CONWAY — It took several ballots, and finally a choice vote, but the vacancy left on the Conway School Board by the departure of Jessica Whitelaw was filled Monday night, and the winner of the eight-month post was no other than the former Chairman of the Board, Joe Lentini.
Lentini, who served nine years on the board, including four as chairman, was among three candidates who offered to serve after Whitelaw resigned.
The other two were Jerry Goodrich and Michaela Clement.
Last April, Cassie Capone topped the field in a race for two three-year seats with 708 votes, followed by incumbent Ryan Wallace, 707, and Lentini, 624. In the race for a two-year seat, Barbara Lyons beat Goodrich, 644-455.
On Monday, the three candidates each had time to plead their case.
Goodrich, 57, and his wife Stacy moved here four years ago. They have an adult son and daughter. Goodrich worked for Cisco Systems for over 20 years and leads a sales team for General Data Tech. His wife is a real estate agent.
He told the board that he brings skill sets from “business, coaching, mentoring and parenting roles I’ve had, including leadership and listening.
“The most important thing the school board needs is someone to show up and be there. I am capable of doing that,” he said.
Transferring sixth-graders to middle school, Goodrich said, “From the way I look at it, it looks like it might make sense. I don’t have all the information.” When a school closed, he repeated: “I don’t have all the information.
Lyons said she and Goodrich spent much of Election Day campaigning side by side.
“I just had a question for you,” she asked. “Who were ‘they?’ A couple of things happened while we were there. You told me you wanted to run for the three-year job, “but they told me to run for the two-year job.” …And then another voter came along and said, “Oh, are you the Republican?” I’m so glad they called me last night, I wouldn’t have known. I am here to vote for you. So I just want to know, who are they?
Goodrich replied “they” were “a lovely woman I call my wife” with her stepfather.
He added, “I will take as many directions from as many people as possible. So without naming anyone, except my wife, because she’s my main director. That’s what I’ll stick with.
Clement, 46, lives in Conway Center with her husband, Doug, and their four children. She works as an education technician at Fryeburg Academy and Doug drives a bus for the Jackson School District and is also a caretaker at John H. Fuller Elementary School.
Clement said: “I’m passionate about what’s best for our kids – my kids and your kids, the community, all those things. I have been very open to listening to other people’s opinions, open communication is important. I think I can bring a unique perspective. I have 15 years of parenting experience (and) five years of school experience.
Clement said she had said loud and clear that closing a school should be put to a community vote. “Or at least have their input as an important part of the decision.”
Lentini, 70, lives in Conway with his wife, Ruth. They have two adult sons. Lentini works as a private mountain guide and is also EMT certified.
“Why am I interested after nine years on the board and coming back to fill this position?” Lentini asked rhetorically.
“It goes back to something I’ve always said, the most important thing we do in this country, in my opinion, is education. Everything else is secondary if the children are not well educated.
He added, “I’ve been on almost every committee. I know it well. I could come in now and be on any committee and function for the next six months.
Moving sixth grade, he said, “I always thought it made more sense to me for sixth grade to be part of middle school.”
On the closure of a primary school: “Part of me says, just for financial reasons, it makes sense. But part of me also says it’s a community decision because community schools are really important to a lot of people. And I’d like to think outside the box a bit and think, what else can we do with the unused space? »
When it came to appointing one of the three to the eight-month open seat, board chair Michelle Capozzoli suggested using the same process the board used last November: rank candidates from first to third choice.
Board member Randy Davison then called for nominees, and Mosca nominated Lentini, saying he was “the person I think is going to step in right away.”
Davison said he felt “the board had lost credibility with (Lentini) as a leader. It appears that the council has strayed from our overall goal of educating students who attend Conway schools to spend hours debating the right of community members to be heard.
He added, “I believe the community has spoken” in not re-voting Lentini to the board last April. “For a chairman of the board, not being re-elected, I think, says a lot,” he said.
Capone and Davison said board members received letters urging them not to appoint Lentini. But Mosca said more than half came from nonresidents.
Capone said, “I cannot in good faith go against what the voters have asked for. It was more than clear in this last election that the community no longer felt aligned with Mr. Lentini.
After Mosca nominated Lentini, Capone nominated Goodrich.
Capozzoli, Lyons and Mosca then voted for Lentini, while Capone, Davison and Wallace went with Goodrich. With the vote deadlocked, both nominations were void.
Wallace asked if the Superintendent could break the tie.
“That doesn’t happen,” Davison said. “Politics would be totally at stake.”
“I take offense to that,” Richard replied.
“Alright, we’re your bosses, you’re not ours,” Davison retorted.
Wallace then moved a motion for a re-vote using ranking voting. Mosca offered a second, and it went 5-1 with Davison in the minority.
In the ranking vote, Capone ranked Goodrich first, Clement second, and Lentini third; Capozzoli put Lentini first, followed by Clement and Goodrich; Davison picked Goodrich first, Clement second, and Lentini third; Lyons ranked Lentini first, followed by Clement and Goodrich; Mosca voted for Lentini followed by Clement and Goodrich; and Wallace chose Goodrich, Lentini and Clement, in that order.
Wallace’s ranking of Lentini second decided the vote in favor of the former school board member.
But former school board member and former coach Mike DiGregorio questioned the legality of the vote during public comments.
“I don’t think it will be a legally recorded vote because you haven’t passed the 50% threshold,” he said, adding: “Procedurally, I think what you you did was wrong. And I don’t think that would hold up in court, although I doubt anyone would challenge it in court.
Richard said on Tuesday he had contacted legal counsel Rob Upton for a decision on the vote. On Wednesday, he said the board would be asked Aug. 22 “to confirm the process” used to reach its final vote.
“We’ve used this process before, and nobody objected to it,” he said. “The council voted again for this process on Monday evening. (Upton) recommends that we confirm this process at the next Board meeting. »