If voters are angry about the appointment process, they have the option of petitioning it and put it to a vote in November. For the second time in a row, the Davis School Board replaced the only woman of color with Joy Klineberg. While in 2018 that appointment was temporary and the seat would be filled a few months later, this appointment could stand for two and a half years, until November 2022.
This drew a response from outgoing board member Cindy Pickett, who called the decision “appalling” in a Facebook post on Thursday night.
The Vanguard talked to Pickett on Friday, and she believes there is a way forward—the voters have the option of putting the matter on the ballot.
The possibility was raised during a June 4 discussion. After a May 21 discussion where the board largely agreed to go the appointment process, Cindy Pickett started expressing second thoughts.
Legal counsel on June 4 noted, “Even in the event of an appointment there still is an opportunity to involve the community in that process.”
He said, “They also have a legal right… if that individual were not supported by the community if they were to gather up enough signatures they could have a petition that would force an election in November 2020.
“The community does have an opportunity to disfavor an appointment,” he said. “Under the Ed Code you need a number of registered voters equal to 1.5 percent of the number of the registered voters present at the last election…”
Moreover, by putting the matter to a vote in November, the cost to the district would be reduced to about $30,000 rather than the $100,000 cited for a special election. The voters have 30 days to do this however. The process would be governed by the county superintendent of schools.
Cindy Pickett clarified, “I didn’t have a problem with the process per se, it was just the choice.” She noted that, at the time they made the decision, “there were good reasons” for them not to put it on the ballot.
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.”
The original decision, however, was made on May 21—that was before the death of George Floyd and before the country, including Davis, erupted with protests, riots, and marches.
“There is greater awareness,” Cindy Pickett said. “I think there is also a greater willingness for people to voice their dissatisfaction.”
She noted that qualifications have a component of privilege and bias.
She said, “You think, how did people get that experience? What doors were opened that allowed that person to be… PTA President? Then you go back from there. The system, I think.
“I think we operate in a system that gives opportunities to certain people,” said Pickett, who does not believe there are bad intentions here. “If you look at the surface you say, wow, this is the choice that you should go with.”
The choice becomes embedded within a system that is set up to advantage some people over others, and creates the perception of qualification that is itself embedded within that privilege.
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.”
The student body is now nearly evenly split with around 52 percent of the students being white—but 48 percent of students from communities of color. However, with this appointment the board is now all white.
Cindy Pickett was philosophical on this point.
On the one hand, she said, “I certainly think any board member could certainly voice or share an opinion that’s derived from a certain segment of the Davis population. There’s nothing preventing board members from bringing different viewpoints to the table.”
The problem, she said, is that “it’s not the most accessible thing” or “at the top of their radar.
“We talk about the things we’re used to talking about,” she pointed out. But there is also the issue of “lived experience,” and she said “knowing what it feels like when your child hears a racial slur against them and how a certain response to that can seem like silencing or ignoring the problem.”
She said knowing how it feels to be in that situation does change the attributes that you bring to the table.
Despite this, Cindy Pickett said her now-former colleagues “are doing their best.”
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.”
“There’s no blame or ill-will,” she said. “It should be a learning experience.”
Her colleagues need to understand the circumstances of this moment in time and hopefully learn from those circumstances.
But the possibility of redress seems to have settled some of this for Cindy Pickett.
“I applaud Joy’s willingness to serve, I think she has been great in that role. It’s really not about her about at all, it’s about trying to bring more diverse voices to the board.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting