NEWRY — If a draft plan proposed last week by School Administrative District 44’s Reapportionment Committee gets ultimate approval, Newry could go from two directors on the school board to three, while the other towns remain the same.

“This increases Newry’s voting power by a factor of three,” said Reapportionment Committee Chairman Norm Clanton of Newry, who also serves as that town’s at-large representative. “That’s a very large increase.”

The Reapportionment Committee, which has three representatives from each town, was tasked with coming up with a voting format for the school board that would give Newry more say in decision-making.

The hope is to encourage the town to remain in SAD 44, rather than withdraw.

The committee is proposing changing the method by which school board members are elected to an at-large, districtwide vote. The representatives from each town would be elected by the voters of all SAD 44 towns.

The plan the committee adopts needs only the approval of the state education commissioner to be put into effect. It does not require approval by the full board or by district voters.

The school board currently has 14 members — six from Bethel, three each from Woodstock and Greenwood, and two from Newry.

Most of the discussion at last week’s Reapportionment Committee meeting centered on whether the total number of school board directors should go up or down in number.

SAD 44 Director Marcel Polak of Woodstock, who has said he has never liked the current weighted voting format of the board, said his criteria for determining a new board makeup included fairness, providing for a diversity of opinions, having enough people to do the committee work, and having an odd number to prevent tie votes.

He said he favored a makeup that would keep the current number of directors from the other three towns and add one for Newry.

Newry Selectboard Chairman Gary Wight agreed, saying that in discussion with Clanton and the other committee member from Newry, Director Bonnie Largess, they had agreed that no town should lose any directors. He also noted that would move Newry from having 6.6 percent of the voting power to 20 percent.

But school board Chairman Larry Merlino of Greenwood and Director Frank Del Duca of Bethel favored a smaller board.

Merlino said it can be difficult finding enough people to serve on the school board. “I think going up in number is the wrong direction,” he said.

He suggested a board of nine or 11 members. A nine-member board, he said, could include three from Bethel and two each from the other towns.

Del Duca said a smaller board would be better able to stay informed of the committee processes because each member would likely be on more than one committee. Right now, he said, the decision-making seems overly split up, with decisions made “by pieces.”

The smaller board would generally be more efficient, he said.

Bethel Selectmen Vice Chairman Peter Southam worried that a nine-member board would have a quorum of only five, and that seemed to him too small to be making decisions on an $11 million budget.

Largess said a smaller board could leave its members spread too thin to do the committee work.

After an hour of discussion, the committee voted to propose the 6-3-3-3 format, with only Merlino voting in opposition.

The panel then discussed possible ways to implement the plan, if it is approved by the education commissioner.

Clanton suggested adopting it as soon as possible, if that is determined to be legal, rather than waiting for next year’s annual vote in Newry to add another director. Polak said Newry selectmen could appoint someone to serve in the interim.

The committee then voted to send the draft and implementation options to the SAD 44 attorney for review. Another meeting will be scheduled after that time.

The School Administrative District 44 Reapportionment Committee met last week to discuss assigning the town of Newry an additional director. The committee members are, foreground, Bethel Selectman Vice Chairman Peter Southam; background, from left, are Norm Clanton, Reapportionment Committee chairman and at large representative of Newry; Director Bonnie Largess of Newry; Newry Selectmen Chairman Gary Wight; SAD 44 Chairman Larry Merlino of Greenwood; Director Frank Del Duca of Bethel; SAD 44 Superintendent Dave Murphy; Neil Scanlon, at large representative of Bethel; Greenwood Selectman Chairman Fred Henderson; and Norm Milliard, at large representative of Greenwood; Woodstock Selectman Ron Deegan; and Bob McQueeney, at large representative of Woodstock; and not visible, Director Marcel Polak of Woodstock.

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