BERLIN — There are three vacant seats and only one candidate on the ballot, but Berlin should get its School Board back sometime between when the polls close at 7 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The five-member board, which hasn’t been able to legally meet since it lost its quorum on Town Meeting Day, will regain it — if only barely — following Tuesday’s special election.
Polls will be open at the municipal office building on Shed Road from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Town Clerk Rosemary Morse is expected to swear in Julie O’Keefe in time for O’Keefe to participate in Wednesday's 5:30 p.m. board meeting at Berlin Elementary School.
Without O’Keefe there would be no board meeting — a fact that has sidelined school directors Vera Frazier and Nicolle Ferrier for nearly two months.
Appointed late last year, Ferrier was elected on the same day the terms of three former board members — Chris Winters, Carl Parton and Peter Schober — expired. None of them sought re-election to what has been a chronically shorthanded board and no one ran in their place.
Frazier and Ferrier have been able to authorize payment of bills incurred by the pre-K-6 district and were able to schedule Tuesday’s special election, but they’ve got a backlog of business to deal with when they meet on Wednesday. Electing a chairperson will be the first order of business for a board that needs to appoint a second Berlin representative to a transitional board that is set to meet at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Calais Elementary School.
Frazier and Winters — the board’s former chairman — had been designated as Berlin’s representatives on a board that didn’t meet until after Winters stepped down and the Berlin board was powerless to replace him.
The transitional board is functioning as a bridge to a new 10-member school board that, absent some change, will be responsible for overseeing pre-K-12 education in what is currently the five-town, six-school Washington Central Supervisory Union staring July 1.
Berlin hasn’t yet been hampered by the fact it is underrepresented on the transitional board, which last week approved the warning for the May 21 special election during which voters in Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester will collectively elect the new board.
However, that could change on Thursday as the transitional board is expected to review a consolidated budget for one of several districts that have been ordered by the state to merge.
The Berlin board is also scheduled to belatedly ratify a recently negotiated teachers’ contract, approve an easement that will allow the town to proceed with a voter-approved sewer expansion project and consider how extensive an upgrade to make to the school’s access road this summer.
It had also hoped to fill two three-year board seats that — barring successful write-in campaigns — will still be vacant after O’Keefe is elected to fill a one-year seat Tuesday.
However, Frazier said Friday there has thus far been no interest in serving on the board that won’t exist beyond this year if the merger proceeds as planned.
Frazier said the board will discuss stepping up recruitment efforts to avoid quorum issues, at least through June, when it meets on Wednesday.