MORAGA -- School district trustees have opted to appoint a new board member rather than hold a public election to fill a vacancy left by the sudden departure of former board President Dexter Louie, who resigned less than 24 hours after his Nov. 6 re-election.
The four remaining directors decided unanimously this week to make a provisional appointment instead of waiting until June to hold a public election, which would cost an estimated $65,000. The appointee would serve for two years and could run for election in 2014. Directors need to make the appointment by Jan. 6.
Officials had earlier weighed the pros and cons of an election. "The downside is the cost," trustee and new board vice-president Kathy Ranstrom said at a meeting Tuesday. "It's $60,000, which goes a very long way in the classroom. The other downside I see is that we would go all the way to June with only a four person board and we have a lot on our plate that we're working on in that time."
Newly elected board President Charles MacNulty said he liked the idea of the public selecting the new trustee, but joined his colleagues in backing the appointment after a discussion of other options, including doing nothing and letting the county superintendent of schools call an election.
Board members also received an assurance from district Superintendent Bruce Burns that the appointment process would be transparent. Trustees also responded to several requests from residents made at a previous board meeting to appoint Parker Colvin, who ran for a board seat in November but lost.
Ranstrom said that according to the state's educational code, such an action would not be possible.
"If we're to appoint, there's a process that has to be followed. We have to open it up to the public, to whoever wants to apply," she said.
The board was to meet Wednesday to create a subcommittee and develop a timeline for making an appointment at a public meeting.
After his sudden resignation, Louie told local media his decision to resign from the school board was "painful" and "personal."
The district is currently facing four claims from former students who were sexually abused by teachers at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in the 1990s.