By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON May 22, 2007 Once Sullivan West’s school board filed into the high school’s auditorium in Lake Huntington Thursday, the first of what promises to be many changes became quite evident.
Board President Arthur Norden, who had just tendered his resignation from the board that day, was gone.
In his chair sat Vice President now President Shawn Bailey, who said he’d miss the five-year board member.
Norden, reached yesterday, declined to comment on his reasons for leaving, but board member Noel van Swol said at Thursday’s meeting it had nothing to do with last week’s election results, where three critics of Norden’s were voted onto the board.
During board comment, Van Swol said Norden was dealing with “serious personal matters” and that “the entire community owes him a debt of gratitude.”
Fellow board members Shaun Sensiba and Rose Crotty agreed.
“He was working at an unpaid job night and day for our district,” said Sensiba.
Board members Anna Niemann and Catherine Novak, who often found themselves at odds with Norden, did not offer words of thanks but instead praised the winning candidates and the participation of more than 1,800 voters in a district that serves less than 1,400 students.
“The turnout was phenomenal,” said Niemann, who also congratulated the new crop of National Honor Society inductees.
Most board members also praised Bill Moloney and his team of faculty, students and community members for the recent high school production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Adi Rettoun of Hortonville also remarked of how proud he was of that effort and proved to be the only audience member that evening to thank Norden for his efforts.
Although urging the board not to reopen the closed Delaware Valley or Narrowsburg campuses, he said he was “saddened and shocked to hear of the resignation of Mr. Norden.
“I wish he would have stayed,” lamented Rettoun.
Norden, said van Swol, will receive a plaque for his service at a future date.
But what about a replacement?
Rich Sandler, who will return to the board this July after winning 902 votes last week, advocated for a special election to fill Norden’s seat for the remainder of his term (which amounts to about a year).
The board majority, however, opted to wait until June to make a decision although it will apparently be much earlier than the next regularly scheduled board meeting on June 27.
The board is scheduled to meet Wednesday, May 30 at 7 p.m. at the high school to determine what to do, and it is likely they will choose either to appoint or hold a special election.
Superintendent Alan Derry, who will be leaving himself at the end of June and be replaced by Dr. Kenneth Hilton, said the board has 90 days from the date of Norden’s resignation to pick a successor or choose a special election.
If they do neither by that time, BOCES District Superintendent Martin Handler can make the choice himself.
There’s also a fourth, rarely employed scenario where NYS Education Commissioner Richard Mills picks the successor.
One thing is for certain: Bailey, who lost his seat in the recent election, will not ask the board to appoint him to Norden’s unexpired term.
“I am not interested in seeking that,” he said yesterday, noting the will of the majority of voters.