The Williams Unified School District Board of Trustees has set 5 PM on April 24 as the deadline for residents to submit applications to serve on the school board.
The board plans to interview candidates and appoint a replacement for Rosa Orozco-Lopez at a special board meeting before May 14. The meeting will be open to the public.
Orosco-Lopez resigned March 15 after being convicted of voter fraud. She was appointed to the board in 2014 and was elected in 2016, during which time she was under extensive investigation for failing to reside within the boundaries of the school district, a requirement for serving on the school board.
Williams Unified School District could have legally suspended its bylaws governing trustee replacement and made an actual provisional appointment during the April 9 special meeting, according to the district’s lead attorney, Mary Hernandez, but just having it on the agenda fueled distrust from community members who have accused the board previously of cronyism.
The board last appointed Ana B. Leos-Vera, a 2015 graduate of Williams High School, to fill the seat on the board vacated in December by Trustee Kelly Lewis.
Community members complained following Leos-Vera’s appointment that the board selected a school insider over a more qualified individual, although neither candidate ran for the open seat in the November 2018 election.
Echoing a letter she wrote to the school board on April 5, Williams resident Kathleen Manor-Bautista said there was no reason to suspend the policy and make a hurried appointment because there was ample time for the board to stick to an open application process.
Former Trustee Selena Tapia also encouraged the board not to deviate from set procedure, as did Natalie McCullough, who said applicants should be given the opportunity to openly speak in front of the school board and community.
“That goes to building communication and transparency,” said McCullough, a former elementary school principal who, like Leos-Vera, applied for the seat vacated by Lewis after an insufficient number of candidates ran in the 2016 election.
Following last week’s discussion, the school board voted 4-0 to follow board policy, which will give applicants until next week to submit their applications to the district and be interviewed in an open meeting in May.
“I think it is in the best interest of the community,” said Trustee Yareli Mora.
Trustee George Simmons said the board “heard the community loud and clear” then followed it with “but I do know we have the option of suspending policy if we want to in the future.”
“This is an important decision and I hope people come forward and apply,” Simmons added. “It would be nice to see.”
Board President Sylvia Vaca appointed Simmons and Leos-Vera to the subcommittee responsible for reviewing the applications for qualifications. School board members are required to be at least 18 years old, must live in and be registered to vote within the school district boundaries.
Applications are available at the district office and at each school site, officials said. ■