Board of Education to discuss vacancy

The Cabarrus County Board of Education next week may decide whether and how to fill a vacant seat left by Mike Helms, who cited health and family reasons for resigning as of May 9.

The board's work session will be 6 p.m. June 6 at the Education Center, 4401 Old Airport Road, Concord. The board will not take comments then, but residents can sign up to speak at the June 13 meeting.

"The board ... will discuss a process by which we will move forward and what the process may be," school board chairwoman Holly Blackwelder said via email. "I have asked all board members to come with their ideas for an open floor discussion.

" ... I will formally announce the decision at the end of the meeting ... if the board agrees that night on a process."

Some want a Democrat, like Helms, to fill the vacant seat, while others want a Republican. Others say qualifications are most important.

"It is a nonpartisan board, and we should consider someone with an educational background," said Blackwelder.

Qualifications should come first, said board member Cindy Fertenbaugh.

"I'm in no rush to fill (the vacancy) this month," said Fertenbaugh. "I've thought of keeping it open, but I think I've changed my mind, because it's better to have more opinions. New members add more insight and perspective. I'm not 100percent that we should name someone, but I'm leaning toward (that) it could be valuable."

For the last six months, the board has been working on multiple projects, including a budget process, a 15-year facility plan and a five-year priority plan.

Blackwelder said she hopes board members stay focused on those issues and meet their deadlines before adding someone new. A new member would need to be educated and oriented in those areas, and that could delay project decisions.

"This is an extremely important decision to the board of education and the community, and I want us to be cognizant of that fact, move forward thoughtfully and take our time," said Blackwelder. "And that is a lot of information to cover, which possibly could delay some decisions and would not benefit the new person or the board.

"This person would also have an equal vote without having worked the last 6-7 months, which also could possibly be a problem."

Fertenbaugh, who said she has been contacted by four people interested in filling the seat, said she may push to use an application process for potential replacements. She said former board members Andrea Palo and Wayne Williams also may be considered.

If the board decides to accept applications, anyone could apply, which could yield more viable candidates, said Blackwelder.

" ... I would consider keeping the seat open...," said Fertenbaugh, "because by the end of June we have to vote on budget extension provisions that will allow us to operate if the state and county budgets aren't ready. From a continuity standpoint, it may be better to wait."

If Fertenbaugh resigned, she said, she would want the best-qualified person to replace her: "I would want someone with some of my same characteristics. I would want a person who would give decisions a lot of thought."

To register to speak at the June 13 business meeting, call 704-262-6238.