OUSD board to appoint Shanthi Gonzales’ replacement
on May 12, 2022
The Oakland Unified School District board announced Wednesday it will appoint a new director for District 6 to replace Shanthi Gonzales, who abruptly resigned last week.
The board faces a tight deadline to find a replacement. If board members don’t either appoint someone or hold a special election before July 1, the Alameda County superintendent of schools will order an election.
Because the District 6 school board seat is already going to be up for reelection in November, the school board directors at Wednesday’s meeting favored making an appointment. The individual ultimately selected by the board will hold office only for the remainder of Gonzales’ term, which ends in January.
Board directors on Wednesday stressed the importance of the appointment, despite it being temporary.
“It’s going to impact our board a great deal and also going to impact the community at large, not just District 6,” said director Clifford Thompson.
The school board decided to move forward with the appointment process, despite only four of the six remaining board members showing up to the meeting. Board President Gary Yee and director VanCedric Williams were both absent.
The district will post the application for the open position on the OUSD website Monday, and applicants must apply by no later than 5 p.m. on June 1. All applications will be considered public documents. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.
Only residents of District 6 on the city’s current district map are eligible for the appointment. Oakland adopted a new district map earlier this year with revised boundaries, but that map doesn’t go into effect until before the November election and doesn’t apply to this appointment. However, if the appointee does not live within the new D6 boundaries come November, they will not be eligible to run for that seat in the election.
Some community members on Wednesday raised questions regarding the transparency of the appointment process.
“If the replacement is going to be an appointment instead of an election,” said Liz Noune, a community member, “what guarantees do we have of this person who’s going to actually represent those of us in District 6 as opposed to reflecting the preferences of the current board members?”
Others in attendance agreed with the board, saying an appointment offered the most expedient solution.
The school board will consider scheduling three special board meetings in June to select finalists, conduct interviews, and appoint an individual. The board will decide on the number of applicants to interview and other logistics, during the special meeting dedicated to selecting the finalists.
The vacancy of Gonzales’ seat, coupled with the other board absences, placed additional pressure on the directors who attended Wednesday’s meeting. Since the school board needs four votes to approve agenda items, each school board member’s vote became more likely to impact the board’s decisions. Director Mike Hutchinson expressed frustration with the board being short-staffed at the beginning of the meeting. “I’m really disappointed that one of the reasons is one of our colleagues on the board just gave up and quit,” he said.
Gonzales resigned on May 2, publishing a statement on her blog that excoriated the district and the teachers union for not placing the academic needs of students first, and criticized the union and community groups opposed to the district’s school closures and consolidation plan for mounting personal attacks and using intimidation tactics against school board members they disagree with, which she said effectively shut down the possibility of having any meaningful debate.
In February, Gonzales was one of four board members voting in favor of closing seven schools in the next two years.
The story was published in collaboration with The Oaklandside.
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