Should the Oysterponds Board of Education downsize?
The answer may be taking shape. The district will proceed this academic year with six board members as opposed to seven following the retirement of Linda Goldsmith of East Marion. Last Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a decision to leave the seventh board seat vacant for the 2019-20 academic year.
Ms. Goldsmith had two years left on her term when she retired last month. That term was due to expire in July 2021.
Superintendent Richard Malone said in recent years, the district has struggled to find school board candidates. Since the vacancy came so close to the Sept. 4 start date of classes, board members were unable to publicize the vacancy, which made it harder to find a candidate.
But the decision to leave the vacancy unfilled does not mean the board has permanently downsized to a six-member board, he said. The vacancy will reopen as a one-year term in May 2020. Two additional board seats will be open on the ballot for full three-year terms.
However, downsizing has been “under consideration” in the past and it will be a topic of consideration for the board during the year, Mr. Malone said.
If board members decided to downsize to a six or five-member board, the decision would require voter approval. It would be tacked on as a separate proposition on the May budget vote, he said.
“If there was a final decision, the community must be involved in approving the reduction in the size of the board,” he said.
At the time of her retirement, Ms. Goldsmith told The Suffolk Times she hopes the board puts a proposition before voters to reduce board membership from seven people to six, something she said she’s advocated for. If that proposition were to pass next May, she said, it would take effect in 2021, when her term ends.
The interest in downsizing is related to the small size of the school, Mr. Malone said.
According to the New York Stated Education Department, district enrollment reached 69 total students in the 2018-2019 year.
Mr. Malone made reference to Sagaponack Common School District and Wainscott Common School District in East Hampton, two small-scale districts which only have three board members.
“We want to keep the board in proportion to the size of the district,” he said. “Smaller school districts have a smaller number of board members, that’s evident on the East End.”
The board will reconvene at the next meeting Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.