Voters might fill Region 1 seat
School board post could be put on ballot
BY RUTH EPSTEIN
CORNWALL — Voters will have a chance to weigh in on an ordinance that would make the town’s representative to the Region 1 Board of Education elected rather than chosen by the local school board. The selectmen will seek counsel and discuss it at its next meeting on Sept. 17.
A discussion on the proposal that came from Republican candidate for first selectman Kenneth C. Baird and selectman candidate Heidi Kearns was held at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen. Selectmen concluded it was an issue that should be put before voters.
Baird said four of the six towns in the region elect their representatives. In Cornwall and Kent the local school board appoints that person. If the position becomes elected, he said, the town would have the choice of who it sends to those meetings.
“It appears that with the budget being turned down, people are not being heard,” said Baird. “The hierarchy has changed. The board is doing what the administration wants instead of the administration reporting to the board. There’s been a change in checks and balances.”
But Selectman Richard Bramley noted the system has worked since Housatonic Valley Regional High School was established in 1939. He said there’s a long history to the way representatives are chosen. “Ultimately I have no problem with going to the town to see if they want to change the method,” he said.
Bramley said his concern lies with the possibility of all board members changing at the same time. Currently all members are either elected or chosen every two years.
“What’s more important is who is elected or chosen, not necessarily the method,” he said. “I’m undecided how I’d vote. I understand the arguments on both sides.” Baird said if the person is elected, he or she would get feedback from the townspeople, not just board members.
The current Cornwall representative is Philip Hart, who also serves on the local school board. Baird said it might be better to have someone who isn’t on the elementary school board and Bramley agreed, saying such an arrangement is too big a job for one person.
Originally Baird and Kearns had talked about circulating a petition to get the matter on the agenda of the October annual town meeting, but Baird said that wouldn’t be necessary if the selectmen agreed to put it on the agenda.
Members then agreed that legal counsel and other research was needed before bringing the question before voters.
They also agreed that electing a Region 1 board representative would not be on this November’s ballot in the municipal election.
Kearns said there is obviously a disconnect between the board and the voters now. “We should let the voters decide, not just six people.”