Southside district pushes vacancy filling to November

Parents took some pictures before the first day at Southside School.

A mishandled appointment to a vacancy on the Southside School District’s Board of Trustees will result in the position being filled during the November election instead of by board appointment, confirmed a county education office administrator.
The process by which trustees swore in Jeanne Liem to a seat vacated by Susana Frasher did not meet the 60-day timeline required by state education code.
“I have notified the district that the appointment was ineffective and therefore she may not serve on the Board in the vacated seat,” wrote Krystal Lomanto, the county superintendent of schools, in an email to the Free Lance. “Instead, the Board seat remains vacant.”
In February, one legal expert questioned the appointment process as laid out in the minutes from the district’s board meetings. Frasher resigned from her position during the Dec. 2 board meeting, kickstarting a 60-day process to find her replacement. Minutes from January and February meetings showed no votes in which the remaining board members decided how to fill the position and whether to accept the single candidate, Liem, who came forward. Superintendent Eric Johnson swore in Liem to the trustee position during the Feb. 3 meeting, according to minutes.
“I don’t see how they could reach a consensus, without having a discussion and then taking a vote,” said Nikki Moore, legal counsel with the California Newspaper Publishers Association. “That’s how these boards take action.”
In late February, Board President Scott Gilbert explained by text message that the board would be voting to appoint a trustee to the vacant seat during their next board meeting.
“In consulting with our legal representation he indicated a vote will eliminate any possible straying from the norm,” Gilbert wrote by text message to the Free Lance on Feb. 22, regarding the Liem appointment.
The agenda for the board meeting set for Wednesday of this week, with results expected after press time, showed a provisional appointment for the vacant seat, but Johnson explained by email the board would table the vote after receiving news from the county that it had passed the 60-day timeline to appoint a trustee.
According to state education code, if a resignation occurs, the school district has 60 days from when it shares this news with the county superintendent of schools to call a special election or make a provisional appointment. The county office of education received news of the resignation Dec. 4, according to an email from Lomanto. The district took 61 days to do the job.
“Our Board meeting in February took place on the 61st day one day past the time limit,” Johnson wrote in an email to the Free Lance this week.
State education code states that when a district fails to make a provisional appointment or to order a special election within the required 60 days, the county superintendent of schools shall order an election.
According to education code, the county superintendent of schools does not call a special election but consolidates with the next regularly scheduled election that is no sooner than 130 days, explained Angela Curro, the county’s assistant clerk-recorder-registrar of voters. That election would be in November, when the vacant seat was already scheduled to go up for re-election.
The agenda for the board meeting this week also includes the board president’s resignation, which will kickstart the process a second time. Gilbert told the Free Lance he had moved outside district lines, which means he can no longer serve as a trustee.

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