Rocketship vote question answered, current Board members serve until new ones sworn in

By Allen Payton

Questions surrounding the Antioch School Board’s vote to approve the Rocketship Education charter petition at last Wednesday night’s special meeting were raised at the meeting and since then. Some have asked and considered challenging if there was a quorum of members, since current Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray, Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry’s terms ended on Friday, December 2nd, according to one part of the state Education Code. Both Navarro and Terry lost their bids for election. While Gibson-Gray was re-elected, she won’t take the oath of office for her new term, along with the other two election winners, