Lame Duck School Board Scrambles to Appoint New Member

Will school board and council loser Patricia Martinez-Roach, shown at left with unsuccessful council candidates Brian O’Neill and Steve Klein and labor leader Cindy Chavez in June, get appointed to Alum Rock as a consolation prize?

Alum Rock Union School District trustees are making moves to fill a vacancy left by Darcie Green’s departure. School board watchers believe the existing majority has settled on one of two candidates: Patricia Martinez-Roach, who lost two elections this year; and Javier Gonzalez, who was passed over for a county education post. The apparent fast-tracking of the process has created a firestorm in the community.

“We don’t think the process is fair, democratic or transparent in any way,” said community member Jaime Alvarado, who added that if the board does not take its time with the appointment process, “we’re going to get petitions signed for a special election, which is going to cost a lot of money.”

Last month, Green’s appointment to the county Office of Education’s board threw a wrench in plans for county Supervisor George Shirakawa and San Jose Councilmember Xavier Campos, who both lobbied county education board members to have their friend Gonzalez appointed. The board instead went with Green, whose selection meant she would need to resign from the Alum Rock board. A person cannot serve on the county board and a school district board at the same time.

The musical chairs became more complicated after the Nov. 6 election, however, with Dolores Marquez’s re-election to her Alum Rock board seat while Esau Herrera lost his spot. Charter school advocate Karen Martinez won the second seat on the Alum Rock board, meaning a newcomer would have a role in appointing Green’s replacement. Or so some people thought.

At a Nov. 1 meeting, Marquez, Herrera and recently appointed trustee Andres Quintero—a policy aide for Shirakawa who benefited his boss’ lobbying efforts—voted in favor on a 3-2 vote to have the appointment process take place Monday, Nov. 19. (Frank Chavez and Green dissented.) The unified three trustees cited “instability” that could be caused by waiting two weeks.

Here is an email Herrera sent to his Alum Rock board colleagues, which might violate the Brown Act—rules that require discussions among board members to take place at public meetings:

From: Esau Herrera
Date: Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 5:08 PM
Subject: Special Meeting: Pending Vacancy, Alum Rock School Board

Folks,

I would like to convene a Special Meeting of the board to discuss procedures and timelines for filling the anticipated vacancy on our school board.  Since we have recently gone through this procedure, I presume that the discussion/planning meeting would not consume a large amount of time.

At that special discussion/planning meeting, we would also set a date for candidate interviews and action on this appointment (presuming, of course, that the board prefers an appointment in place of a special election).

For the discussion/planning meeting, I suggest Nov. 1, Nov. 7 or Nov. 8, beginning at 5:30pm or 6pm.  For the interview/action meeting, I suggest Nov. 19, 20, 26 or 27, beginning at 5:30pm or 6pm.  Please contact the Superintendent’s office at your earliest opportunity to advise of your availability.

Esau Ruiz Herrera
Board of Trustees, Alum Rock Union School District

Coincidentally, or maybe not, the county Registrar of Voters doesn’t certify election results until Dec. 4, meaning Martinez, who works for Rocketship charter schools and has an active lawsuit against the district, will not be able to have her voice heard on the board appointment at the Nov. 19 meeting. If the board does wait for Martinez’ inclusion in the appointment decision, the total time between Green’s resignation on Nov. 7 and next month’s meeting—Dec. 13—would actually be the same period of time a seat was vacant before Quintero’s appointment.

Other local school board officials are openly criticizing the process and the reasons Marquez, Quintero and Herrera have given for fast-tracking the appointment.

Frank Biehl, president of the East Side Union School District, and Magdalena Carrasco, who edged out Martinez-Roach for a spot on the East Side board in the recent election, both called for a more open process in the appointment.

“Allow the community to apply through an open Democratic process,” Carrasco said, adding that the appointment of Martinez-Roach, who came in third against Rose Herrera (no relation to Esau Herrera) in the District 8 San Jose City Council primary, would be “a prize for taking on Rose.”

Biehl admitted, “It’s not unusual for a board to try and preserve themselves, to preserve political power as long as they can.”

And for this reason, it seems, Gonzalez, or even Esau Herrera—who would have to resign before the Nov. 19 meeting to potentially be reappointed—could be savvier choices if the current Alum Rock board decides to ignore pleas for a more thorough appointment process.

“This is probably an opportunity for George (Shirakawa),” Alvarado said of any potential backroom dealing. “He’s been getting people appointed for quite some time. I’m sure they see this as an opportunity to get one of their people appointed.” A source tells San Jose Inside that Gonzalez was furious with the county board’s decision to select Green and sees Alum Rock’s board as a stepping stone to challenging her in the 2014 election.

Just a few years ago, Shirakawa helped his chief of staff, Eddie Garcia, get appointed twice to the supervisor’s old seat on the East Side board. Garcia even earned reappointment after losing an election.

