The Sitka School Board on Wednesday delayed action on appointing a candidate to fill a vacant seat on the board, in order to generate more interest in filling what have now become two vacancies.
The move came following the announcement by board president Andrew Hames that he is resigning effective June 2 in order to pursue a teaching position in the district. Former board president Amy Morrison resigned her seat on May 18.
Only one person had filed a letter of interest for the interim appointment to Morrison’s seat. Board member Blossom Teal-Olsen proposed readvertising for applicants to both seats, and filling them at a special meeting in June.
Board member Paul Rioux said there had been some pushback about moving forward with an appointment with only the one applicant.
“We got a lot of public feedback about creating a bigger pool,” he said. “And that’s what that’s why you guys want to do it this way, right?”
Board member Todd Gebler echoed Rioux’s remarks, saying “one applicant is a very shallow pool.”
That sentiment was reflected in public testimony from Sarah Ferrency, a former administrator in the district.
“I just wanted to publicly reiterate the testimony that I made to you via email, which is that I appreciate you considering a wider pool of candidates,” said Ferrency. “Your board policy does state that when making an appointment to the board, the board desires to draw from the widest possible number of candidates. And one simply is not a wide number of candidates.”
Ferrency said that although she personally was not interested in an appointment, she’d spoken to a number of people who were, who were simply too caught up in graduation and the end of school to get their letters in.
The successful appointees would have to win the unanimous vote of all three remaining board members. Outgoing board president Andrew Hames reminded everyone that he and Blossom Teal-Olsen joined the board in the same way two years ago.
“That’s exactly the scenario When Blossom and I were appointed almost exactly two years ago,” said Hames. “There were three members voting. And then also to state publicly that these appointments are only up until the October election, correct? Because I think there was some thought or thinking that in filling the seat that was vacant, you would finish out that person’s term. That’s not the case. I don’t want to use the word temporary appointments, but they are only through October. And then if the person selected for the seat wanted to retain that seat, they would need to run for it. Which is — again — exactly what happened to us.”
The appointees will serve until the Municipal Election on October 4, when voters will elect candidates to serve out the remainder of the vacant terms – one seat would be for two years, and the second seat would be for one year. A third seat, currently held by Paul Rioux, will also be up for grabs this fall. Rioux’s seat would be a full, three-year term.
The Sitka School District office will accept letters of interest from prospective appointees to the Sitka School Board through 4 p.m. on June 9. The list of applicants will be made public on June 10. Written public comments on the applicants will be accepted via email through June 14. The Sitka School Board plans to interview the applicants and select two to serve, during a special meeting beginning at 6 p.m. on June 15 in the District Office board room.