Given her extensive experience, energy and dedication to the community, there’s no doubt Rosemarie Perez Jaquith could serve in her new position on the Niskayuna town board while continuing to hold her seat on the Niskayuna school board until her term expires in June.
And legally, she’s entitled to hold both seats at the same time.
But that doesn’t mean she should.
Even though both boards serve Niskayuna residents, they operate in parallel universes. School boards and municipal boards have different and unique issues, concerns and priorities that often overlap but often are incompatible.
While Ms. Jaquith might be able to navigate the obvious conflicts of interests she encounters by opting out of votes, just her presence on the two boards represents a natural conflict.
First, the boards are competing for different pieces of the local and state tax pie and are in need of different services.
Municipalities might have a different viewpoint on development in the community from a school board. While both might agree on expanding the local tax base, a school board might favor business development over housing development, which might bring schools more students and stress their services.
A school might want the county government to provide more social services to help parents and students, while a town might want the county to put a greater emphasis on investment in economic development or law enforcement.
A school might want the town to provide more services for kids and invest more in parks and sports fields, while the town might want the school to handle it.
Recently, many school and municipal boards had to address the issue of school security, often approaching the issue from different points of view based on what types of services the municipalities might be asked to provide, emergency responses and costs.
Then there is the logistical issue of trying to serve on both boards. How many times are the two boards going to hold regular meetings and special meetings and committee meetings and workshops and public hearings on the same night? School budget season is coming up soon. Or what if there’s a town function and a school function at the same time? She can’t be in two places at once.
With all the time she’ll have to spend serving, will she be able to devote her full attention and energy to both boards?
And while many communities have trouble getting people to serve in public office, that’s not the case in Niskayuna.
In the last school election, five people ran for three open seats.
By holding both seats, Jaquith might be preventing a willing citizen from serving on the school board.
As we said, if anyone can pull this off, it’s Rosemarie Perez Jaquith.
But that doesn’t mean she should try.