EAST MONTPELIER — There will be a contested race for one of the 10 seats on a new school board that will be collectively elected by voters in Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester next month.
Though the new board will be elected in a new way on May 21, the at-large voting system should only come into play when there are multiple candidates vying for the same seat.
A number of candidates took out nominating petitions but didn’t return them by Monday’s 5 p.m. filing deadline, making Calais the only community with a race that will be decided by all of the voters in the five-town, six-school Washington Central Unified Union School District.
The race in Calais pits two sitting members of the board now responsible for overseeing the operation of the town’s pre-K-6 school against each other. Town Clerk Judy Fitch Robert said Dorothy Naylor and Christopher Cadorette are both running for the same one-year seat on a board that would govern the new pre-K-12 district.
Scott Thompson, who represents Calais on the board responsible for overseeing U-32 Middle and High School, is running unopposed for a three-year seat on the new board.
Though Calais is one of the smaller communities in what is currently the Washington Central Supervisory Union it will have two members on the new board – just like its more populous partners Berlin and East Montpelier.
The trade-off — one some voters in Berlin tried unsuccessfully to change at last week’s organizational meeting of the merged district — is that voters in all five towns have a say in who represents their neighbors on the school board.
It isn’t a factor if you have a slate of candidates that is running unopposed. That is the case in Berlin, East Montpelier, Middlesex and Worcester when it comes to the May 21 election.
Possible races in both East Montpelier and Middlesex never materialized as Monday’s deadline came and went with some nominating petitions not being returned.
It is unclear whether the tight time frame had anything to do with that. Prospective candidates had less than a week to collect signatures needed to run for school board seats in the wake of the organizational meeting at which voters scheduled the election last Monday.
Most of those running — including all three of the candidates from Calais — currently serve on one of Washington Central’s six school boards. Of the 11 announced candidates, nine serve on one of the existing school boards. Seven of those nine, like Naylor and Cadorette, serve on local elementary school boards, while two are members of the U-32 board.
Berlin will be represented by one of each. School Director Vera Frazier and George Gross, who represents Berlin on the U-32 board are running for the town’s two seats.
Frazier, who is now the ranking member of an elementary school board that that has been idle since it lost its quorum on Town Meeting Day, is running for a one-year seat on the merged board. Gross is the only candidate for Berlin’s two-year seat on the merged board that is scheduled to replace the other six on July 1.
Both candidates in East Montpelier serve on the local elementary school board. That includes Chairwoman Flor Diaz Smith, who is running unopposed for a three-year seat and School Director Lindy Johnson who is running for a two-year seat. A possible challenge to Johnson fizzled when Ellen Knoedler didn’t return her nominating petition.
A similar scenario played out in Middlesex, where Town Clerk Sarah Merriman said two petitions were not returned, leaving two members of the local school board running unopposed. Chairman Chris McVeigh is running for a two-year seat, and Marylynne Strachan, who was elected to the Middlesex board last month, will be running for a one-year seat on the merged board next month.
Though most of the new board’s members will have school board experience, the two-member delegation from Worcester won’t.
All five members of the Worcester School Board and its representative to the U-32 board opted not to run for the new board, according to Town Clerk Katie Winklejohn.
Winklejohn said Worcester’s two seats will be filled by a pair of “very involved parents.” Jaiel Pulsmak is running unopposed for the one-year board seat and Jonas Eno-VanFleet is the only candidates for a three-year seat.