Springville-Griffiths voters will see familiar propositions on the ballot this week in the school district election, as they decide whether to change the school board members’ length of terms and add new members.
District residents will consider lengthening the terms from three to five years and enlarging the board from five to seven members when they visit the polls Tuesday.
In 2012, they voted to shrink the board from seven to five members. They also chose to reduce the terms from five to three years several years ago.
The board’s president backs both of the proposals while another board member opposes both of them. Yet another board member supports increasing the number of members but disagrees with changing the terms.
Arguing in favor of raising the number of members, Delia Bonenberger, board president, believes the change would allow a more diverse set of opinions.
Additional members would also give the board a greater presence at events and more options for dividing into committees.
“Clearly, the more people there are, the better,” she said.
A board member who cast the only vote against placing both measures on the ballot, Kara Kane, would rather wait to see how the group works with five members.
Some candidates ran unopposed in previous elections for the seven-member board. With the five-member format, the board has seven candidates for three seats in the upcoming election.
Kane prefers five members to create more competition.
“By going back to seven, we may have a lack of candidates,” she said.
Covering 141 square miles, the district encompasses the town of Concord, including the village of Springville, and portions of the towns of Colden, Aurora, Boston, Collins and Sardinia in Erie County and parts of the towns of Ashford, East Otto and Yorkshire in Cattaraugus County.
Another board member believes seven members could serve the district better considering its land area ranks among the largest in the state.
“I think seven people really is more democracy,” said Allison Duwe.
As for the term, Duwe hopes to keep it at three years. She emphasized three years is enough time for someone to “get up to speed.”
“A five-year term would represent a little bit less democracy,” she said.
Kane stressed a three-year term gives the board member enough time to learn the position and the voters ample time to evaluate the person.
Considering the U.S. president serves a four-year term and state legislators run for election every other year, she sees no need for a five-year term.
“Things change so rapidly in education that five years is too long,” she said.
She also wants to give residents more time to see how the three-year terms affect the board.
“I think the jury still might be out on whether three- or five-year terms might be good,” she said.
The board’s president, however, favors the five-year term to provide time for each member to learn the duties.
“It takes time to get used to the responsibilities and roles of the job,” Bonenberger said. “You are literally at least halfway through the term before you really understand.”
With three-year terms, three of the five members’ terms sometimes expire in the same year. She finds it unwise for the majority to face an election at once.
“That means it’s very easy this year for the total direction of the board to change,” she said.
Lengthening the terms may decrease turnover, which she thinks will help.
“It will stabilize the board,” she said.