Dublin school board divided on how to fill latest vacancy

Cunningham’s seat to remain empty for foreseeable future

The Dublin Unified School District is still undecided on how to fill a vacancy left by former Board of Trustees member Dan Cunningham, who resigned unexpectedly three weeks into his third term earlier this month.

It is the third board vacancy in six months.

The board met last Tuesday to decide whether to temporarily appoint someone to fill the position or proceed with a special election, which would take place in November. The board voted 2-1 in favor of the election, which falls short of the three unanimous votes needed to pass the resolution.

If the current vote stands, nothing goes into effect immediately. A special election will automatically take place on Nov. 5, but the decision to either replace Cunningham in Trustee Area 1 or fill Area 3 in the Nov. 5 election will fall to the Alameda County Office of Education, taking away the school board’s ability to choose.

The board would prefer to have someone step into Area 3, according to board President Amy Miller, who already represents Area 1. Cunningham co-represented this zone alongside her before his resignation. Area 3, which has no incumbent, includes James Dougherty Elementary School.

The board has 60 days from the date of Cunningham’s vacancy, March 1, to fill the position. They can take a re-vote and come to a unanimous decision during this time, in which case either the election or appointment could still take place.

A preliminary appointment is the least expensive and quickest course of action, according to Miller, and it would put someone in the seat in late April, rather than November.

However an appointment poses more risk than an election, and would be more expensive if citizens chose to file a petition for recall. In that case, a special election would take place at a later date, which would cost around $60,000 dollars. Holding an election in November would cost about half that much, board members said Tuesday.

The district experienced a recall just last month, when Dublin residents petitioned to remove appointee Nini Natarajan in early February. The board had appointed Natarajan on Dec. 11, 2018 to fill a vacancy left by elected trustee Joe Giannini in October.

Natarajan spoke at the district meeting on Tuesday, imploring its members to conduct an election instead of making an appointment.

“The whole process of provisional appointment -- the petitions, the waiting game, the special elections -- is just not fair to the candidates who apply to these vacancies,” said Natarajan. “I would hate for someone else to go through the pain and the emotional turmoil that I did for the past few months.”

The special election to fill Natarajan’s seat is scheduled to take place on June 4 but DUSD will not consolidate a special election with this date for Cunningham’s seat.

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