Although it has become commonplace for a small minority of residents to express interest in running for a local school board post, this year’s turnout is of historically small proportions.
For the first time in 25 years, there won’t be a contested race on the ballot of any of the five North Fork school districts and all 11 open seats will likely be filled by the 11 names on the ballots.
Only three of those candidates, Philip Mastrangelo in Oysterponds, Jason Cooper in New Suffolk and Barbara Wheaton in Mattituck-Cutchogue, are newcomers.
Ms. Wheaton, a retired teacher from Laurel, will likely fill the seat of outgoing trustee Sarah Hassildine, who decided not to seek a second three-year term. Incumbents Doug Cooper and Laura Jens-Smith are running again for the other two seats.
Ms. Wheaton, who taught third grade at Cutchogue East for 15 years before retiring in 2013, said she feels the time is now for educators to have a voice on their local school boards.
“With state mandates as they are, having a voice of education on the district’s leadership team is more important than ever,” she said.
Ms. Wheaton said she was aware of the opening on the board and thought back to a lesson she always taught her students.
“Democracy works best when everyone participates,” she said.
Mr. Mastrangelo, an oyster farmer from Orient who previously worked as a financial broker, is running along with incumbent trustees Linda Goldsmith and Krista de Kerillis for three open seats in their tiny district. The top two vote-getters will serve three-year terms and the candidate with the lowest vote total will fill a one-year term to replace Alison Lyne, who moved out of the district last year.
Mr. Mastrangelo could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Greenport school board president Dan Creedon and vice president Babette Cornine are running unopposed in their district, as are Southold school board president Paulette Ofrias and trustee John Crean.
In New Suffolk, Jason Cooper, who mounted a write-in campaign in 2012 but withdrew after tying with Brooke Dailey, is now running unopposed to replace Ms. Dailey. She said work commitments made it difficult for her to continue to serve. This is the 12th consecutive year an unopposed candidate will be elected in New Suffolk.
In the past five years, just 15 newcomers have run for a school board seat on the North Fork. This is the first time since 1990 that all five ballots will feature uncontested races.
Ms. Wheaton, who’s lived in her district for more than 35 years and has raised children who graduated from Mattituck High School, expressed disappointment in the lack of interest in joining school boards across the region.
“It’s concerning,” she said. “You have to lead by demonstration and that’s why I said, ‘You know what, I’ll do it.’ ”
Elections and school budget votes in all districts are set for May 19.