BERLIN — They haven’t met since before Town Meeting Day, but Berlin’s two remaining school directors have communicated, and the next stop in their quest for a quorum will be April 23.
Town Clerk Rosemary Morse said Tuesday that’s when School Directors Vera Frazier and Nicolle Ferrier have agreed to schedule a special election for three vacant seats on the five-member board.
Now comes the hard part.
“We need a candidate,” Morse said.
Prospective candidates don’t have much time to contemplate running for one of three vacant seats previously held by the board’s former chairman, Chris Winters, and two members — Carl Parton and Peter Schober — who, like Ferrier, were appointed to fill vacancies last year.
All three chose not to run in March, and no one stepped up to replace them, leaving Frazier and Ferrier unable to make any school-related decisions. They can pay the district’s bills and warn a special election, but they can’t restore their quorum by appointing someone to fill one of the three vacancies.
Voters will have to decide that, and Morse said they’ll get their chance when the polls open at the town offices on April 23 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Morse isn’t expecting a huge turnout for a special election held two weeks after voters weigh in the budget proposed for U-32 Middle and High School on April 9. Though she has to invest in machine-counted ballots for the U-32 vote, Morse said she’ll settle for hand-counted ballots to determine who serves on the School Board.
Morse said three candidates would be nice, but one will do because it would create a quorum and enable the board to appoint people to fill the two remaining vacancies.
“If we could just get somebody to run, we’d be all set,” she said.
According to Morse, Frazier has someone in mind and has taken out a petition to be signed by 20 registered voters in Berlin and returned to her office by 5 p.m. next Monday. If no one turns in a valid petition, no candidates’ names will appear on the April 23 ballot, and the only avenue for filling one or more of the seats will be by 20 write-in votes.
Morse briefly flirted with an April 16 special election, but that would have required petitions to be filed by 5 p.m. Monday. That timeframe was considered too tight given the need to collect signatures.
The School Board was scheduled to meet on Monday, but the absence of a quorum made that impossible. The meeting, which would have included electing a new chairperson, was canceled. No new meetings will be scheduled until a third member is elected.