Sag Harbor School Board Discusses Anticipated Trustee Vacancy

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By Christine Sampson

Two members of the Sag Harbor School Board on Monday expressed interest in leaving the board seat held by Tommy John Schiavoni vacant after his expected resignation later this month.

The board has three options when a vacancy arises: It may choose to appoint someone to serve until the next regular election, it may hold a special election or it may leave the seat open. Mr. Schiavoni said in November he would resign because he has been elected to the Southampton Town Council.

According to board vice president January Kerr, a special election may cost around $11,000 or $12,000, and would have to be held sometime in early March due to posting requirements for elections. The person elected to that position would then serve about two months before the regularly scheduled election takes place in May, leaving the newly elected trustee having to run again right away.

That prompted board member Stephanie Bitis to deem a special election “a waste of money.” She also said she would prefer the community to elect someone rather than have the school board appoint someone, so she said she favored leaving the seat open after Mr. Schiavoni resigns.

“I believe that boards are able to function with six members, especially for six months,” Ms. Bitis said.

Board member Alex Kriegsman agreed with her. “Subject to hearing a compelling argument otherwise from the attorney, I’d probably just leave it open,” he said.

Ms. Kerr pointed out that “it’s our bylaws that state we have a duty” to fill a vacancy on the board, but declined to state a specific opinion. “I wanted to lay the choices out there and think about it. We’ll vote on the process to take on December 18,” she said on Tuesday.

On Monday, referring to the fact that three other board members were absent, Mr. Schiavoni said, “There is something to be said for keeping all the seats filled. Tonight, if this seat was empty, we wouldn’t be able to do business.”

Other possibilities exist that could fill a vacancy on the board: The superintendent of the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services could appoint someone, or the state education commissioner could appoint someone or order a special election. Ms. Kerr, however, said she did not foresee either of those options taking place.

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