WSCUHSD trustee vacancy to be filled by provisional appointment

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer , SoCoNews, August 31, 2021


The West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) held its first board meeting in person this year at the West County High School theater in Sebastopol on Aug. 25, 2021. (Photo Camille Escovedo)

As anyone could have predicted, the West Sonoma County Union High School District’s (WSCUHSD) first board meeting in person this year was a fierce one Aug. 25. The meeting was held at the West County High School theater in Sebastopol.

Public comment billowed with resignation demands and grievances surrounding the first week of school at West County High. Parents and community members spoke of crowded classrooms, fights and unacceptably long lines to get lunch or use the bathroom. During the meeting, trustees also decided they will fill former trustee Laurie Fadave’s vacancy with a provisional appointment.

Proponents of recalling Board President Kellie Noe and Vice President Jeanne Fernandes and reversing consolidation showed out in numbers as they said they would, and verbal jostling between Fernandes and attendees rose to an outburst where many strode out of the theater yelling.

Now that Fadave has resigned from the board, Superintendent Toni Beal announced that by law, the board would need to decide within 60 days to either make a provisional appointment or call for a special election to fill the vacancy.

An appointed member would serve in that role until the next board election, she said, agreeing with Noe that a special election would likely happen in March of 2022, costing the district an estimated $150,000 unless it shared the ballot with something else.

According to the superintendent, an elected trustee would take the seat until the end of its term, while an appointed trustee would assume the role until the next board election coming in November 2022.

Fadave was one of three trustees targeted in a recall campaign against the board members who voted to uphold the consolidation of Analy High School and El Molino High School, but she said this didn’t influence her decision to step down. The former trustee said she realized she couldn’t commit to the time, preparation and research that was constantly on her mind for the three remaining years of her term.

Calls for Noe and Fernandes to step down rang loud and clear that night from Gillian Hayes, a founder of the Community Alliance for Responsible Education (CARE), taking the district to court over the consolidation decision.

“We ask you to fill three vacancies tonight,” she said, informing Noe and Fernandes the recall effort reached 9,200 signatures for their removal. She called for a provisional appointment rather than spending “our kids’ money” on an election.

Hayes announced that she, Josh Nultemeier and at least one other were ready to take positions on the board, “I suggest that you appoint the positions for three people once Kellie and Jeanne step down. You need a west county representative to balance your voting representation.”

She said she hoped the board grasped the struggles of students and teachers coming into the new school year.

“Quit digging in your heels on your poor decision-making. Step down now. We are united, three of us are ready to step up. These parents want to take over — we’ll take over tonight,” Hayes said.

The board went on to approve its pursuit of the provisional appointment method to fill the vacancy, without confirming further details on the interview and appointment timeline yet. Many attendees began to leave the theater as Beal introduced updates related to independent study for approval, when Fernandes said, “Toni, just wait a second till these rude people leave.”

The departing audience shouted back incredulously and the superintendent briefly tried to settle the room down.

Fernandes’ attempts to dismiss the crowd she described as rude for talking throughout the meeting and “stomping” on the way out overlapped with their protests. She requested Hayes leave and they exchanged a quick, tense verbal confrontation in which Hayes said the vice president’s own behavior towards her was unprofessional.

Noe spoke of an upcoming interview process to seat an appointee on the board immediately. The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Sep. 14 in Sebastopol and the district also has a court date for CARE v. WSCUHSD coming up on Sep. 1.

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