Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) voters in Area 3 will elect the successor to Trustee Dan Cunningham on Nov. 5.
Cunningham resigned, effective March 5, declaring it was necessary to devote more time to his business and family, after 10 years’ service on the board.
The election will be ordered by Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) Superintendent Karen Monroe, according to DUSD Superintendent Leslie Boozer.
The DUSD board spent an hour at its March 12 regular meeting discussing the merits of an election compared to a board appointment to replace Cunningham.
All three trustees — Board President Amy Miller, Board Vice-president Megan Rouse, and trustee Dan Cherrier agreed that whether a successor were to be appointed or elected, that person should reside in Area 3, which currently has no incumbent trustee. Cunningham was elected at-large in 2016, before the board adopted area elections. He lives in Area 1, which already has Miller as an incumbent. Cherrier lives in Area 5 and Rouse represents Area 2.
Area 4 will be represented by the winner of the June 4 election between Niranjana “Nini” Natarajan and Gabrielle Blackman.
Natarajan was appointed to the board Dec. 11, but unseated a few weeks later by a petition with 75 names on it calling instead for an election. Area 3 has never been represented by a trustee, so the board said it was the logical choice to find candidates for appointment or election.
However, the board failed to decide whether trustees should appoint someone, or call for an election. A motion by Cherrier to hold an election was seconded by Miller, but failed 2-1, because Rouse voted no. The board cannot approve a resolution, if there are fewer than three affirmative votes.
Rouse felt conflicted. She said that many good trustees have been appointed in the past. In addition, it would be advantageous to save the election cost, and obtain a new trustee soon, instead of in a November 5th election this year.
Miller tried to reassure Rouse by noting that once the board has the stability of five members, there could be a climate for appointments. However, Rouse said that she still felt that a precedent might be set that would drive away future appointments.
Since there was no resolution of the election and appointment options, the board decided to let the decision default to Monroe’s office. The only thing trustees were not sure about was whether Monroe would confine the election to Area 3, or call for an at-large election throughout the school district, as Cunningham had been chosen in 2016. At that time, DUSD had not embarked on creating area elections; it had not yet received a demand letter from a Walnut Creek attorney.
The letter pointed to the California Voting Rights Act as its legal basis for the demand.
Boozer told a reporter on Monday that Monroe and ACOE support DUSD’s drive toward having incumbents in place in all of the areas by the 2020 election.
Boozer said that the next DUSD meeting is March 26, and no trustee has asked her to put a discussion about the Cunningham succession on the agenda. Unless both Miller and Cherrier switch their votes to appointment, the issue appears to be resolved. Cherrier said at the meeting that he was 90% in favor of election, and everyone in the community who spoke to him, supported an election, although only 25% of them live in Area 3.
Natarajan attended the meeting March 12, and stood at the microphone advocating for an election in Area 3.
Natarajan talked about how much preparation that she and Blackman went through for the board’s appointment interview, which was public, answering 12 questions.
Natarajan also expressed the disappointment she felt after serving through four board meetings, starting governance training, and then surprise of her removal.
An election would be fairer to any appointee whose appointment could be subject to nullification by those in Area 3 who demand an election, said Natarajan. In addition, she noted that it would be fairer for those who prefer an election. The winner of the June 4 election will be seated after the Registrar of Voters certifies the election. The office has 30 days to certify, so the winner likely would be seated in July, bringing the board up to four trustees.
Natarajan filled the seat vacated by Joe Giannini, who cited time conflicts with his work.