Bakersfield City School District makes no decision on how to fill vacant board seat

June 4, 2019 /

After calling a special meeting in response to a board member submitting a resignation letter, the Bakersfield City School District Board of Trustees did not decide how it plans to fill a vacant seat at a meeting Monday.

Instead of voting Monday on how to fill the seat, the board learned it can call for a special election, make a provisional appointment, or go through a simplified appointment process.

“We are going to consider all options,” said Board President Lillian Tafoya. “We need time to think about this.”

Attorney Grant Herndon, with Schools Legal Services, discussed three options the district can take when filling the seat.

If the board called for a special election, the board would operate with only four members for several months. BCSD held a special election in 2018, costing the district more than $147,000.

If the board decides to make a provisional appointment, it would post the vacancy and have individuals apply for the position. The board would also need to hold interviews.

The third option Herndon discussed is a “simplified process.”

“It is not required by law to do interviews or an applications process,” Herndon said.

The board can appoint a “qualified” individual and post the appointment. Herndon said the board could bring back former Area 4 board member Russ Shuppert since he came in second in the 2018 election.

Bakersfield City council member Andrae Gonzales attended the meeting and said he is particularly interested in who represents the area since he previously served as BCSD’s Area 4 board member.

“I think the best option is to have a special election,” Gonzales said. “The voters within that area deserve an opportunity to elect their own representative.”

Voorhies parent Lori Pesante agreed.

“I know they are going to say (a special election) costs too much money, but area 4, being someone who is directly affected, I want to have a democratic process so everyone’s voices can be heard,” Pesante said.

Area 4 Trustee Michael Horne announced May 29 — just two days before the school year ended — his intention to resign from the school board, effective June 12, the day after the board will vote to adopt the Local Control Accountability Plan.

“I would like to thank the Bakersfield community and everyone who voted for me for the opportunity to serve the students of Bakersfield City School District,” Horne said in his letter.

In his resignation letter, Horne said he is resigning to seek several opportunities, including public speaking, a record label, a film making studio, photography, building a church, starting a school and running for President of the United States in 2024.

Horne was sworn in during a December board meeting. His position would be up for re-election in 2022.

“The balance of the term is three and a half years,” Gonzales said. “That’s practically an entire term. The best people to decide who sits in that seat are the voters of Area 4.”

Washington Middle School teacher Carla Jeffers said the board’s action to hold a special meeting at noon on a Monday calls into question it’s willingness to be transparent with the community.

“Posting an emergency meeting when people are unable to get to it in the middle of the day causes an issue of wanting to be transparent,” Jeffers said. “You really need to start having more transparency in your actions.”

The district has until July 29 to make a decision.

South Kern Sol is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, youth reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.

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Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez is the program associate for South Kern Sol. She can be reached at elizabeth@southkernsol.org.