DJUSD Board Looks to Set Policies to Fill Vacancy

Peterson-resignsIt has been a month since Nancy Peterson stunned colleagues and the community when she left the dais during public comment on March 6, and read from a prepared statement.

“I believe the best way to serve all students is to defuse speculation and end further distractions so that the board may carefully deliberate the findings of the district’s report,” Nancy Peterson read to her colleagues who were not expecting this move.  “Therefore, I resign my position as a trustee for the Davis Joint Unified School District, effective immediately.”

“It is no secret that the victim at the center of the complaint is my daughter, a student in this district,” Ms. Peterson continued “Over the years, countless families have expressed fear about the perils of challenging staff when wrongdoing is perceived. Most do not speak up and I can understand their choices to remain silent.”

“This is a precedent-setting moment for our district. The result will set the tone for students and family engagement now and into the future,” she read.  “Moving forward, may we become more sensitive to and forever mindful of those who have not yet discovered the strength of their voices.  My sincere hope is that one day, this district can create and sustain a culture of advocacy and responsibility absent of fear.”

Board President Gina Daleiden told the Vanguard that none of the four members of the school board nor Superintendent Winfred Roberson knew that this was coming.

Now pursuant to Board Bylaw 9223, the DJUSD Board of Trustees must pursue one of two courses of action to fill the vacant seat, either by special election or provisional appointment.

According to the staff report, “Board bylaw 9223 explains that the DJUSD Board has 60 days to fill the vacant seat by either special election or provisional appointment. The candidate who is elected or provisionally appointed to the vacant seat would serve until the seat is filled during the next regular election cycle, November 2014. Starting November 2014, a two-year term will remain on the current vacant seat.”

It becomes clear which course will be preferred.  First the staff reports indicate that while a “special election would cost between $100K (and) $300K,” a “provisional appointment would incur the cost of advertising the vacant seat in the local media.”

The agenda item also contains a form that is a sample for an applicant for appointment to fill out.  Tentatively the form states, “Please complete and return by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, to the Superintendent’s Office of the Davis Joint Unified School District, 526 B Street. Application forms received after the above time and date will render the applicant ineligible for consideration of the position of Board member.”

The form contains seven questions that the board asks be filled out in no more than “four typewritten pages.”

1. In what school or community committee or activities have you been active? Describe your contributions.

2. Why do you want to be a Board member? What about this district motivates you to apply for the position?

3. What is your vision for the Davis Joint Unified School District? Describe the characteristics you would like to see in an ideal school district.

4. What are the three most important issues facing the Davis Joint Unified School District at this time? How would you gather accurate and complete information from district staff and assess what parents and community members are thinking?

5. What attributes do you feel are important for a Board member? Describe your own skills and interests in relation to these attributes.

6. What should be the relationship between Board members and the administration in handling local school concerns and/or District concerns?

7. Identify any potential conflict of interest you might have and state how you would handle that conflict.

According to Bylaw 9223, “When a vacancy occurs less than four months before the end of a Board member’s term, the Board shall take no action.”  However, “When a vacancy occurs longer than four months before the end of a Board member’s term, the Board shall, within 60 days of the date of the vacancy or the filing of the member’s deferred resignation, either order an election or make a provisional appointment, unless a special election is mandated…”

In this case, the appointee would simply run for reelection in November during the election for the three other board spots.

The policy also provides, “When authorized by law to make a provisional appointment to fill a vacancy on the Board, the Board shall advertise in the local media to solicit candidate applications or nominations. A committee consisting of less than a quorum of the Board shall ensure that applicants are eligible for Board membership and announce the names of the eligible candidates. The Board shall interview the candidates at a public meeting, accept oral or written public input, and select the provisional appointee by a majority vote.”

They add, “Within 10 days after the appointment is made, the Board shall post notices of the actual vacancy, or the filing of a deferred resignation, and the provisional appointment. The notice shall be published in the local newspaper pursuant to Government Code 6061 and posted in at least three public places within the district.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. South of Davis

    Davis wrote:

    > It has been a month since Nancy Peterson stunned
    > colleagues and the community when she left the dais…

    Any news on the total legal cost (above and beyond the $22K “report”) to the district for this mess?

