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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2005

Bedford: Candidate sought to fill vacancy

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - Bedford Public Schools is launching a month-long effort to fill the sudden vacancy on its Board of Education created when longtime board member Nancy Pilbeam resigned earlier this month.

But while the board has laid out a long list of potential qualifications for those interested in filling the final eight months of Mrs. Pilbeam's four-year term, maybe its ad should say: "Looking for masochist with free time and a soft heart."

Mrs. Pilbeam resigned the board seat she has held for the last seven years at the end of the board's regular meeting Oct. 6, citing her family's impending move to Texas as the reason for her departure.

Under state law, the remaining six board members have one month to appoint a replacement. At a special meeting last week, the board laid out a compressed time line to accept applications for a replacement, setting a deadline of 4:30 p.m. Monday for applications to be received at the board office.

The board put together a legal description of the job last week, as well as what might be described as the minimum requirements. Specifically, the applicant has to be a U.S. citizen at least 18 years of age, a registered Michigan voter, and a resident of the district for at least the last 30 days.

Board members also ask that the applicant disclose his or her educational background, community service, demonstrated interest in the district, willingness to make the time commitment, and evidence of good communication skills.

Remaining board members said that they've already had some inquiries from people interested in serving, but they hope people know what it is for which they are volunteering.

"It's potentially time consuming, but it's very rewarding," explained Roger Zahm, one of two board members elected in 2004. "The thing that surprised me the most was maybe the potential for it to become an all-consuming, time-consuming alligator. It can eat up 24 hours of your day if you let it."

Board member Laura Senters, who was elected in 2003, agreed with her colleague about the rewards and demands of the position, which pays $400 to $500 per year.

"When I ran, I knew there were meetings and that I'd have to prepare for those meetings and get an education on what actually happens. But I had no idea how much time you spend on meetings, on attending different functions," Mrs. Senters said. "We're very thankful that there are seven of us, so that if one can't make it to some event, we know that others will."

Both Mrs. Senters and Mr. Zahm said preparedness and patience were equally important for any new board member, especially considering the amount of time that board members must be away to attend meetings.

But while being a school board member can pull one away, the job is not without certain benefits.

" It's extremely rewarding, and it's enjoyable, Mr. Zahm said. "Maybe my favorite part is rubbing elbows with people that are smarter than myself."



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