Antioch School Board continues 2-2 split on reappointing Mary Rocha to district’s Personnel Commission

Trustee absences give it to State Superintendent Torlakson to make appointment

By Allen Payton

Due to the absence of Trustee Gary Hack at the Sept. 27 board meeting, the Antioch School Board split 2-2 on voting to reappoint former Antioch Mayor Mary Rocha to the district’s Personnel Commission. Trustees Vinson and Sawyer-White voted against her reappointment. Then due to Gibson-Gray’s absence at the Oct. 11th meeting, there were still not three votes to approve her reappointment and the item was pulled from the agenda.

According to the commission’s Rules and Regulations, “the California Education Code…provides the Personnel Commission with the right and responsibility for establishing rules and regulations to govern the District’s classified (non-faculty) employees.”

Following is the staff report on the item for the Sept. 27 meeting:

The term of the current Board of Education appointee to the Personnel commission will expire at noon on December 2, 2017.  As outlined in Personnel Commission Rule 20.1.2.2 and Education Code 45248, 45245 and 45246, on or before September 1st of each year, the Human Resources Director shall notify the Board of Trustees of the name and address of the commissioner whose term will be expiring and whether or not that commissioner will accept reappointment for another three-year term.

The Director of Human Resources notified us that the Board of Education’s appointment’s term will expire in December and that Ms. Rocha would accept reappointment for another three-year term.

Personnel Commission Rule 20.1.2 states:

“The Board of Trustee’s Appointment:  By September 30th, the Board of Trustees shall publicly announce the name of the person it intends to appoint or reappoint.  At a Board meeting to be held after 30 and within 45 days of the date the board publicly announced its candidate, the Board shall hold a public hearing to provide the public, employees and employee organizations the opportunity to express their views on the qualifications of the person recommended by the Board of Trustees for appointment. The Board at that time may make its appointment or may make a substitute appointment or recommendation without further notification or public hearing.”

The vacancy was announced with a recruitment to target all regular advertisement, recruitment sources, social media and websites.  Recruitment closed on September 5th and only one application was received.

Staff is recommending that, in accordance with Personnel Commission Rule 20.1.2, a public hearing be held to provide the public, employees, and employee organizations the opportunity to express their views on the qualifications of the person recommended by the Board of Trustees, and thereafter, that the Board reappoint Mary Rocha to fulfill the term for the Board-appointed Commission.

Mrs. Rocha has over 44 years in public service, with 16 of those years serving as a board trustee for the Antioch Unified School District.  She is familiar with the policies, procedures and budgets for the school district, as well as personnel commission rules, and regulations.  Ms. Rocha believes in the underlying philosophy of the merit system to include providing the best qualified candidates for employment in a timely and efficient manner to support the District’s goal to advance student achievement.

According to the rules for the commission as seen on the district’s website, it “is composed of three (3) individuals who must be registered voters, reside in the Antioch Unified School District and be “known adherents to the principles of the merit system”.  One member of the commission is appointed by the Board of Trustees, one member is appointed by the Board of Trustees upon the recommendations of the classified employees’ organization, which represents the largest number of the District’s classified employees, and the third member is appointed by the other two (2) members of the Commission.”

Rocha is currently the board-appointed member of the commission.

Instead of being reappointed by the Board Rocha said, “I will have Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent (of Public Instruction) sign off my Personnel Commission position.”

That is expected to occur by early December, she shared.

Board President Ruehlig responded to questions about the matter.

“Mary was the only applicant both times (original and reappointment). We advertised in several…media.”

“This is not all that unusual,” he continued. “For years I was trying to get a replacement on the County Library Commission and there was no response. Crystal and Debra showed an interest in putting it back to advertisement, but I understand that we spent $1,800 advertising and the Personnel Commission has no caveat against there being only one applicant. With 44 years public service and 16 years on the School Board, Mary, whatever you feel about her, certainly is legitimate. On top of all that, we have deadlines.”

Asked about the commission and why the State Superintendent will fill the vacancy, Antioch Superintendent Stephanie Anello said, “Districts are not required to have a Personnel Commission related to their classified staff. However, they can and must vote on it as a bargaining unit. Antioch is one of approximately 100 districts in the State that have a PC. I am including our PC Director, Lynda Sifford on this email as she is the guru of all things Personnel Commission related.”

A question to Sifford asking if it was state law that the State Superintendent fills vacancies on such commissions was sent after close of business on Tuesday.

Thursday, Oct. 19 UPDATE:

Sawyer-White Wants to Reopen Application Process, Vinson refuses to comment

When reached for comment about why she voted against Rocha’s reappointment, Sawyer-White said, “I have been speaking to parents and other Board Trustees in Contra Costa County and the Personnel Commission is not a pressing issue. I am hearing “Keep up the fight for our students.” I addressed at our Board meeting recently, a new Child Nutrition Program called Revolutionfoods.com and declining enrollment. I think the public would like to hear more about topics pertaining to our students.

“To answer your question. Before voting, I motioned to reopen the Personnel Commission position,” Sawyer-White explained. “A district employee from the Personnel Commission conveyed to me that my motion cannot be granted. I decided to research further to see if there was a policy to reopen this position. I call the California Personnel Commission Association and I spoke to the Director and he said the position can be reopened.”

In responding to the same question, Vinson simply wrote via email, “No comment.”

She later attempted to call this reporter in response to a further email challenging her to give the public an explanation for why she voted how she did. But no voicemail message was left.

 

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