JOHNSTOWN — The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Education Services Board of Education on Wednesday elected Harry Brooks as the new board president. Former President Joanne Freeman passed away in December.
The board opened the first regular meeting since Freeman, 65, passed away on Dec. 17 following a brief illness with a moment of silence in her honor.
Freeman was first elected to the HFM BOCES Board of Education in 2010 and held the office of board president since 2017 following four terms as vice president. She also previously served on the Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education for over five years.
Before the meeting commenced the board opened the floor to nominations for the next board president. Nominations were returned for Brooks who served as vice president alongside Freeman for several years and current Vice President Jean LaPorta. LaPorta was first elected to the office in April following her nomination by Brooks who withdrew his name from consideration following his nomination for reelection.
Brooks was ultimately elected board president on Wednesday by a 4-2 vote. Brooks thanked the board for the opportunity to serve as president noting the bittersweet nature of the appointment and pledged to follow the agenda set by Freeman placing the best interests of children at the forefront.
“I think every decision Joanne made was what’s best for kids and as I try to fill in for Joanne I commit to that same vision and that same agenda,” Brooks said.
He went on to offer his commitment to work closely with HFM BOCES District Superintendent David Ziskin who has been in the position for roughly eight months while maintaining transparency with the board.
“I think it’s a really important time also having a new district superintendent, and I think another commitment that I would make as president, and I know the board makes, is to work very closely with you Dave to ensure that you have the best opportunities to do your best work,” Brooks said.
Brooks also stated his plans to work closely with LaPorta in the coming months looking ahead to the next board election of officers during the reorganizational meeting in July.
“I’m really thankful for Jean for leading us through the transition time after we lost Joanne and I’m looking forward to working with Jean,” Brooks said. “I would hope that board members would really kind of look at stepping into leadership roles, because I think it’s important for all of us to experience it.”
LaPorta thanked Brooks while extending her congratulations upon his election.
“I will give you my full support as I know all the other board members will and we’re very happy that you are going to be our leader,” LaPorta said.
Freeman’s unexpired two year term on the HFM BOCES Board of Education will be filled during elections at the annual meeting by school boards from component districts on April 1. Two additional seats for full three-year terms on the HFM BOCES Board of Education currently held by LaPorta and John DeValve will also be up for election.