WEST CAPE MAY — There are no candidates on the ballot for three seats on the local Board of Education, due in part to confusion caused by switching traditional April elections to November.
The same sort of confusion has four candidates seeking three seats on the Cape May Board of Education, but no candidates filing for a fourth seat that is a one-year unexpired term.
Officials in both school districts want voters going to the polls on Nov. 6 to at least have an explanation.
Two of the three incumbents on the board serving the West Cape May Elementary School, Janice Conwell and Christopher Wood, had intended to run but did not file a petition. In the past those petitions were submitted to the school before the April election.
Moving the election to November, a step designed to increase voter participation and save money by piggybacking on an existing election, changed the system so petitions are now filed in June with the Cape May County clerk.
“They don’t file with me anymore and that caused some confusion,” said Alfred Savio, the school district’s business administrator.
Both Conwell and Wood are waging write-in campaigns. Savio said the three open positions will be listed on the ballot and voters can do a write-in on the line that says “personal choice.” As long as three different names are listed, the board positions will be filled.
“It’s the top three vote-getters. The PTA is doing some outreach to find candidates. We don’t want Mickey Mouse,” Savio joked.
Incumbent Robert Morris declined to run and is not lobbying for write-in votes. Conwell noted she had just joined the board, taking the unexpired term of Lynn Bowlby, and was not aware when the deadline arrived.
“I was asked to serve to fill somebody’s term. I had literally just got on the board,” Conwell said.
The district includes an elementary school with about 70 students, with more than 20 coming from other towns. With declining enrollment, the district recently joined the state’s school choice program to take in out-of-district students as a way to survive. Conwell had been on the board years ago and stepped forward when the need arose. She will serve a full term if her name is written in.
“I’d be happy to serve. I’m proud to see it’s still open. Becoming a choice school really worked in their favor,” Conwell said.
While the PTA is searching for a third potential candidate, Second Avenue retiree Leonard Wilmore has recently shown interest. Since retiring from the U.S. Postal Service, Wilmore said he did not want to get bored, so he got involved with the Cape May Kiwanis Club, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and was a Cape May beach tag checker this summer.
“I’m going to be writing my name in on Nov. 6. This is something I want to do, getting involved in the community. I’m eager to work and eager for results,” Wilmore said.
Cape May, meanwhile, has four candidates for three three-year terms, but nobody filed for an unexpired one-year term created when Stephanie Grubb left. Christine Fealy is filling Grubb’s term until the election but she filed for a three-year seat. The others seeking the three-year terms are Joseph McKenna, Mark LeMunyon and Brandon Trinidad.
“The petitions were due in June for three-year terms, but the one-year term became available in July. Pushing everything to the fall confused everybody,” said John Thomas, the business administrator at Cape May Elementary School.
It would make sense that the candidate with the lowest vote total take the shorter term, but Thomas said it may not work out that way. He said a write-in could take the one-year term.
“I called the Cape May County Clerk’s Office and haven’t gotten a definitive answer,” Thomas said.
There are no such problems at the Lower Cape May Regional School District, where Cape May and West Cape May children go from grades seventh to 12th. Two candidates, Richard Hooyman and Gary Playford, filed for the two Lower Township seats. One candidate, Gary Gilbert, filed for the lone Cape May seat.
Contact Richard Degener: