Competitive races emerge for potential board seats

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BENNINGTON — The list of candidates for seats on the new Mount Anthony Unified School District Board has been released; it represents a veritable "who's who" of current MAU board members.

Of course, none of these candidates will have the opportunity to fill those seats if at least three of the four towns voting on Nov. 7 fail to approve the proposed merger.

Voting for representatives will take place at the same time as the merger proposal, which would see the Mount Anthony Union, Bennington, Shaftsbury, Pownal, and Woodford districts merged into a single district with a single board.

North Bennington will not be voting, and will see its elementary school district remain independent and non-operating regardless of the results of the vote in the other communities.

Voters in every district will be able to vote on candidates for every director's seat, just as is the case for the Mount Anthony Union board now.

Everyone who is running currently serves on at least one district board.

If the merger is approved, Bennington will have four seats: One one-year term, two two-year terms, and one three-year term.

Current Bennington School District Chairman Chris Murphy is running unopposed for the one-year seat; BSD board member Meridy Capella and MAU board member Robert Plunkett are running unopposed for the two two-year seats.

In the only contested race for Bennington, Jackie Kelly and Chaila Sekora are running for the three-year seat. Kelly currently serves on the BSD and Southwest Vermont Career Development Center boards and unsuccessfully ran for state representative last year. An artist and retired educator, Kelly was a reading specialist and technologist for the Department of Defense for 30 years, teaching children of deployed military personnel in Germany and Japan.

She also worked as a reading specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, instructing students and teaching GED classes to adults on the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Sekora is currently serving her first term on the BSD board and is its vice chairwoman. She served as one of Bennington's representative on the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Study Committee, is the president of Molly Stark Elementary School's Parent-Teacher Group, and was part of the principal search committee that eventually recommended Michael Mugits as Molly Stark's principal.

Not running from Bennington are current BSD board members George Sleeman, Dan Monks, and Jackie Prue. The latter chaired the first two iterations of the SVSU's Act 46 Study Committee.

Also not running are Bennington's other representatives on the MAU board, Dave Fredrickson, Kevin Goodhue, and Ed Letourneau.

Pownal would have two seats on the new board. Current SVSU board chairman and MAU board member Nelson Brownell is running unopposed for the three-year seat, while his wife and current Pownal district chairwoman and SVSU board member, Cindy Brownell, is running against current MAU chairman and Pownal town Moderator Tim Holbrook for the one-year seat.

Not running are Jon Peaslee and Angie Rawling, Pownal's other representatives on the SVSU board, and Tammy Sohl and Todd Steinhoff, who currently serve on the Pownal board.

Shaftsbury also would have two seats on the new board, and both are contested. Current Shaftsbury chairman and SVSU representative Ed Molloy is running against Shaftsbury board member and Act 46 committee representative Jeff Leake for the two-year seat.

Shaftsbury vice-chairman and MAU and SVSU representative Dave Durfee will be running against former Shaftsbury chairman and current MAU representative Fran Kinney, who also serves on the Career Development Center board.

Not running from Shaftsbury is Shaftsbury board member McEnaney.

Mike Gahan, Woodford's junior board member and one of its SVSU representatives, is running unopposed for Woodford's sole seat on the board. Not running are fellow board members Dick Frantz, who also represents his town on the SVSU board and is current vice chairman of both the Woodford board and the SVSU Policy Drafting Committee; Mark Tilley, Pownal's current chairman, and Ron Higgins, Woodford's former town treasurer and current MAU representative.

No one is running for either of North Bennington's two seats, a one-year and a two-year seat. If the merger is approved and the board is formed, the new board will have to decide whether to appoint people to those seats or to hold a special election.

North Bennington's representatives would only be present on the board to vote on matters related to the middle and high school, as members of the Mount Anthony Union district, and would need to recuse themselves on matters pertaining to elementary education.

Not running from North Bennington are longtime MAU board vice chairman, SVSU representative and Policy Committee Chairman Leon Johnson; SVSU representative and current North Bennington Prudential Committee Chairman Ray Mullineaux; Vice Chairman Matthew Patterson; and North Bennington board members Timothy Schroeder, Maria Scully, and Kim Krall.

The Prudential Committee will continue to meet and oversee elementary education in North Bennington regardless of the outcome of the merger vote.

The entire ballot, which is three pages long and asks voters whether the districts should be merged under the listed terms in addition to asking them to choose directors, is available at local town clerks offices, and can be viewed online at the Bennington town website.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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