Reacting to the of Walter Ejnes, the West Hempstead school board appointed a new president Wednesday night and discussed how to handle the vacant seat.
James Mariano, who had been serving as vice president, was elected president and was selected for the VP title.
Reflecting on Ejnes' five years on the board, Mariano said, "He was one of the best board members I ever worked with. He was independent. He was for the kids and I learned a lot from him. I'm really going to miss him.”
Ejnes was first elected to the board in 2009, defeating incumbent Vincent Trocchia, who had served since 1990. "He had to really fill a big pair of shoes ... and he exceeded expectations," Mariano added.
Ironically, Trocchia's name came up again during Wednesday's meeting when Trustee Carole Rilling presented a proposal to appoint him to Ejnes' vacant seat.
It was almost a year ago that Trocchia was appointed to the seat vacated by Anthony Brita last summer. He served on the board from Sept. 20, 2011 until May 15, 2012, when Brohm was elected to the position. (Trocchia withdrew his application to run for the seat after he saw Brohm would be a good fit, according to Mariano.)
Rilling said Trocchia has both past and recent experience, making him an asset for upcoming contract negotiations and deciding the fate of Marian Delaney School. Mariano and Trustee Pamela Lottito also spoke highly of him, and along with Rilling, voted in favor of his appointment. However, with Cynthia DiMiceli voting ‘No,’ Brohm abstaining and Rudy Schindler absent, the proposal failed.
"I don't know if experience is the answer," DiMiceli said referring to Trocchia. "What about the three other candidates who just ran [and earned votes from residents] in the recent election?”
The board has three options it can take. It could still appoint someone (including Trocchia) to serve in the seat until the May election or it could let the community pick someone to serve out the remainder of Ejnes' term by holding a special election. The third option would be to leave it empty, reducing the board to six members, but this would make it harder to function as four votes are needed to pass resolutions.
DiMiceli wanted the board to consider all options, including looking into holding a special election, an idea her fellow board members rejected because of the costs involved and the fact that it would take anywhere from two to three months to execute, leaving the seat vacant during this time.
Calling the recent election "divisive and contentious" and pointing out that four seats will be up for grabs this spring, Lottito said she was in favor of appointing Trocchia to keep the board as stable as possible for the next nine months.
Brohm suggested the best compromise would be to put out a call, asking residents interested in serving on the board to submit resumes, before making an appointment, an idea supported by the majority of the board.
"Maybe there is somebody else out there," Brohm said. "And in the end, it may end up being that Vinny is the best choice."
The deadline for residents to apply for the vacant seat is Sept. 21. (Send resumes and cover letter to John J. Hogan, Superintendent, West Hempstead UFSD, 252 Chestnut Street, West Hempstead, N.Y, 11552.) The board will review the resumes, conduct interviews and then make an appointment.
Resident Loraine Magaraci asked the board to "be very cautious about who [they] invited onto the board."
Barbara Hafner, a resident and teacher, urged the board not to appoint any of the candidates who lost the May 2012 election, stating, "I would be insulted as a community member and voter if people who seriously lost those elections would be considered."
Do you agree with the board's decision? Are you interested in the seat?