NEWFANE -- The five candidates for Newfane school director come from a variety of backgrounds, but they have one thing in common: None has ever held or even sought elected office.
That may illustrate the effectiveness of a campaign to find someone to run for the Newfane board after just one person -- incumbent Ken McFadden -- was elected to the governing body on Town Meeting day.
Voters will choose candidates for two available school board seats on Tuesday, May 6, during a special Australian Ballot election at the town office. But for some, the point is that there finally are candidates for seats that have been difficult to fill for years.
David VanPamelen is among three candidates running to finish a three-year term, "and I think that's just great," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, we've already won."
The regional NewBrook Elementary School is overseen by a joint Brookline-Newfane board consisting of two other entities -- Newfane School Board and Brookline School Board, which both have three members.
There had been five seats on the Newfane board, but that changed at Town Meeting when voters agreed with a request to downsize the board to three. The reason, officials said, was that there had been long-term, multiple vacancies on the board.
As if to underscore the dilemma, however, two of the remaining three seats on the board went unfilled at Town Meeting. McFadden had been the only candidate on the ballot, and no one received enough write-in votes to be elected to the other seats.
One member does not make a board. Hence the special election, which runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Newfane town clerk's office.
VanPamelen, Tammy L. Mace and Laura Taylor are vying for the final year of an unexpired, three-year term. Luke Q. Stafford and Teresa Stores are candidates for the final two years of another, unexpired, three-year term.
A look at the candidates:
-- Mace says she ran because, "obviously, there is a need." But she also has spent 20 years involved in education and currently is a paraeducator at Brattleboro Union High School.
Her children attended the former Newfane Elementary.
"I felt like this is something where I could give back, with some knowledge of the education system," Mace said.
"I really don't have any particular agenda going into it," she added. "My point would be to support the educational community and the students."
-- Taylor acknowledges that the special-election process has been "kind of different," but she, too, is happy about the candidate turnout. A self-employed housekeeper, Taylor was approached by an acquaintance about running.
"My interest in the school at this point is, we have a grandson in the school system. And I have a little more time now than I used to," she said.
Taylor said she believes students need a "diverse education" that includes hands-on learning.
"I want to know what's going on with the kids and where their education is going," she said. "Are we giving them enough so that they can go on and succeed?"
-- VanPamelen said he felt "saddened" when seeing two empty boxes as he cast votes on Town Meeting day.
"I said to myself, ‘This isn't right. Somebody ought to volunteer,'" he recalled. "Then I thought, ‘I ought to take my own advice.'"
VanPamelen works at an auto-parts store and said he and his wife have spent decades as foster and adoptive parents. He would carry a conservative viewpoint to the board, with a distaste for state mandates and a fondness for local control.
Even as a regional elementary, he said, "I think NewBrook is still small enough that it's still a family thing."
-- Stafford, who owns Mondo Mediaworks in Brattleboro, was motivated to run by his two young daughters who will enter NewBrook soon.
"If I can be directly involved in assuring a quality elementary school experience for them and my neighbors' children, I'm there," Stafford said.
He also wants to be "a voice for my village and town."
"I want to communicate Newfane's concerns about taxes, standardized testing and school consolidation directly to Montpelier so that a collective voice is heard consistently," Stafford said. "My hope is that this proactive outreach will prevent the school-budget vote -- a very local matter -- from becoming a state-level scapegoat."
-- Stores is another candidate with educational experience; she currently is a professor at the University of Hartford, to which she commutes twice a week.
"I knew that nobody had stepped up to the plate to (run for school director), and I felt it was my responsibility to step up," Stores said.
She has children at NewBrook and said she is interested generally in local, educational issues.
"I like the community," Stores said. "I've always believed that the local school is a place for the local community to come together."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.