Editor’s note: This letter is by Lynn James Edmunds, of Wallingford.
What happens when authority is misplaced? This question recently arose with the resignation of George Ambrose, one of four Clarendon school board members. In an article by Jim Sabataso dated March 10th, he points out the statute to appoint a replacement for the school board was changed in 2005, transferring the authority from the selectboard to the school board.
Then when Act 46 changed the configuration of school districts to a multi town structure, the statute was never changed back to selectboards to reflect the inclusion of other towns in the newly formed districts. Consequently, this dilutes the authority of Clarendon to appoint their replacement by allowing other towns in the district to approve or disapprove said appointment.
Presumably the Legislature will be correcting this misplacement of authority by returning it to the selectboard of each town at some point in the near future, but in the meantime Mill River Unified Union School District placed a warning in the Herald on March 13th to fill this position.
Current statute 16 V.S.A. 424 section (a) reads; the school board will appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy until an election at a special or annual meeting is held.
The warning reads; The MRUUSD Board will appoint an individual to the open position at its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, 4/7/2021. This individual will complete the term of the position, which expires on Town Meeting Day 2022.
The warning further goes on to state: if interested, the appointed individual may choose to be a candidate for a term to be voted on in March 2022, running for three (3) years until March of 2025. However, this seems presumptuous, leaving the impression voters of Clarendon cannot exercise their authority to conduct a special election as stated in statute 16 V.S.A. 424 section (a).
To even further misplace or confuse Clarendon’s authority, go to section (b) page 117 of the appropriations bill of Act 154 of 2020; here you will learn the Union School District Board in consultation with the select board, shall appoint a person who is otherwise eligible to serve as a member of the unified union school district board to fill the vacancy until an election is held at an annual or special meeting unless otherwise provided in accordance with the unified union school district’s articles of agreement. Section (c) states, this section is repealed on July 1, 2022.
Thus, like so many pairs of misplaced reading glasses that can never be found when you want to read something, has anyone seen Clarendon’s authority to elect its own school board representative, and does anyone know if they still have the authority to hold a special election if more than one candidate applies?
Lynn James Edmunds