School board elections are coming up next week.
In the past, Albany Board of Education elections were held November in conjunction with the general election. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last summer to shift the board elections to the third Tuesday in May – the same time as the school budget vote. This brings Albany in line with other districts statewide.
New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Tim Kremer has an overview. "Slightly more than half of the school board races this year are uncontested. About 58 percent of them are uncontested. That is, the number of candidates running for the school board is the same as the number of available seats. The total number of school board seats up for election is 1,660. There are 1,742 candidates running for them, an average of 1.3 candidates per open board seat. About half of the candidates who are running for those seats are incumbents who are running for reelection. There are 835 first-time candidates running for school board seats. There were 367 incumbents who are not returning. We have 732 school board candidates who are running unopposed. To our dismay, there are 32 school districts that do not have enough school board candidates to fill all the available seats."
The Bethlehem Central School District is among that 32: Jody Monroe is superintendent in the district near Albany. "So we have two vacant board seats. Two of our sitting board members are not returning, We have one individual who submitted a petition who's running. Obviously we have two seats to fill, so the seats will actually be decided by likely write-in votes, that's the process that we'll follow. Since I've been in the district we've never had this happen and no one can recall this ever happening in the district, so I think this is a first. Last year we had eight candidates running."
In Albany, three of seven seats on the Board of Education are up May 15: two four-year terms and one one-year term. The top two vote-getters each will serve a four-year term. The candidate receiving the third-most votes will serve one year. Again, Tim Kremer: "You have now two people who are incumbents, Ellen Roach and Tabetha Wilson, running for their seats, they wanna run for reelection. Sue Adler, who has been the president of the Albany board, is not seeking reelection. There's a person who is running named Damarise Alexander-Mann, who is running with Roach and Wilson as a slate. There's a fourth candidate running for those as well. Ken Bruce, seeking to reclaim a seat that he resigned last year when the board accused him of a breach of confidentiality in the district's superintendent search."
Bruce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Elsewhere, a teenager is running in the western New York town of Greece. Nineteen-year-old Derek Schrank tells Rochester media the board needs a voting member who can better understand and relate to the student body.
The SUNY Geneseo journalism student says he has already scheduled classes around school board meetings next semester, in case he wins.
Kremer expects voter apathy regarding school budgets to factor in next week's board contests. "804,000 voters turned out statewide in 2012, down to 557,000 voter in 2017, which is a 31 percent drop in voter turnout during this tax-cap era."