Monday, Aug 21st

Last updateThu, 17 Aug 2017 9am

You are here: Home The Goods Nominating Committee Encourages the Best Candidate to Serve
first
  
last
 
 
start
stop
first
  
last
 
 
start
stop

Nominating Committee Encourages the Best Candidate to Serve

AckermanHere is a response from Edgemont's Marc Ackerman to a piece posted this week about Nominating Committees: Regarding " The View from Edgemont: Do Contested Elections Make the System Stronger ?" by Caroline Tzelios, I agree that it is valuable to publicly debate the merits of the SBNC or any other system that performs a public service to our community. As the current Chair of the Edgemont SBNC, therefore, I feel compelled to respond to and correct several statements contained in the article.

First, it is not correct that the "purpose of the SBNC is to put forth the exact number of candidates for the vacant seats on the Board of Education each year." As a technical matter, the SBNC rules provide that the SBNC may recommend Board candidates for the exact number of vacancies, or less. But more importantly, the true "purpose" of the SBNC -- since its formal establishment in 1958 -- is to provide the opportunity for duly elected representatives of Edgemont's civic associations to encourage qualified candidates to run for the board, and to discuss candidates in a face-to-face setting that encourages debate in a thoughtful, respectful and deliberative manner. The SBNC process serves the community in large part by getting people to step up for Board service, and SBNC members devote numerous hours each year talking to community members in an effort to accomplish this. Even with these efforts, it is a challenge to find enough community members willing to step forward for the vacancies on the Board in a given year. The SBNC helps insure that the vacancies are filled, and that committed, qualified community members fill them.

Second, the SBNC does not operate in the dark. Community members are urged to (and do) participate in the process by serving on the SBNC, nominating candidates, discussing candidates with SBNC members and attending certain SBNC meetings. SBNC conducts several public, noticed meetings throughout the year at which members of the public are invited and encouraged to provide their views on what would make a strong Board candidate. Once candidates are nominated to the SBNC by members of the public, the Committee formally seeks letters of comment from the entire community. Many such letters are received every year and all are considered by the full Committee. In addition, community members are encouraged to express opinions to SBNC members as to particular individuals and/or qualities that would benefit the Board. Importantly, once the SBNC makes its recommendations, the SBNC conducts an open forum prior to the election at which all candidates, whether recommended by the SBNC are not, are invited to present themselves to the community and answer questions from the public. Perhaps the unnamed individual who "had no idea where either one of the [candidates] stood on any issue" would benefit from attending the SBNC's open forum.

Third, the risk of Board elections being coopted by "private agendas" is much greater with contested elections than with the SBNC process. The SBNC process is explicitly fair and non-partisan, guided by a neutral set of posted rules and procedures, and with elected members representing every neighborhood in Edgemont and a wide diversity of backgrounds and opinions. The SBNC even has a high school student that is a formal designee and voting member. The public campaign, on the other hand, leaves the door open to those who would co-opt the election in order to further political agendas that are unrelated to the board candidacies, and even unrelated to Edgemont. This scenario played out starkly when the author conducted a public campaign two years ago, when a small number of Edgemont community members attempted to portray the school board election as a referendum on Edgemont incorporation. This was not only a false portrayal, but a calculated attempt to use the public debate to further an anti-incorporation agenda, with no regard for the detrimental impact that such an attempt could have had on our treasured school system.

Fourth, it is not true that "a Nominating Committee runs contrary to what a democracy is all about." The SBNC process indeed closely resembles democratic processes used commonly in our country. We do not, for instance, select our federal judges through direct election. Rather, we directly elect our Senators, who are charged with vetting and confirming or rejecting the President's nominees for the federal bench. Our SBNC process, in which SBNC designees are directly elected by community members through their civic associations and are charged with vetting and recommending school board nominees, is notably similar.

Fifth, the SBNC process does not discourage diverse candidates from stepping forward to run for the Board; indeed, the opposite is true. A harsh public campaign deters qualified school board candidates from running. It already takes a considerable amount of self-sacrifice to commit the time and effort necessary to serve on the school board. Add to that the potential that candidates would be subject to public attack of a personal nature by one's neighbors, and it is understandable that qualified candidates would hesitate to step forward. True, Edgemont did not "fall apart" when the author ran outside of the SBNC system, but we may never know how many qualified candidates decided that it would be better not to seek nomination to the School Board as a result. Through the SBNC process, candidates can present their qualifications in a civil, deliberative, thoughtful vetting process. Candidates that are not recommended by the Committee are almost always well-qualified and certainly have demonstrated commitment to the community by stepping forward for Board service. Such candidates are encouraged to, and often do, step forward in future years.

The best way to incent the best candidates to agree to serve on the school board is to preserve and continue the civil, inclusive and deliberative SBNC process, and to encourage all in the Edgemont community to participate in it. The historic success of the SBNC process is evident in the highly qualified school board members who have been nominated by the SBNC, and in the thriving of our schools under Boards with members elected via the SBNC process over the past 50 plus years.

Marc Ackerman, SBNC Chair

 

Comments   

0 #6 Edgemont Resident 2011-10-30 08:27
Marc. I attended that meeting when the SBNC changed the by-laws, questions and discussions were cut short. The SBNC did not want an open discussion of their proposed by-law changes at all. Secondly and more importantly, if the village incorporation is an issue that is not in anyway connected to the SBNC (as you say) -- why do you serve on the new ECC village committee while serving as the ECC SBNC chair? Surely this is a conflict of interest!
Quote
0 #5 Marc Ackerman 2011-10-28 01:21
One point of clarification: The ECC by-laws were amended in 2010 to make the SBNC process even MORE inclusive. There had been neighborhoods in Edgemont that went unrepresented on the SBNC because they had inactive civic associations and thus they could not designate SBNC delegates. The by-law amendment allows the ECC to designate delegates from those neighborhoods for one year terms (not "privately", but pursuant to notice, opportunity to comment and a vote at a public ECC meeting) so that the entirety of Edgemont can be represented on the SBNC. As soon as a civic association becomes active again (as happened with Southern Greenville this year), the power to designate SBNC delegates reverts back to that civic association. This process was followed for the first time last year, and the SBNC as a result had a broad slate of designees from 7 of the 8 civic associations, including inactive associations at the time Central Avenue for the first time in recent memory, as well as Southern Greenville. These designees devoted numerous hours and served admirably on the SBNC, and were not once questioned as to their stand on incorporation-- an issue that remains simply irrelevant to the SBNC process, despite the speculative musings of a vocal few.
Quote
0 #4 Calvin 2011-10-27 23:46
I did not agree with the amendment but with many civic association groups inactive at the time, this temporary solution helps put forth a strong BOD for our school system. Yes, at worst, this change could be potentially abused and at best it is a remedy to the apathy or lack of desire to serve. We only have to look to communities in Rockland County and Long Island to see how school system boards can be hijacked and communities torn apart to warn us to have a vibrant and active community. Similarly, to allow any person to run without some community vetting would open the door to unnecessary chaos. I'd personally like to keep Edgemont relatively civilized and a good community.
Quote
0 #3 Emont resident 2011-10-27 23:45
Perhaps the SBNC should be done away with. The only way to avoid these types of conflicts is to have a straight-forwar d election involving anyone that wants to run. What is the harm in having multiple candidates express their views in forums/debates and then letting the community decide? This is a well-educated community which doesn't need a filter.
Quote
0 #2 Something is Rotten in Scarsdale 2011-10-27 23:16
As a Scarsdale observer, it is interesting to note that Edgemont's SBNC, while sharing many of the un-Democratic problems of the Scarsdale non-partisan system, at least questions candidates as to their positions on the issues. This is strictly verboten under the Scardsale system -- the candidate's minds must be kept "pure" until divine revelation provides the "best" answers for the community's problems after they have been placed in office by the committee. IMHO both towns should scrap their paternalistic "electoral" systems and adopt Amerika's democratic system of contested elections that has somehow kept the country going for 235 years.
Quote
0 #1 Concerned Edgemonter 2011-10-27 13:37
This debate is indeed very helpful but some clarification is in order. There is a reason why some people believed that the SBNC selection of candidates two years ago reflected a political position in favor of incorporating Edgemont. After all, candidates Tom McCormack, David Stern and Gerald Stoughton had all served on the Edgemont Village Exploratory Committee (EVEC) and had spoken in favor of incorporation in public forums. Moreover, Michelle McNally, the Chairman of the SBNC that year, had spoken in favor of incorporation in private meetings held in Edgemont residents' homes and her husband had also served on EVEC. Is this just a coincidence?
Also, Mr. Ackerman notes that the true "purpose" of the SBNC -- since its formal establishment in 1958 -- is to provide the opportunity for duly elected representatives of Edgemont's civic associations to encourage qualified candidates to run for the board, and to discuss candidates in a face-to-face setting that encourages debate in a thoughtful, respectful and deliberative manner. Yet, in the ECC Annual Meeting in 2010, the by-laws were amended to allow the ECC to privately appoint representatives to the SBNC in those cases when a local civic association failed to hold a timely election. This gave the ECC unprecedented power to sway the makeup of the SBNC.
Finally, while there are some public meetings, they are not publicized. The key meetings in which the candidates are questioned and the SBNC holds its deliberations are held in private. After the SBNC makes its selection, there is a public Candidates Forum but often, by then, the unselected candidates drop out of the election due to community pressure to avoid a contested election
So the question remains as to whether this is a true democratic process.
Quote

Add comment

first
  
last
 
 
start
stop