The School Board Election Fiasco

The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the Gazette.

To the editor:
This week’s Croton-Harmon school board election fiasco raises questions about the competence of an organization which controls a $47 million annual budget but cannot perform basic personnel vetting. To that extent, valid criticism can be made. But some of the discussion and criticism within the Village and on social media is misplaced.

The actions of Jordan Humphrey have drawn welcome public attention to an election customarily ignored by Croton residents. However inadvertently, Mr. Humphrey has sparked discussion—some enlightening, and some nonsensical.

School Board Vote IMG_0962.JPG

The claim that the write-in format means that only a handful of people decided the election is true, but this is no change from what was planned. As of 24 hours before the election, the race was poised to be decided by a single vote: in an uncontested election, every vote cast after the first ballot is superfluous. Even a write-in election with 2 ballots determining the winner is more democratic.

The flurry of online shadow campaigns on Monday night and Tuesday morning was a positive sign. Much like old-style political campaigns, people put forth the name of their choice and most draftees maintained a stoic public silence. Perhaps next year some of those shadow campaigners will consider running and detailing their vision at some point prior to election eve; an uncontested election is no election at all.

Mr. Humphrey deserves some credit. There was an open slot and he—a new arrival to Croton—was the only person willing to step forward. The position is a demanding one focused on nuts-and-bolts local issues.

School board positions are inherently local, and therefore lack the glamour of some other Village elected offices which can serve (and unfortunately, now do serve) as a soapbox for those who want to #Resist. If you have ever watched a school board meeting online, you probably fell asleep long before it concluded. Serving on the school board is a lot of work, with no pay and little recognition by our community: how many readers can name even one school board member?

The Croton-Harmon school board oversees spending which is more than twice the Village budget. The quality of our public school system has a huge impact on our local quality of life and Croton’s property values. Serving as a school board trustee is a job which is thankless but vital, and it deserves better than being treated as a farce.

Personally I doubt that someone who has just moved in to a school district is the best candidate for a position overseeing and guiding the activities of the school system. But at least Mr. Humphrey was willing to serve, and hopefully the spotlight placed on this office will inspire other people to consider service in future years.

Paul Steinberg