“It will be totally a mirror if Esau gets appointed through all of this,” Alvarado said.

Two other potential candidates for the Alum Rock seat who were among possible choices in Quintero’s appointment process are attorney Betty Duong and Alum Rock parent Julie Ramirez.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

5 Comments

  1. That’s just what Alum Rock needs to spend $500K on. Why am I not surprised that the usual cast of characters is behind this.

    Elected officials need to pay attention to the will of the voters. Both Herrera and Martinez Roach lost school board elections. That should tell the Alum Rock board members something.

  2. “Alum Rock Union School District trustees are making moves to fill a vacancy left by Darcie Green’s departure.”

    Merc editor Barbara Marshman’s meddling created this situation.  In 2010, her editorial said that Darcie Green was the best qualified person for election to a four-year term on a board of education compared to every other candidate for a similar position in the entire county. 

    But when a position opened up on the county board of education (Craig Mann’s resignation) this year, someone submitted Green’s name to fill the vacancy.  Marshman failed to editorially note that Green was already committed to serve Alum Rock for the four year term she was endorsed for in 2010.

    We avoided that in Berryessa by persuading David Neighbors to stay for his entire four-year term, but Marshman stayed silent on Green’s commitment.

    Without Marshman’s meddling, a mixture of bombast in 2010 and sly silence in 2012, this situation wouldn’t have arisen.

    Candidates, stay for your entire term when you are elected.

    • @Dale, I agree that people should serve the term they were elected to, at least the first 4 year term, before trying to climb to a ‘higher’ level elected position.

      Too bad Craig Mann didn’t resign before the deadline for candidates to file for election.  It would have been better to have his remaining two years filled by someone who was elected rather than appointed, rather than go through what Alum Rock is going through now.

      I don’t think that David Neighbors was ‘persuaded’ to stay for his four-year term in Berryessa – he just ran for County Board of Ed Area 5 – and lost 57/43% to Anna Song, after a PAC backed by $250,000 of money from outside of the area (funded primarily from charter school proponents)promoted David Neighbors.  We received 7 slick mailers from that PAC, most of which were hit pieces on Anna Song which also advertised David Neighbors.  We also received a door hanger for Neighbors that was bundled with the SC Weekly paper.  Neighbors is now well known here as someone who allowed a highly negative PAC to try to tear down an incumbent in order to install Neighbors in our county board of ed seat – backed by very big money from outside of our area. One wonders how Neighbors would have voted on charter schools had he been elected.

      After the first hit piece he could have told the PAC to cease and desist – instead he told the Merc (after 7 hit pieces from the PAC) that he didn’t know what the PAC was doing.  Really?

      The Merc endorsed Neighbors even though he had two years remaining on his Berryessa School Board commitment.  We don’t need any more school board members who are only in their seats in order to climb to higher office.  David Neighbors has tried before to run for higher office and lost.

  3. The photo at top says it all. Cindy Chavez smiling aside her three losing council candidates:  Patricia Martinez-Roach, Brian O’Neill and Steve Klein. Labor lost this year in Districts 6, 8 and 10 while re-electing incumbents in Districts 2 and 4, Kansen Chu and Ash Kalra. That’s two of five. And, if there had been a more competent exec at the Chamber, Kalra would have been forced into a runoff.

    Overall, the loss of Pyle’s seat to the right wing Khamis destroys the majority or split control they have enjoyed for years. The Labor days are over. Union people inexplicably wasted their members’ money on school board races (i.e. fighting Magdalena Carrasco) while failing support a winnable pro-POA candidate in District 10 (Braunstein).

    Anyone who thinks Labor and Saggau-Derollo didn’t blow it this election should crack open an elementary arithmetic textbook.

    C’mon, Truth Patrol, let’s hear you claim that Labor was really victorious. Hah!

  4. Can the situation in our EastSide get any more discusting?
    After decades of nepotism, a failed community project, and aggresive climbers. There is no way to hide the sickness of what is leaving our children to fend for themselves.
    George, is simply the tip of this dark and lifeless political absence that needs airing. Perhaps Jim Bealle will be the difference in our eastside community. That and a diifferent perspective of our demographics, by our new Chief of Police.
    What did we do with the 14 million HP put into the Mayfair district? Here is your oportunity to shine, Tell us what you accomplished with 14 million? This is an untold story.
      With a drop out rate of over 50% in our eastside, for decades, I chronicled and watched as the politics and nepotisum devoured the programs to build a new Horizon.
      Metro, if you are going to take on George, what will you do to make light of the trageties of the past 50 years in our Sal Si Puedes. I have chronicled this area, since Janet Grey Hayes.
      Jack VanZantd,Of San Jose Inside was the Worrior of our time.
      NO MAS!
      The Village Black Smith