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New members join Saratoga school board

New members join Saratoga school board

Brueggemann, Kolligan and Lakhtakia join the board
New members join Saratoga school board
Dean Kolligan and Natalya Lakhtakia are sworn in to the Saratoga Springs Board of Education.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Re-organizing after a tumultuous year, the Saratoga Springs Board of Education on Friday elected Dr. Stephen Verral its new president and Anjeanette Emeka as its vice president.

The board's reorganizational meeting also saw the swearing-in of two of the three new board members elected in May -- Dean Kolligian and Natalya Lakhtakia. The third new member, John Brueggemann, is in North Carolina and participated by cellphone video.

Verral, a dermatologist, was previously the board's vice president, and has been acting as president since May, when the previous president, Brad Thomas, who did not seek re-election to his board seat, resigne. Verral is currently in Michigan, but participated by cellphone video and then ran the remainder of the meeting. He has been on the board since 2014.

Emeka, who works at SUNY-Empire State College, was elected vice president. She is in Norway, and was unable to participate in the meeting. She has been on the board since 2017.

The brief meeting included no discussion of the issue that split the board last school year and was dominant in this spring's Board of Education race: the question of whether grounds monitors, who have been retired police officers, should be allowed to carry firearms on school grounds as a school safety measure.

With intense feelings on both sides, the board heard weeks of public debate and voted last October 5-4 not to re-arm the monitors. Some of the monitors had previously carried concealed weapons without it being general knowledge, but that practice was halted in the spring of 2018 after district officials determined it was in violation of state law. State law requires a school board to explicitly authorize someone to carry a gun on campus.

The board's decision prompted a backlash from parents who wanted the monitors armed.

The issue was dominant in this spring's election, in which the public elected one person who favored armed grounds monitors, Kolligian, and two who were opposed, Brueggemann and Lakhtakia. Based on those results, the 5-4 majority against armed monitors appears to stand, despite three of the nine board members being new.

There could be more change before the end of the year.

Board member Patricia Morrison, who was elected to a three-year term in 2018, is the Democratic candidate for Saratoga Springs finance commissioner this fall. If she is elected, she would have to give up her board seat before taking that office on Jan. 1.

On Friday, Morrison said her plan would be to serve through the end of the year, if she is elected finance commissioner. The board members would then have to decide whether to appoint a temporary replacement or leave the seat unfilled until the May 2020 board election.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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