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Albion Board of Education has new leadership

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 July 2019 at 9:23 am

Kathy Harling is new president; 2 others – Gregg Boose and Joyce Riley – appointed to board

Photos by Tom Rivers: Kathy Harling, the new president of the Albion Board of Education, raises her hand to vote yes during Monday’s board meeting.

ALBION – The Albion Board of Education has new leadership, and also moved to fill two vacancies on the board during its meeting on Monday.

Kathy Harling is the new board president and David Sidari is the vice president.

Margy Brown served as president for eight years. She announced a year ago she would step down as president after the 2018-19 school year. She continues as a board member.

Steve LaLonde was serving as vice president with the plan to take over as president. LaLonde, however, resigned from the board on May 8, citing a busy schedule that made it difficult to put in the time as a board member.

The board meetings have been tense in recent months with the Albion Teachers Association and community pressing for answers and investigation about whether there is a high incidence of cancer among teachers and staff who work in the elementary school. Some of the board members, including Harling, faulted the district’s leadership for not communicating effectively with the public about the district’s efforts to have experts check the building.

The board seemed to be at a stalemate early in the organizational meeting in picking the new president. There are nine board seats and a president needs at least five votes.

There were only seven board members after the recent resignations from Steve LaLonde and Marie Snyder.

Kathy Harling had four votes – Wayne Wadhams, Elissa Nesbitt, Linda Weller and Harling – to be president and David Sidari had three – Margy Brown, Chantelle Sacco and Brown.

Wadhams said he supported Sidari instead as vice president.

David Sidari, a member of the board for 20 years, said he would be an effective president and would have a good working relationship with Michael Bonnewell, the district superintendent. Sidari was picked to serve as the board’s vice president.

Brown said the position is demanding and requires follow-through. She questioned Harling for not completing some course work expected of board members in their first year. Harling, an attorney, just finished her second year on the board.

“Mrs. Harling I believe you would make a good president and I think your heart is in the right place,” Brown said. “I do believe you have within you what it would take.”

However, Brown said she was backing Sidari, who is the longest serving member at 20 years.

Harling said she has completed the coursework for the board members, and acknowledged it took longer than expected. However, she said she is fully committed to leading the board.

Gregg Boose Sr. speaks during the open forum and said he would welcome the chance to be on the board. He lost an election in May for a board seat by 6 votes.

“If elected I would put in 150 percent and do what needs to be done,” she said.

Sidari also made a pitch to the other board members. He said the board president needs to work closely with the district superintendent, Michael Bonnewell.

“I feel I am better to work with the superintendent at this time,” Sidari.

Elissa Nesbitt said Sidari brings a wealth of experience to the board, but Nesbitt supports Harling because she would unify the board and bring “a fresh view.”

The board voted twice and both times Harling had 4 votes and Sidari had 3. That wasn’t enough to elect a president.

Brown asked Harling if she would work closely with Sidari for the betterment of the district. Harling said she would. With that, Brown said she would vote for Harling as president, and she was then approved in a unanimous 7-0 vote with Sidari elected as vice president.

Brown said the district has to move forward and stop the dissension on the board.

The meeting started with two vacancies on the board following recent resignations from Steve LaLonde and Marie Snyder.

Gregg Boose Sr. and Joyce Riley both narrowly lost elections to the board in May. During that election Linda Weller had the most votes with 323 followed by 290 for Sidari. They were elected to five-year terms. Boose received 284 and Riley, 221.

They both spoke during the public forum of the meeting and said they would be willing to fill the vacancies on the board.

Gary Kent, a former Orleans County legislator, said the board should appoint at least one or both of them so there is needed diversity on the board.

Joyce Riley, a former board member more than two decades ago, also lost a close election in May. She said she would be willing to fill a vacancy on the board.

Boose, a retired corrections officer, said the board needs to end the divisiveness and work together. He said he is a model citizen who would be kid focused.

The Albion Teachers Association backed Boose in the May election. Boose said he isn’t “owned” by the ATA and will be an independent thinker.

“I can’t be bought,” he said. “I’m going to do the right thing.”

Riley is a former member of the Albion Board of Education. She worked as a registered nurse and later supervised an ambulatory surgical unit in Washington, D.C., overseeing 200 employees. When she retired, she moved back to Albion in 2015.

She said she has been concerned about the friction among the board members. She is willing to listen and speak her mind when needed.

The board could have called a special election to fill the two vacancies or had an interview process with a chance for more applications from the community. There would have been an interview from the board.

Brown urged the board to fill the positions right away with Riley and Boose, who narrowly lost the election in May and who both have a willingness to serve.

“I strongly believe we have so much work to do and we need to move forward,” Brown said. “I feel like we have been treading water for months and it needs to stop.”

The other board members agreed to appoint Boose and Riley.

There is one year left on Snyder’s term and two years on LaLonde’s. Boose and Riley will each serve for about a year. The remaining year of LaLonde’s term will be up for election next May.

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