  2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    I don’t know the name of the person who the four current trustees will pick for the erstwhile Peterson seat. However, the person can be predicted. It is evident to me that there is, within the active DJUSD community, a core group of Democratic Party activists who all think alike. They will pick one of their own for the school board.

    If you look, for example, at all of the prominent past endorsements for Don Saylor and Ruth Asmundson, from the years they were on the school board and later in higher office, you will find the names of all the current politicos within that Party-centric group. Look at Dan Wolk’s endorsements for the Assembly–same people. Look at the people who put Nancy Peterson on the school board–same group. Look now at the people who are endorsing Sheila Allen’s candidacy for the City Council–mostly the same folks. It’s almost a straight line which flows from Helen Thomson to Gina Daleiden. If you go to a fundraiser for one of this in-group’s candidates, the people there will be more-less the same group who are at the fundraisers for the others from this same social network.

    While it is true, I think, that when they have run their school board members for the City Council, these candidates have done well and have had the strong core-group support, it is not the case (now) that most members of the DCC are from within this one network. Joe Krovoza is not–which means they are not helping his Assembly run. Rochelle Swanson is also not one of them, though her DJUSD work did get her started in Davis politics. Brett Lee owes that group no particular allegiance. But, of course, Lucas Frerichs and Dan Wolk are both from within the same circle as Allen, Daleiden, the Wolks, Saylor, etc.

    To test if my school board selection theory is right, after the person is selected, take a look at all of the endorsements and donor lists this year and in the last 8-10 years. That person’s name will not show up having contributed to, say, a Sue Greenwald or Lamar Heystek. He or she, however, will most likely be on the lists of a Dan Wolk, a Lucas Frerichs and a Don Saylor.

      1. South of Davis

        Davis Progressive wrote:

        > it’s really not party that determines it, it’s whether or not you
        > have the right friends and connections.

        And agree to support the positions of the “machine”…

    1. wdf1

      What is common to most successful school board candidates is extensive involvement in school connected organizations, like PTA’s/PTO’s, site councils, maybe supporting foundations like Blue & White. I don’t think Republican party affiliation prevents one from being elected or possibly being selected. John Munn, B.J. Kline, and most recently (apparently) Nancy Peterson have all been Republicans. I don’t think voters make as close a distinction to party affiliation for school board seats. The prevalence of Democrats reflects the political make up of the community as a whole.

  3. Fremontia

    I thought school board was non-partisan. Still I have scene several posts suggesting Nancy Peterson is a Democrat. Someone told me she was a Republican. Does anybody know for sure? I find it interesting that several people who routinely bash the education establishment and the unions have made this assumption and that is the only reason I would ask for clarification.

      1. South of Davis

        David wrote:

        > She’s a Republican

        Any idea if there is a web site to show more voter Yolo County voter registration information on line? I have not done it in years, but 20 years ago you could walk in to most counties and sit down at a PC that listed the name, address, phone number and party of every registered voter (and 30 years ago you could do the same thing at a microfilm reader).

        The site Yolo County site I found below just shows if the person is registered to vote.

  4. Davis Progressive

    the temptation is for the school district to save their $100,000 and put this to an appointment process. the problem in this case is that most of the school board members are just as tainted as nancy peterson. so why should we trust them to pick someone who will be above board?

  5. Michelle Millet

    In this case, the appointee would simply run for reelection in November during the election for the three other board spots.

    How the can have a special election at the same time as the regular election. The problem I see is that Nancy’s seat only has 2 years left, the others have 4 year terms. How do you figure out who gets to fill the 2 year term and who gets the 4 year terms if you have the elections at the same time.

    1. David Greenwald

      My guess is that the special election and the regular election would be in separate spots and voted on separately, but I agree it would add to confusion.

      In 1992, Dianne Feinstein ran for a 2 year Senate term that was vacated when Pete Wilson became governor. On the same ballot, but different spot, Barbara Box ran for a six year term that was normally up. So if they do an appointment process, the person who is appointed – presuming they do an appointment, would run against someone who filed specifically for that spot.

