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Downsizing Mattituck school board may go to a public vote


The Mattituck Board of Education may permanently reduce the board’s size to just five seats since some members feel the board has worked well with two less people so far this school year.

During Thursday’s school board meeting, members Doug Cooper and Bill Gatz described working with less board members as more productive than with seven members.

“I have some questions I want to find out answers to before I decide,” Mr. Cooper explained, “but right now I’m leaning towards a five-member board. I think it works.”

Mr. Gatz had similar comments and said he believes now is a good time to consider reducing the district’s traditional seven-member board since student enrollment has dwindled. Superintendent Anne Smith said about 1,580 students are currently enrolled at the K-12 district.

While the idea of downsizing was discussed at length Thursday night, not everyone on the board agreed less is more.

School board president Laura Jens-Smith, vice president Charles Anderson and member Barbara Wheaton said they believe having a seven-member board has served the district well.

“I like the variety of opinions and the amount of work can be divvied up appropriately and there’s more than one person on a committee,” Ms. Wheaton said. “I feel like we already are a seven-member board and it would work to leave it this way and encourage other people to get involved.” 

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The discussion comes after two long-time members recently left the board. Jerry Diffley resigned in July and Jeff Smith resigned two months later.

The school board agreed in September to remain as a five-member board and wait until the regular election in May to fill the vacancies instead of holding special elections or appointing replacements.

In addition to those two open seats, Mr. Gatz is up for re-election this year.

While the board is considering to reduce its numbers, those three seats will still be up for grabs this election.

Mr. Gatz and Mr. Smith’s seats carry full three-year terms. Mr. Diffley’s seat only has one year left since he already served two out of the three years of his last term.

The two top vote getters will be elected to three-year terms. The third-place candidate will receive a one-year term.

If the board decides to pursue becoming a five-member board officially, Dr. Smith said that a public vote is needed in order to make the change permanent. Since it wasn’t immediately clear how the district would ultimately eliminate two seats, the board decided to invite the district’s attorney to attend next month’s meeting to explain the process.

Photo: From right, school board member Barbara Wheaton, Superintendent Anne Smith and board president Laura Jens-Smith at Thursday’s meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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