FARRELL Court to fill school board vacancy

It came down to a 4-4 split between two candidates.
FARRELL, Pa. -- The Farrell Area School Board will let the Mercer County Court of Common Pleas decide who will fill a vacant board seat.
The board interviewed four candidates Monday for the vacancy created by the Jan. 1 death of Rose Marie Branca, a 26-year veteran of the board who had just been re-elected last year to a four-year term.
The board had 30 days, by law, in which to pick a successor who would serve until the next municipal election in two years.
Everyone on the board is a Democrat, as are those who applied for the vacancy.
It came down to four school directors wanting to honor Branca's memory and service by appointing her daughter to fill the post, against four directors who thought the person who lost election to the school board last year by a single vote deserved the job.
Sadie Benham of Emerson Avenue was the only one of the four interviewed who ran for a school board seat.
Competition: Her primary competition Monday was Brenda Branca of Indiana Avenue.
John Brown of Roemer Boulevard and Michelle Sparrow of Negley Street also applied for the post but, when it came time for the vote, it was 4-4 between Branca and Benham and no one was willing to change position.
Directors Edward Zappa, James Guerino, Joseph Costa and Larry Manilla voted for Branca while Jerome Flint, Ronald Weston, Lester Robinson and Michael Wright voted for Benham.
Costa said the voters chose Rose Marie Branca for the job last year and it was only right for the school board to appoint her daughter to fill her position.
Weston countered that the post of school director is an elected position and belongs to the taxpayers, not to any individual person, and the taxpayers voted for Benham.
Showing support: Several people in the audience of about 40 people who listened to the candidate interviews rose to support Benham and several rose to support Branca.
The school board conducted one round of voting but, when it was clear no one would change position, President Wright announced the issue would have to be decided by the court.
James Nevant, school board solicitor, explained that, by law, it would take a petition signed by at least 10 registered school district voters to get the court to consider the issue.
That didn't seem to be a problem.
A number of audience members drafted just such a petition on the spot and had school district residents sign it before leaving the meeting room. That document will be presented to the court, which could consider the board's candidates or pick someone who hasn't yet applied for the post.

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