  6. Mr. Toad

    Finally got this thing to work again. Rivet. I think they should appoint someone who is both a parent and a teacher. Someone who can bridge the gap opened by the Peterson debacle. Someone who can bring both perspectives to the table and help heal the community.

  7. Tia Will

    Mr. Toad

    While I wouldn’t object to your approach, I see another approach as equally viable. How about someone who is not a teacher and not a parent of children currently in the public school system. This might bring a fresh, unbiased view to the school board if such an individual with a deep interest in the public schools could be found.

  8. Mr. Toad

    I can’t think of the last time somebody was on the school board who was not a parent. Its hard to imagine finding the person you describe who would be willing to serve. The danger in your idea lies with the fact that school boards in California have traditionally been, along with city councils, the training grounds for would be politicians. My fear is that you would end up with someone who has too much ambition or some bizarre political agenda. You might end up with the best person available but the obvious question why would such a person want to serve in they have no children in the schools or experience teaching. Perhaps in Davis you might find an academic who has the time, ability and willingness while at the same time no kids in the schools. Still I think my idea gets to the core of what the district needs at this moment in the wake of the flood.

    1. Tia Will

      Mr. Toad

      I think that you are right about the rarity of such an individual. An academic of the type you mentioned might be a good candidate.The candidate that I had in mind might be someone whose children did attend the public schools and who was very involved at the time, but whose children have outgrown the public schools. This would provide the familiarity with the local system and be proof of caring about the local schools while at the same time providing the objectivity needed since they would not have a personal interest in any particular site or program. This also would presumably be an older individual without higher political aspiration ( grown children implying older person).

  9. wdf1

    Mr. T: I can’t think of the last time somebody was on the school board who was not a parent.

    Right now Gina Daleiden has no kids in the Davis schools. Don’t know if that counts or not.

    Parents usually feel a very strong motivation to be involved in their kids’ schools and the school system, and to do the job right. Parents are also likely to know more about how the district interacts with participating families. It would be hard to find a non-parent with the same degree of motivation and connection.

    In Davis, a non-parent would be less likely to have the connections to school-connected groups (PTO’s, site councils, boosters, foundations) to build a network base of supporters.

    I have heard of school districts in which a high school student (probably a senior) has won a seat on the school board.

    1. Michelle Millet

      I have heard of school districts in which a high school student (probably a senior) has won a seat on the school board.

      That would add an interesting voice to the school board. If the student’s interest was sincere and they were up to the responsibility that came with the job, I think it could be a positive thing.

          1. Fremontia

            Ever heard of a young man named Daniel Parella? He is 23 and running for Davis City Council.

    2. Tia Will

      “Right now Gina Daleiden has no kids in the Davis schools. Don’t know if that counts or not.”

      This definitely counts for what I was describing.
      One of the criticisms I have heard over and over during the recent controversy is that of conflict of interest. It would seem to me that a teacher who works in our local schools and/or a parent with children currently in the local schools automatically has some level of conflict of interest. I have no doubt that most people will overcome this mild inherent bias, use sound judgement and recuse themselves appropriately. However, we now have one very dramatic example of how that did not happen.
      The fact that we have not had such an individual with the exception of Ms.Daleiden would seem to me to stand as evidence that it might be a good time to think differently about choosing an optimal candidate.

  10. Michelle Millet

    I wasn’t in chambers for the discussion, but from what I picked up from people outside after the meeting they are going to appoint someone until the fall election, then all four seats will be on the ballot in November. One will be a two year term to fill Peterson’s spot, and the other 3 will be regular 4 year terms. I guess the candidates get to choose which they want to run for.

  11. wdf1

    M.M.: If only there was some young, engaged, intelligent person out there interested in serving as an elected official.

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  12. Dave Hart

    Why not do the most logical thing and go back to the last election and pick the highest vote getter for the Peterson replacement? Why does there have to be an application? Seems like the people who stood for election already went through an “application” process that was much more exhaustive.

    1. Dave Hart

      I’ll answer my own question: Because the law says they have to advertise it. Fine. Go through the Kabuki theater of the application process, then appoint the person who was the next in line by the number of most votes cast if that person applies. In this case I recall it was Alan Fernandes. I hope he applies and that the DJUSD Board would appoint him. It would do much toward getting the community past all the damage done.

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