CVCHS Board Members Manipulate the Election Process

CVCHS Board succeeds in disenfranchising parents from the upcoming Board election. Sharon Degener provides a behind-the-scenes look at the obstacles and inconsistencies she has encountered while volunteering on the election committee.

I have been on the election committee for the CVCHS Board and conveyed my disappointment with this entire process to the Board last week, but after our committee meeting yesterday, I cannot keep quiet any longer.

Currently, there is an election going on for the CVCHS Board. There are six open positions—one teacher, one certificated staff, one parent rep, one retired teacher rep, and two community at-large reps. There are two community at-large positions open because one is the standard two-year term currently held by Ted Meriam, and the other is replacement for the one-year left on resigned-director Tom Branich’s term. According to the Charter, the teacher, staff, and parent reps are elected by their respective constituencies, and the retired teacher, and at-large positions are appointed by the Board.

There was some confusion at the meeting last Wednesday about whether qualified candidates could run for more than one position. In reading the candidates’ applications (see Board Packet for 11-12-14 meeting), two current parents expressed their desire for either the parent or at-large positions, and one parent did not specify, but indicated that he wanted to serve the Board for two years. One community member, Holly Tillman, indicated she wanted to be considered for both the 1-yr and 2-yr board positions, one community member indicated he wanted to be reappointed to his current two-year position, and one simply requested an appointment to an at-large position (without specifying which position).

Without a vote of the entire election committee, certain committee members took it upon themselves to orally consult with the candidates and require them to choose only one position. Holly Tillman refused to do so, and was permitted to apply for both at-large positions. The committee chair indicated that the remaining candidates chose the one-year at-large position except the current Board president, who chose the two-year position.

At the most recent committee meeting, despite a specific request by one parent to be permitted to run in the parent election as well as seek the at-large appointments, the Board voted to disallow that parent from running against Megan Kommer for the parent representative. The committee indicated that she had made her choice for the one-year and she could not be allowed to run for more than one position. So, there will be no parent election, and the parents of CVCHS will have no say in any of the new Board members.

This determination was made based on a recommendation to the Board’s attorney, who, after consulting with the Executive Director, concluded that “based on a review of the bylaws and past practice that individuals only be allowed to apply for one position at a time.” However, neither the bylaws nor past practice supports this conclusion.

First, the bylaws do not address whether an individual can seek election or appointment for different positions. The qualifications are different for each position, but there is nothing preventing an individual from seeking a seat in any category in which he or she qualifies. And in reality, even though the bylaws do not say it, isn’t it logical to conclude that parents already have two representatives on the Board, why should the community at-large also be parents? What about the future parents, past parents, taxpayers without children? Shouldn’t they also be represented? Current parents should be encouraged, not discouraged, to run as a parent rep instead of a community at-large member.

Second, the argument that the attorney’s conclusion is based on “past practice” is patently false. There is no “past practice” because this is the first election cycle in which both elected and appointed positions are being selected at the same time. When the Charter was first established, the first six Board members were elected by their constituencies, and only then were the at-large and retired teacher applications solicited.   (See “Our History” on CVCHS website: September 2011, “In accordance with the charter bylaws, and after receiving candidate applications, an election for the initial governing board is held. Teachers Pat Middendorf and Neil McChesney, parents Alison Bacigalupo and Megan Kommer, and classified staff member Diane Bailey are elected to the governing board. Retired teacher Dick Ellis, and community members Ted Meriam and Kevin King are then later appointed by the elected governing board members in accordance with the charter provisions.”) In addition, during the initial appointments, the community at-large positions had the same qualifications, so no choice was needed to be made by the applicants (the staggered length of the at-large terms were chosen by lot—see Bylaws Art. VII, Sec. 3.)

As some Board members resigned, they were replaced by election or appointment. But none of those resignations occurred at the same time, thus there has never been a situation since the establishment of the initial Board in 2011 when more than one at-large or parent Board position was open at the same time. (See Board minutes July 2013, October 2013, April-July 2014).

Finally, the attorney did not provide any recommendation on whether the interested Board members should recuse themselves from the appointment process, but the election committee nevertheless voted to recommend that they not recuse themselves. The only reasoning given was that the bylaws do not require the Board members to recuse themselves. Which is true. But the bylaws also do not prevent the Board members from recusing themselves. There is a fundamental difference in the law between an “election” and an “appointment.” The appointment process is different from an election process in which candidates are able to cast votes for themselves. While maybe not required by law, it certainly gives the whiff of impropriety when an incumbent Board member is one of the 8 people who vote on who should fill his seat for the next term. Indeed, when the Board voted whether to accept Alison Bacigalupo’s resignation as a Board member, Alison recused herself from the vote. (7-10-13 Minutes, Item 10.4.) If a Board member finds it appropriate to recuse herself from an uncontested resignation vote, it certainly seems appropriate for interested Board members to recuse themselves from contested appointment votes.

Based on this manipulation, the only voice we parents and community members have in the election is to let the 8 members of the Board *know* our desire to have transparent representatives on the Board. Having heard the interviews, I believe that Holly Tillman, Adrienne Barnes and Bud Beemer should be selected. Please email the Board to voice your support.

Sharon

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