Voters to elect members of new school district board Tuesday

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Less than two months after Town Meeting Day, voters of the Southwest Vermont Union Elementary School district will be casting ballots again, this time for available positions on the district's initial board. Elections will be held Tuesday in Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford.

Nine candidates are running for eight available positions on the initial board; all are current or former school board members of their respective districts.

The board members will represent their towns but will be elected by the entire electorate, similar to how the Mount Anthony Union board is elected today, according to Derek Carson, public information coordinator for the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union.

Cassandra Barbeau, clerk of the new union district, confirmed Thursday that the election for each seat is by majority vote of the whole district.

"The highest vote-getter, district-wide, will be the winner," she said. "Just a majority vote, district-wide."

Each town will have two seats on the initial board, with terms ranging from one to three years.

Only one seat is contested for the initial board — a one-year term from Pownal. Angie Rawling and Todd Steinhoff, both members of the Pownal School district board, are seeking that position.

Cindy Brownell, currently chairwoman of the Pownal School District board, is seeking a three-year seat on the initial board.

Per the Articles of Agreement for the district, the votes will not be differentiated by town of residence. Each town clerk will report their results to Barbeau, who will combine the totals and report them.

For Bennington, Chaila Sekora and Chris Murphy have filed petitions for one-year and two-year terms, respectively.

Murphy is currently chairman of the Bennington School District board, and Sekora is vice chairwoman.

North Bennington School District residents do not vote in this election, as the district is not one of the four merging to create the new union district.

Tony D'Onofrio and Scott McEnaney have both filed petitions to represent Shaftsbury on the board. D'Onofrio is seeking a three-year seat, and McEnaney is seeking a two-year seat. Both are members of the Shaftsbury School District board.

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In Woodford, both the two-year seat and the one-year seat are uncontested. Dick Frantz, currently clerk of the Woodford School District board, is seeking the one-year term. Susan Hoag, a former member of the Woodford board, is seeking the two-year term.

The deadline to file petitions for seats on the initial board was previously extended from March 11 to March 18, in light of legal guidance that the later date would still fit in a tight timeline to merge the current Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury and Woodford school districts to create the new union district by July 1.

After the initial board is elected, but before July 1, a special meeting will be held to approve the new district's budget for fiscal 2020, which includes the upcoming school year.

At a meeting in March, the transitional board voted unanimously to recommend the fiscal 2020 budget to the initial board as presented.

The two-seat-per-town representation model could be changed only by a majority of voters of the new union district, present and voting at an annual or special meeting of the district to address the issue.

"There's been talk among some current board members about changing the makeup of the board," Carson previously said. "Some people are dissatisfied with the 2-2-2 model. They think Bennington should have more representation, because it makes up more of the student population."

The transitional board met for the first time Feb. 26 after the organizational meeting of the district; Jackie Prue, Ed Molloy, Tammy Sohl, Brownell, Frantz, McEnaney and Murphy were all sworn in. Mark Tilley, chairman of the Woodford board, was absent.

All transitional board members are clerks or chairs of their respective district boards.

The transitional board, which currently governs the district, will disband after the initial board is elected and sworn in.

Polls will be open in Shaftsbury from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town office at 61 Buck Hill Road, according to Town Clerk Marlene Hall.

Bennington, Pownal and Woodford will hold voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In Bennington, voting will take place at the firehouse at 130 River St. In Woodford, voting will be at the town office at 1391 Vermont Route 9.

In Pownal, voting is at the Pownal Valley Center Fire Station.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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