Residents of Area 4 in the Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) have filed a petition with the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) to cancel the board’s Dec. 11 appointment of Niranjana “Nini” Natarajan as a trustee.
A petition to have the appointment nullified was turned in Jan. 2 to ACOE Superintendent Karen Monroe. She sent it to Tim Dupuis with the County Registrar of Voters so that his department can make sure the petition has the proper number of valid signatures that would require Monroe to declare the appointment vacated, and to call a special election. Dupuis will report back to Monroe within 30 days of Jan. 2.
Under the state education code, valid signatures from only 1.5% of the registered voters in Area 4 are needed to make the petition valid, said ACOE Chief of Staff Dan Bellino.
Data on the Registrar of Voters website on Jan. 7 show that Area 4 has 5012 registered voters. Website data for all political jurisdictions throughout the county are updated daily on the website, stated a spokesperson. With 1.5% of the total registration needed, there must be at least 75 valid signatures on the petition for it to nullify the appointment, and require Monroe to call a special election.
Natarajan was appointed to replace Joe Giannini, who resigned in October. Giannini cited a long commute, which consumed time that conflicted with some of his board duties. Board work also affected his availability for family activities.
Natarajan’s appointment lasts for two years, filling out Giannini’s term. When the term expires in 2020, she would be eligible to run in the election in Area 4.
The Dublin district switched from at-large seats to area seats in 2017 in response to a demand letter from an attorney representing the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP). The SVREP said it made the request after being asked to do so by Latino residents of Dublin. It is more difficult for a minority person to be elected in an at-large election, said SVREP.
The board voted 3-1 to appoint Natarajan, Head of Finance for a start-up in San Mateo. The only other candidate for the appointment, Gabrielle Blackman, works in the architecture industry, helping institutions with facilities design.
Blackman ran for the board in 2016, when the voting was at-large, and three seats were up for election. She finished fourth in a field of five. Incumbents Amy Miller and Dan Cunningham were re-elected, and newcomer Giannini defeated incumbent Sameer Hakim, who had been appointed in 2015 to succeed Sean Kenney, who resigned. The other finalist for the 2015 appointment from a field of nine candidates was Giannini.
Board Vice-president Dan Cherrier cast the lone no vote against Natarajan’s appointment, preferring Blackman. He said both candidates were qualified, but Blackman was more in line with his philosophy. He would like to seat a board member who could help locate available money for projects, and work toward goals tied to that. Also, Cherrier liked Blackwell’s longer,13-year residence in Dublin, and her school volunteer work.
Board President Miller said she preferred Natarajan, because she emphasized connecting with people, both teachers and parents, and was active in the schools.
Trustee Megan Rouse said that since Natarajan is relatively new to Dublin, having lived there for four years, she might be more in touch with newer community residents, and bring in new ideas. Cunningham said that Natarajan brings a fresh face to the board, and with it perhaps something new.
Natarajan attended her first meeting Dec. 13. The board’s next meeting took place Jan. 8.