NA elected board OK needed; could begin in 2012

    Officials at North Adams Community Schools expect to learn in the next month or six weeks the status of a petition that, if formally approved by the state Department of Education, will pave the way for school board members to be elected beginning next year.
    Current board members voted in March of this year to accept a citizens' petition that calls for board members to be elected, effectively replacing the school district's 40-year method of filling board seats by appointment.
    Key components of plan included:
    • A seven-member, non-partisan board.
    • Two board districts (rural and city).
    • Three members elected from each district.
    • One at-large member.
    • Overlapping and staggered terms.
    For more than a year, the Our Children Our Future committee had attempted to persuade board members to initiate the process of transforming the board from an appointed to an elected body. When the board failed to act, the committee circulated a petition throughout the community in an attempt to force the change.
    In February a petition, bearing the names of 1,893 registered voters in the school district, was submitted to the Adams County clerk of courts. The petition was certified by the clerk and forwarded to the board of education.
    The board's options at that point were to reject the proposal calling for an elected school board and allow voters of the school district to decide the issue at the polls; approve the plan and allow it to become enacted; or formulate and submit its own written plan, which would then also be subjected to voters.
    School board members voted 4-1 to accept the Our Children Our Future recommendations. Only Juan Gutierrez, who has since left the board, was opposed.
    Scott Ainsworth, legal counsel for the local school district, said during Tuesday night's board meeting that the state is currently reviewing the petition and will either approve it, reject it or make recommendations to slightly adjust some provisions in the proposal.