Cambridge school board discusses sudden vacancy



Staff Writer

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- The Cambridge Central School District Board of Education held a special meeting Wednesday night following the resignation of board member Peggy McLenithan, to discuss how to fill the vacancy she left behind, but failed to reach a solution.

McLenithan, who took office July 1, 2012, formally resigned Tuesday evening following the board’s regular monthly meeting. McLenithan served just 14 months of her three-year position, and stated in her resignation letter that she "could no longer endure" the dysfunction and conflict between board members.

The remaining four board members are faced with several options for how they will proceed with filling the empty seat, including appointment or by special election. The decision is set to have a major impact in the district, as a fifth member will likely be the deciding vote on a board that has been notoriously divided on major issues over the past year, including on the effectiveness of Superintendent Vince Canini, and amid reports of a rift between board members with varying levels of experience.

If the board does not choose a new member to replace McLenithan within 90 days, or agree to hold an election, the task falls to District Superintendent of Schools James Dexter to appoint someone to the position.

The one thing all four sitting members did agree on was that they did not want to force Dexter to make the appointment, especially after he stated at Wednesday’s meeting he would rather not be put in that position.

Board President Dr. Kerri Brown said she thought holding another election was "an expense voters could do without," and suggested considering the appointment of former candidate Sean Cossey who lost his bid for election in May to sitting board member Paul Baker-Porazinski, who was re-elected by a vote of 718-336. Baker-Porazinski and board member Dr. Thomas Wolski were in agreement that the best option would be to let the voters decide, despite the expense of holding a new election, tentatively estimated at $1,000.

"It’s disquieting to see such friction on the board," said a community member in attendance who described herself as an educator with four decades of experience who does not have children in the district, and at one point said she would go so far as to donate funds covering the cost of a new election. After a near three-hour meeting and numerous failed motions, the board adjourned with no course of action agreed on.

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