Barring something truly extraordinary, it appears that the school board decision to appoint Joy Klineberg to fill the vacancy left by Cindy Pickett will go to the voters in November in a special election that would be an at-large election for the remainder of Cindy Pickett’s term—the final such election now that DJUSD, like the city of Davis, has gone to district elections.
The group announced in a release on Tuesday that in a span of seven days, the Yolo Committee for Diverse and Inclusive Elections (YCDIE) collected over 1,700 signatures (1,472 of which were submitted this morning) for a petition calling for a special election to fill the seat on the Davis Joint Unified School District’s governing board that was vacated when Board President Cindy Pickett resigned on June 30, 2020.
In fact, the signature gathering took place over just four days.
They were required to get about 1.5 percent of the registered voters in order to qualify. That means meant 658 signatures, based on the last election. While the signatures still have to be checked, it would seem that this matter is headed for the ballot.
In a release the group noted, “The vacated seat was originally filled through a provisional appointment made by the DJUSD Board of Trustees on July 2, 2020. This appointment resulted in an overwhelmingly white board that does not reflect the diversity of Davis.”
They add, “A successful petition will terminate that appointment and allow the voters to decide on who should fill the seat.”
The petition was submitted to the Yolo County Office of Education on July 14, 2020. The Yolo County Superintendent of Schools, Garth Lewis, now has up to 30 days to verify the signatures and call for a special election.
YCDIE representative, Peggy Enderle, said, “We believe strongly in the importance of representation and of allowing the public to select their representatives through a democratic process.”
Along with the petition proponents—Robb Davis, Peggy Enderle, Cathy Farman, Calvin Handy, and Jenni Biggs—over 100 community volunteers circulated the petition and gathered signatures. Volunteer coordinator, Joanna Friesner, said, “This outpouring of volunteerism reflected loud and clear that our community values, and will work towards, equitable representation on the school board.”
YCDIE’s mission is to support political candidates who will contribute to diverse elected bodies in Yolo County. Echoing this, YCDIE representative Dzokerayi Minya said, “This effort was led by women of color and white allies. We want to continue to create opportunities for women of color to lead in politics. Seeing the community support our efforts in this way solidifies that diversity is wanted and needed.”
“By putting the seat up for election in November 2020, the voters will be able to decide for themselves who should fill this seat and represent them on the school board,” former Mayor Robb Davis wrote in a letter over the weekend. “Deeply qualified women of color have run for public office in Davis and won, indicating a desire on the part of this community to have a board that more fully represents the perspectives, experiences, and needs of our diverse—and historically underrepresented—population.”
He added, “I think most Davis residents would agree that having diverse and informed perspectives on local government bodies like the DJUSD Board of Trustees is critically important to making sure that the needs of all citizens—students and parents in this case—are considered in the decisions that directly affect them.”
All of this happened extraordinarily quickly, which is particularly remarkable given the constraints of a pandemic.
The board met on July 2, 2020, and by a 3-1 vote with Bob Poppenga dissenting voted to appoint Joy Klineberg to replace Cindy Pickett, whose final day was June 30.
However, Cindy Pickett was unhappy with the board’s choice. Nor did she remain silent. Posting a statement on Thursday July 2, she wrote, “Tonight’s decision by the DJUSD board to not appoint any of the women of color who applied and who were amply qualified is appalling.”
That triggered hundreds of comments and a fiery back and forth with former board member Barbara Archer.
When the Vanguard caught up with Ms. Pickett the next day, she identified a potential remedy—that the community could put the matter on the ballot with a sufficient number of signatures.
She clarified to the Vanguard, “I didn’t have a problem with the process per se, it was just the choice.”
The problem, she said, was with appointments in general.
“They may or may not reflect the will of the voters,” she said. “In this case, there was the assumption by some voters that the board would actually think in terms of racial diversity in addition to gender diversity.” She added, “People’s expectations were just not met.”
Later she added, “I think we operate in a system that gives opportunities to certain people.”
She said, “I think that’s an area of disappointment too for some residents—there was not a recognition of the system, the systemic injustice.”
She cited a quote from the poet Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Now it would appear that the voters will get to pick her replacement on the board.
On Tuesday the group announced that they are actively looking for candidates to run for various offices in Yolo County this November. Members of the public are encouraged to contact YCDIE about being a potential candidate.
—David M. Greenwald reporting