CATAWISSA RR - A two-year vacancy on the Southern Columbia Area School Board prompted a discussion on the format for electing board members.

In making note of the empty position, board president Michael Yeager suggested during Monday night's board meeting electing all nine members through at-large voting.

Currently, Southern elects two representatives from each of three regions, one for Ralpho Township, another for Catawissa Borough or Catawissa Township and the third for Cleveland, Franklin, Locust and Roaring Creek townships. Beginning with the 2013 election, the other three seats are filled district-wide.

The vacant seat is for the Catawissa region.

Yeager said that with five months remaining before nomination petition process for the next board election, now is a good time to think about changing the voting system.

"We've had the discussion with the township people, we've advertised and we have never gotten to the point that we could fill the vacant seat," Yeager said.

Yeager asked the board for a consensus vote to have solicitor Rich Roberts draft a resolution changing all of the seats to at-large, like Shamokin Area and Mount Carmel Area. Line Mountain also uses the three-region system of equal representation.

Timothy Vought, Joe Klebon and Thomas Reich all spoke in favor of electing all nine board members at large.

Charlene Cove said she favors having each area represented and suggested having one seat for each of the three regions, with six at-large seats.

Charlie Porter, board vice president and one of the representatives from the rural townships, agreed with Cove.

"The residents of the rural townships need a voice at the table here," Porter said. "If the demographics were the same across the area, I would feel differently, but it's not."

"I don't think it's fair to go to an all at-large system, because people will be lost in the shuffle," Gail Zambor Schuerch said.

With John Yocum also favoring one seat for each region and six at-large seats, the board appeared divided at 4-4, although no official vote was taken.

"We were only asking for Rich to draft the resolution, but it has to be specific as to which plan we are undertaking," Yeager said.

"If we are at 4-4, there's no point in paying the solicitor to draft either of them," member Timothy Vought said.

Anyone who lives in the Catawissa Township or Borough area who would like to serve on the school board in the still vacant seat can contact the district office at 570-356-2331 or 570-672-2983 for more information. The term for that seat expires in December 2015.