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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, July 31, 2008

BKW school board is out of the rotation

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — In previous years, Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board members rotated through positions based on seniority after being elected to the board by district residents. This year, the board chose its president and vice president by means of a vote among the current members.

“They were forced to it, really,” said Helen Lounsbury, the new president. “This was when I was off the board.” In 2003, the board members thought that more people would run for school board positions if term-length was reduced from five years to three. Voters agreed.

Lounsbury found the five-year terms and rotation system a bit more comfortable, she said. “The first year, you were learning. The second year, you had a little experience under your belt. The third, you would be vice president. The fourth, you would be president. And the fifth year, you would be there to advise the new president.”

One positive feature of the rotation system, Lounsbury said, was that it took the politics out of it, and each member had a chance to put his or her personal stamp on things.

“A lot of people think three years is better, but it takes quite a while to get your feet on the ground,” Lounsbury explained. “I learned that the first time I was on the board. I knew the district inside and out, and I still had a lot to learn.”

Michelle Fusco, the board’s new vice president, finds the idea of a five-year term to be daunting, she said. “Who can predict where you'll be in five years? But I knew I could survive a three-year term,” Fusco said. Depending on what kind of feedback she gets about her job as vice president, and how she feels about her own performance after those three years are up, she may run again, she said.

The board eventually realized that it couldn’t rotate five people in a three-year term, Lounsbury said. The board needed a policy change.

“With the departure of the last of the five-year term members, a rotating schedule no longer worked,” Fusco told The Enterprise. “At first, we tried to figure a way to continue that practice, because it seemed less contentious than elections amongst ourselves. But unless every single member ran for a second term, it just didn't work.”

As it turned out, Fusco said, the election went smoothly.


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