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Should the school board elect or appoint its new member?

Original post made by Emily Atwood, another community, on Mar 15, 2007

The school board is looking for someone to fill the school board seat left by president Juanita Haugen, who died March 5. At their regular meeting March 13, the board discussed the possibilities of appointing or electing its new member.

Clerk Pat Kernan was first appointed to the board in September 1996 and elected in November 1997. Member Jim Ott was appointed in May 2006 when Gloria Fredette resigned in April 2006. No one chose to run when the terms of Kernan and Ott were coming to an end, so the two regained their seats without an election.

Yet there was a lot of interest in the board when Steve Pulido resigned to take on an Alameda County Supreme Court judgeship. Nine board hopefuls applied, and Chris Grant was appointed in February after two weeks of interviews by a community panel and the board.

With Haugen's replacement, the board would have two of its members appointed and two re-elected by default.

Trustee Kris Weaver, re-elected in 2003, thought the $150,000 spent on a special election would be better used in the classroom. With Haugen's, Weaver's and Grant's terms all ending November 2008, the board wondered if the process was worth it.

They put off the decision until the March 27 meeting, saying they wanted feedback from the public regarding this issue.

Which would you support, a special election or an appointment?

Comments (9)

Posted by Santiago
a resident of Siena
on Mar 16, 2007 at 2:53 pm

A special election is a tremendous waste of money, and an appointment would probably end up being the public's choice anyway, so spare us all the pretend "politics" of Pleasanton. Just because Pleasanton is boring doesn't mean we need to get all excited about the school board, which few of us are involved in anyway; just let the people who know what they're doing choose a colleague.

Posted by shelley
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Mar 19, 2007 at 10:09 pm

I respectfully disagree. It is not a waste of money to have the democratic process followed. The men and women in our armed forces are risking their lives everyday to ensure that people around the world have the opportunity to experience democracy in action, yet we at home all too often take the process for granted.

A special election would at least ensure that the public's voice was heard and the result was not simply a partisan polital decision.

Posted by Santiago
a resident of Siena
on Mar 21, 2007 at 3:14 pm

1) Why give everyone a voice if a third or less of the people will vote? How about we first get the school board to improve education about voting. Then, a generation later, when the kids are actually voting, let the school board have elections because the students they taught will now actually vote for them.
2)How partisan can a school board election get?
3)The war is the most irrelevant topic to bring up. Anytime someone wants to make a point they argue about our troops and that is sad. Why should we fight pollution? Because our troops fight for us. Why should we improve education? Because our troops fight for us. Why should we support people's rights? Because our troops fight for us.
Wrong. There are so many LOGICAL ways to answer a question but we turn to what some might call a fallacy. Everyone always arguing about the troops, and I myself am now on a tangent, but you people disrespect the troops so much by using their effort to fit whatever cause you want.
I now cordially invite you to fight me with logos, not pathos. (For explanation, see Mrs. J Smith, (Amador Valley High School) and her junior English class.

Posted by Susan
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2007 at 6:05 pm

The school board is an elected body. One avenue would be to appoint for the remainder of Juanita Haugan's term and then have the election as scheduled with the caveat that the appointed person would agree not to run in 2008. This would save the district the $150,000 price tag, help the school board continue with school business and remove the advantage of incumbency. This model has been used in many other school districts.

Posted by Amy W
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 21, 2007 at 9:07 pm

I was disturbed to read the editorial by Jeb Bing about appointing Jill Buck to the PUSD Board, suggesting that we eliminate the Democratic Process for efficiency. While an election is an expensive solution, we all know that democracy does not come cheap. We have the right to vote because blood has been shed, lives lost, the sacrifice of people's health, wealth and power; these are costs that cannot be counted in dollars. A Special Election would take money from our education system but what is the cost of throwing out a democratic process?

While an appointment process is not a vote, it can be democratic - by allowing interested candidates to apply, by having public forums, by inviting public comment. Each vacancy should be considered separate from any other, not just an empty seat. Perhaps we would like to balance the Board with males/females, with conservatives/liberals, with parents/nonparents. Circumstances change daily and new candidates could emerge.

An appointment would be fiscally responsible, but let's try to make it as democratic as possible.

Posted by Rabble Rouser
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2007 at 9:18 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with Susan's comment. Hear, hear...

We just have to find someone who wants to be a board member for the interim. Anyone interested?

Posted by WestSider
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Mar 22, 2007 at 9:09 am

Susan has the right idea. We aren't well-served to have the four school board members appoint someone (again,) and we shouldn't have to spend $150K for a special election, so let's ask someone to step forward, volunteer to serve out Juanita Haugen's term, and promise not to run in 2008. Then we can have the election discourse we all want, and we won't have given an appointee the gift of incumbency. There is surely someone in Pleasanton who's qualified to step in for Juanita, don't you think?

Posted by Patricia
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 22, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Santiago. You ask "Why give everyone a voice if a third or less of the people will vote?" Because democracy gives all citizens a right to choose their representatives. If two thirds fail to exercise that right or otherwise participate in the democratic process because it is deemed 'boring' and unimportant to them, that is no reason to take the right to participate away from those who take their rights and responsibilities as citizens seriously.

By your logic (which truly is a fallacy in the strict definition of the word), your right to hold forth on this forum should be taken away because the vast majority of Pleasanton residents do not participate in this forum. While I respect Ms. Smith at Amador greatly, I suggest you should perhaps sign up for a Civics class with Mr. Ladd as well.

Posted by Ann
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Apr 22, 2007 at 9:43 pm

It is great to hear such thoughtful comments in support of the democratic process; unfortunately the district has not heard your voices. It is not too late. Since two candidates have stepped forward to offer the board the cost free alternative of an interim appointment, you still have time to email them or speak at the meeting on Tuesday night April 22, 7:30.

Our elected body now consists of four out of five appointed trustees. This board has no accountability to the voters. The strong advantage to the incumbent discourages potential candidates, but the last election in which there was an open seat there were eight or more candidates eager to serve.
I am hopeful the board will appoint one of the interim applicants. They both have the background that eliminates the concern about the learning curve, and will allow them to step into the position able to contribute. They have said they are not interest in running in the next election and will sign a written statement to that effect.

This issue would not arise so frequently if PUSD would support term limits. City council representatives complete their last term at a designated time so it falls within the election cycle. Since our school board is more of a self appointed monarchy, trustees stay in office until their lives require an untimely resignation.

They should have one vote in deciding the next trustee the same as you and me, I want my vote back.

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