By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The ballot for the Nov. 2 election shows there is one seat open for a three-year term on Sea Isle City’s Board of Education.
However, there are no school board candidates listed on the ballot running for the seat.
It appears that the next school board member will be the winner of a write-in vote. It also appears that the front-runner will be a current school board member, Patricia Halfpenny.
Halfpenny wanted to run for re-election but didn’t submit her nominating petitions in time to be officially placed on the ballot, Board of Education President Dan Tumolo said.
Hoping to keep Halfpenny on the board, there will be an effort to get her enough write-in votes Nov. 2 to win re-election, Tumolo explained.
“We’re going to have a big write-in vote for her,” he said in an interview Sunday. “Pat wants to stay on the board and we’re going to do everything we can to keep her on the board.”
Tumolo said that a similar write-in campaign was undertaken a few years ago to keep then-school board member Jack Birkmeyer on the board when Birkmeyer didn’t submit his nominating petitions in time to have his name placed on the ballot.
Birkmeyer won then with only a small number of write-in votes. Tumolo, who supported Birkmeyer, said he was so confident Birkmeyer would win that he jokingly wrote in a cartoon character’s name on the ballot instead of Birkmeyer’s.
“We knew we had it beat. I think I voted for Wile Coyote,” Tumolo said.
Sea Isle’s Board of Education consists of five members: Tumolo, Halfpenny, Lynne Shirk, Kerry Mullane and Kristy Pittaluga.
Shirk is moving from Sea Isle to Marmora and will leave the board, Tumolo said. The board will consider its options for replacing Shirk.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2, the same day as the election. The board will hold its annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 5 to select its leaders. Tumolo, who has been president since 2007, said he intends to seek that position again when the board reorganizes.
Among other duties, the board is responsible for putting together the school budget each year. Sea Isle’s local school tax rate has remained stable for 10 years in a row under the budget.
Tuition costs and transportation expenses for students to attend other school districts represent the bulk of the spending in the nearly $2.5 million budget. Sea Isle closed its public school in 2012 due to declining student enrollment, but it still must pay the expense of sending its students to Ocean City and other school districts for their education.
Sea Isle had been experiencing a downward trend in school-age children for about five years in a row, but that ended this year with the addition of 12 new students. The city now has a total of 93 students, Tumolo said.
The 2021-2022 school budget is about $106,000 higher than last year’s spending plan, reflecting an increase in tuition and transportation costs to send more Sea Isle students to other school districts, primarily Ocean City.
It appears that the higher number of students this year is the result of more families moving to the shore to escape from the COVID-19 outbreak in the heavily populated cities and suburbs, Tumolo said.
Even with the slight increase this year, the current figure of 93 students is less than one-fourth of the 444 school-age children who lived in Sea Isle in 2000.