Thursday, June 17, 2021

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Former Williams School board president resigns

The Williams Unified School District Board of Trustees will take applications until May 12 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of former President Sylvia Vaca, who left over philosophical differences with the new majority.

Vaca resigned from the school board April 15, citing an inability to serve with the new members who were elected last November to take the district in a different direction.

“During some time, there have been many opinions on how the district should operate,” Vaca said, in her April 15 resignation letter to the board. “It has always been my belief that the board’s role is to establish board policies and make decisions on the best interest of all students, not just a few. After many changes made by the current board, it is abundantly clear I can no longer serve on this board.”

Vaca has served on the school board since first being elected in 2014.

During her tenure on the school board, Vaca served multiple terms as president, in which she led the district during its implementation of a $3.8 million School Improvement Grant for Williams Elementary School, approved the implementation of the SEAL (Sobrato Early Academic Language) programs, approved the Dual Immersion language program, developed three career and college readiness pathways, and directed the development and establishment of one of the first Early College High Schools in Northern California.

Also during Vaca’s tenure, the school board submitted a $11.8 million construction bond that voters approved in 2016, which led to the construction of four new permanent kindergarten classrooms, a fitness center, a 21st century digital media recording studio, and a state-of-the-art multipurpose room at the elementary school and other modernization projects.

Vaca, whose term was not slated to end until 2022, was, however, considered by the community as part of the “old guard” who 2020 voters wanted out, largely for following the lead of Superintendent Edgar Lampkin, who was disliked by many.

While Vaca left her mark on the district with a number of positive accomplishments, there were a multitude of criticisms along the way, particularly from the unions over failed negotiations for higher salaries and benefits.

In 2017, parents threatened to remove students from the district and recall the entire board after they cut music, physical education, and 12 classroom aids, while spending lavishly on consultants and attorneys.

Also, in 2018, the school board spent $27,000 on an investigative “hit piece” commissioned in defense of school board member Rosa Lopez, who was charged with election fraud. According to the report generated by the investigator, Vaca claimed the criminal charges against Lopez were tied to the recall effort, when it actually stemmed from a grand jury complaint several years earlier by a private citizen that Lopez did not live in the district during the time she served on the school board. Lopez eventually admitted guilt and was convicted of a misdemeanor.

The tensions between the school board and the community continued to escalate in 2018 and 2019 resulting in a mass exodus of teachers and students to other school districts.

In 2020, four new school board members were elected to the board on their promise to restore civility and make bold changes, the first of which was to fire Lampkin.

At a special meeting on April 28 that lasted just four minutes, the school board, with no discussion or acknowledgment of Vaca’s service, approved a timeline for appointing her replacement.

Unless a petition calling for a special election is filed in the office of the Colusa County Superintendent of Schools within the requisite 30 days of the posted vacancy, then the school board will make an appointment to serve out Vaca’s term.

The board anticipates interviewing applicants and making the appointment in an open public meeting before June 15.

The person appointed will hold the office until the November 2022 election, officials said. §

 

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