Purpose of the School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC)
The purpose of the School Board Nominating is to produce the best qualified people to serve the community on the Edgemont School Board. The process is designed to:
- Encourage qualified residents to make themselves available to serve
- Establish a fair and judicious means for evaluating and recommending candidates for the School Board
- Make campaigning less necessary or less likely by ensuring a fair and open process for their nomination.
Organized on a nonpartisan basis, under the sponsorship of the Edgemont Community Council, the Committee interviews each resident who has expressed an interest in being a candidate for the Board. After the interview process, the Committee recommends candidates to fill the number of positions available.
The Committee is composed of nineteen members (not including alternates): two from each of the eight civic associations; two elected by the Edgemont Community Council, and one designated student from the high school student government. Eligibility requirements and rules of procedure are set forth in the Committee’s By-Laws.
The chairman of the SNBC for the 2017-2018 school year is Lisa Decker
More “About” the SBNC
The School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC) is one of the primary reasons the Edgemont school district is top notch. Its role is to recruit people to run for the Board of Education and to provide a vetting process. The vetting process is rigorous and assures that our Board of Education is comprised of high quality people committed to providing Edgemont’s children with the best education possible while balancing the needs of the taxpayers. Edgemont residents have relied on the School Board Nominating Committee process since 1935, with its first “by-laws” adopted in 1958, to do the heavy lifting of becoming informed about the needs of the school district, finding good people to run for the Board of Education, and then rigorously interviewing those people and endorsing those the SBNC determines would make good School Board members, up to the number of open available school board seats.
The School Board Nominating Committee process also avoids some of the challenges that occur in other communities in Westchester. Some of these challenges include 1. School board members who are one issue candidates, 2. Campaigns that can divide the community and can be ugly, 3. Campaigns that can cost tens of thousands of dollars and preclude good people from running for the board of educations, 4. Partisan candidates.
The Edgemont Community Council, which sponsors the SBNC, has occasionally conducted studies to ascertain that Edgemont is well served by the nominating committee and to update the rules if so necessary. The last study conducted by a sub-committee in the late 1990s showed a strong correlation in Westchester between those school districts with some sort of board nominating committee and a high-quality school district.
Many board members, both past and present, have said that they would not have run for the Board of Education if they had to campaign for the seat. They would not have wanted to be part of a campaign process or to spend the funds required.
How does the SBNC work?
Each of the eight civic associations plus the Edgemont Community Council nominates three people from its neighborhood to serve on the SBNC. Two are regular members and one is a substitute in case a regular member cannot fulfill his/her obligations. Regular members serve for up to two years (and are often succeeded by the substitute who has been through the process). SBNC members must have lived in Edgemont for at least three years and meet a few other requirements. One of the strengths of the SBNC is that by consisting of residents from across Edgemont, both in terms of age and geography, the group has a wide and deep knowledge of Edgemont and its residents.
To ensure that they understand what sort of candidates will best serve the residents of Edgemont, SBNC members attend two meetings in the fall to learn about what makes a strong Board of Education (BOE) member and to discuss possible candidates. At the first meeting, the president of the current BOE engages in a discussion to educate the SBNC members on the role of BOE members and to answer questions. SBNC members are also required to attend at least three BOE meetings each year so that they understand the issues facing the district and how the current board functions. Armed with a good understanding of the district, they then encourage people to consider coming before the SBNC and if selected run for the board as an endorsed candidate.
There is strict confidentially within the SBNC to elicit open conversation about possible candidates through the entire SBNC process.
Each prospective candidate is required to have a nominating letter which details qualifications for serving which are laid out in the By-Laws on the ECC site. Seconding letters are not required but often received by the SBNC. After the deadline for submission, all letters are read at a public meeting. Then the SBNC meets to interview each nominee. Nominees are asked a series of questions by SBNC board members over the course of about an hour. They are also provided an opportunity to give an opening and closing statement. After all the nominees are interviewed, the SBNC meets and conducts a rigorous discussion in which the needs of the district and the composition of the board are considered in addition to the qualifications of each prospective candidate. All interviews and discussion are done in closed session to protect the nominees and to encourage open and frank conversation.
Regular and Alternate members of the committee share equal responsibilities including finding and vetting nominees. However, alternate members do not vote. An SBNC member must be present for the entire interview of ALL nominees in order to vote, otherwise the Alternate member (who must also be present for all of interviews) will vote in their stead.
The By-Laws of the SBNC require that the committee nominate select no more than the number of seats that are open (those to be vacated). If the committee believes that there aren’t enough qualified individuals to serve on the BOE, it is not required to endorse as many candidates as there are available board seats. After it has selected the nominees to endorse (now the candidates), the SBNC hosts an Open Forum where the candidates (including any candidates running outside the SBNC process) are asked questions by the chair of the SBNC. Before this Open Forum, the chair solicits questions from the community at large.
In accordance with NY State Law, candidates can opt to run for the Board of Education without the endorsement of the SBNC as nothing precludes them from doing so. Since the inception of the SBNC, a very small number of people have run without the endorsement of the SBNC and some have been elected. However, each has chosen to get the endorsement of the SBNC when running for a second term. It is worth noting that some unendorsed nominees have decided to go through the SBNC process again and were subsequently chosen by the committee to serve on the BOE.
By convention and acknowledgement that it is good for the school district, most members of the Board of Education serve for two three-year terms. Occasionally for very particular reasons, someone will serve for more. Also, on a rare occasion, a board member will not be re-nominated after serving one term.
Anyone who wants to learn more about the functioning of the SBNC should contact any of the former chairs still living in Edgemont (Lisa Decker, Howard Hirsch, Monica Sganga, John Gerspach, Sarah Stern, or the current Chairman, Andrea Weiss) or anyone who has served on the committee. Also, if you are interested in serving on the SBNC, please contact your civic association or the ECC.