This week, school board elections shaped up in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor with a strong showing of candidates in both school districts, which will enjoy contested races on May 21. And that is a good thing.
Contested races, whether for school board, town board or village board, lead to in-depth community conversations that can help focus and inspire an elected body. Contested races also mean there is greater likelihood that not one camp, or position on any one issue, is going to be dominant in the discussion — that chances are the end result will be an elected board with differing views, which is necessary for it to truly represent a diverse constituency.
And that is what we should want, isn’t it? School boards and municipal bodies that don’t always see eye-to-eye, that talk out their opinions in public forum, allow disagreement to be heard and understood, even when it is frustrating.
Contested races also demand more of a district’s residents. It becomes incumbent on each resident who plans on casting a ballot — and the turnout numbers in both Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor remain sadly low — to learn about what the issues are in their school community and where each candidate stands. To help facilitate that understanding, the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) in Sag Harbor will continue the tradition of hosting a Meet the Candidates night on Tuesday, May 7, at 7 p.m. in the Pierson High School auditorium, where those running for school board will be quizzed on a variety of issues in a public forum. Similarly, the Bridgehampton School will hold its own Meet the Candidates night on May 8 at 6 p.m.
Residents in both communities would be wise to turn out and learn more about the people who lead their school districts, which not only serves as the beating heart of both Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, but also happens to represent the biggest number on your tax bill.