Petition aims to stop shrinking Holley BOE

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 March 2013 at 12:00 am
Holley School Board

Photo by Tom Rivers – Members of the Holley Board of Education are shown in a March 18 meeting. Five of the nine members include, from left: President John Heise, Brenda Swanger, Sal DeLuca, Kellie Spychalski and Robin Silvas. Other members include Norm Knight, Anne Winkley, Jack Welch and Dorothy Morgan.

HOLLEY – A petition seeks to stop the shrinking of the Holley Board of Education from nine to five members, a proposition that narrowly passed in last May’s school election.

A petition signed by 108 people was submitted on March 11 to the district office.

Petitioners want to reduce the board to seven members, but no more.

That presents a highly unusual case for Holley, school attorney Jeff Martin told the BOE on March 18. Last May district voters, in a 395-392 vote, approved the reduction in members, to be phased in over three years from nine to five representatives.

Proponents of the reduction in seats say Holley sometimes has trouble finding enough candidates to run for the volunteer positions. Those against reducing the size of the board note the board members serve for free, without a cost to the district. Cutting the size of the board reduces representation and viewpoints on the board, say opponents against a smaller school board.

Most other boards of education in Orleans County have nine members, except for Kendall, which has five.

The first cuts in Holley will take effect when the new school year officially begins July 1. Three incumbents – John Heise, Brenda Swanger and Dorothy Morgan – all have terms that will be up this year. But only one position will be on the ballot. It’s the first step in reducing the board seats.

Martin said it’s unusual to have another petition filed that, in effect, negates part of a petition that was supported by the public and is now in process. He has checked with counsel at the New York State School Boards Association and Holley case seems to be a first.

“It’s something they’ve never encountered,” Martin told the BOE on March 18.

If residents support the new proposition, to be voted on May 21, Martin said that would end the shrinking of the BOE at seven members. However, the board may need to reset when some seats are up for election, so it isn’t three each for two years and one seat on another year. He said the board, if it settles at seven seats, should have two seats up for election for two years and then three seats available on a third year. The terms are all for three years.

If the proposition fails on May 21, the board will continue on the path to five members.

Martin said two seats should then be available for two years, with one seat up for election on the third year.