some new blood," said Swierad, "We're at a crossroads for the SU right now. I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and help this district move forward as best I can."

Brownell stressed the need for cooperation between the district boards, and urged them not to forget about the purpose of the schools. "All the boards need to work for the same thing. The children," she said.

McClure collected and counted the votes, and announced Swierad as the new chairman, having received six votes to Brownell's five.

The race for vice-chair saw three different candidates get nominated. Larry Johnson nominated Shaftsbury chairman Francis Kinney, Woodford representative Dick Franz nominated Brownell, and Leon Johnson nominated Larry Johnson. Larry Johnson, however, refused to accept the nomination. Once again, Brownell missed election by a single vote, as Kinney was elected to the position 6-5. Shaftsbury representative David Durfee was then appointed as clerk by affirmation of the board.

The board also heard from Bob Marine, director of after-school and summer programming, who updated the board on the progress of the 21 Century Learning Grant that the SU had applied for. Marine said that he will find out on April 30 whether the five-year grant, which funds the MOSAIC after-school program, will be renewed. "They feel this area is in need of a program like MOSAIC," said Marine, "They believe that the program is doing good work."

Under the terms of the new grant application, the program will increase from 120 to 128 days, and increase to two hours a day. The summer version of the program will also expand to five weeks. "I'm really excited about it," said Marine, "I think it's going to go, and I think it's going to go well."

Swierad thanked Marine for running the program for the last five years. The board gave Marine, who will be retiring in June, and round of applause, over his laughter and objections. "You have done a terrific job in the five years," said Swierad, "You've done well, and provided good leadership."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB