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Bedford Central's School Board Deadlocks On Picking President

Bedford Central's school board at its July 1 re-organizational meeting.
Bedford Central's school board at its July 1 re-organizational meeting. Photo Credit: Screen shot/BCSD-TV

BEDFORD, N.Y. -- While July is typically a sleepy time of year for school news, Bedford Central's school board is in a bind as members have been unable to select a president.

The board repeatedly deadlocked at its annual re-organizational meeting on July 1, as votes for contenders Jennifer Gerken and Michael Solomon each resulted in 3-3 ties, video shows. 

Gerken was supported by colleagues Suzanne Grant and Andrew Bracco, while new board members Colette Dow and Brian Sheerin voted for Solomon. The votes ended in ties because board member Edward Reder was absent.

Consequentially, the board cannot vote to pick a vice president; District Clerk Carole LaColla said at the meeting that a president must be voted on first.

A void in the board's leadership team was left with the retirements of Susan Wollin and Eric Karle, who for years served as president and vice president, respectively. Their terms each ended following June 30.

After an initial deadlocked round, board members offered comparisons and contrasts to the candidates.

Gerken told Solomon that the president's job involves a lot of administrative work, something that she said he has been uninterested in.

Solomon noted that the president has roles like a chief financial officer and chief executive officer. As a result, he said the president is not so much administrative as it is the “fiscal leader" and an “executive leader” of the district. Solomon also suggested that administrative work could be delegated and streamlined.

With an interest in the district's financial picture, Solomon suggested that it's time for a change in how the president acts.

“I don’t think we need more administrators."

Grant, while speaking favorably about having worked with Solomon, added that she would like for him to be interested in other district issues as well.

“I want to see you just as passionate about curriculum and achievement, communication with the community, et cetera."

In touting Gerken, Grant praised her work ethic and experience on committees.

Solomon acknowledged his interest in finance, adding, “I’ve never pretended otherwise.”

Sheerin, who before joining the board had voiced criticism about the state of the district, said how money is being spent is evidence of policies being implemented.

At one point, Solomon suggested a compromise where Gerken could be president if the board supports him for vice president. The proposal failed to gain traction with the board.

Dialogue among board remembers took brief and testy diversions regarding anecdotes involving Sheerin. Board member Andrew Bracco, for example, accused him of having made statements in the past, such as through robocalls, backed by information that was inaccurate about the district's budgetary situation.

“You just don’t, in my opinion, consistently know the facts behind what you’re trying to express.”

Sheerin countered by recalling a previous board election season and claiming that board members said inaccurate things while in support of another candidate.

Sheerin also alleged that Grant suggested Gerken for president when speaking in a private conversation.

“She said to me, ‘Who will you support? How about Jen Gerken?”

Grant denied Sheerin's assertion.

After taking a final deadlocked vote, the board agreed to name LaColla as chairperson for the meeting, which allowed for her to preside as a president would.

Neither LaColla nor Superintendent Jere Hochman, who are absent this week, could be reached for comment. However, Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark Betz said this week that a president has still not been selected.

The board's next meeting is scheduled for July 20. Video of the previous meeting can be viewed here.?

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