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The Williamsville School Board Tuesday night voted to appoint two new members instead of holding a special election to fill vacancies on the School Board.

The decision, in a 5-2 vote, came after one board member reversed himself on the issue and followed a one-hour debate focused, partially, on whether the district is ready for another election so soon after hotly contested School Board elections last May.

The May 1999 election was preceded by an expensive and at-times nasty campaign, pitting taxpayer groups against school boosters.

Board President Sharon Harris-Ewing argued in favor of letting voters fill the vacancies left by the recent resignations of board members Ralph J. Argen and William Paluch, both affiliated with taxpayer groups.

Given the divisiveness of the past election, some in the community would feel a sense of unfairness, that the board "stacked the deck," if the board fills the vacant positions itself, Harris-Ewing said.

Board Vice President Lee M. Zimmerman added that elections are a valued part of democracy.

But others, including board member Ken Smith, affiliated with the Amherst Taxpayers Association, argued that a special election would be unfair this time of year because many voters leave town in the colder months and would not be around for a special election.

Board member Barry S. Eckert argued the community isn't ready for another election so soon after the May vote.

"Having seen the divisiveness of the last election, I don't think the community is ready to do that again," Eckert said.

Initially, the board voted, 4 to 3, to fill the position by appointment, but Zimmerman agreed to provide the fifth vote, so the measure eventually passed, 5 to 2, with Harris-Ewing and board member Robert A. Schwartz voting against the measure. The board will make the appointments during a special meeting on Oct. 12, when the new members will be sworn in.

The new members would serve through July 2000, the end of the current fiscal year. To continue on the board for the remainder of the Paluch and Argen terms, through July 2001, the appointees would have to run in the May 2000 election.

Three other board seats also will be filled in in May.

As a result, five seats -- a majority of the nine-member board -- will be filled in the next election.

Anyone interested in being appointed to replace Paluch or Argen must submit an application to the school district by Oct. 6.

Applications are available at the district offices, 415 Lawrence Bell Drive, Amherst. They canalso be downloaded from -- -- the district's web site.

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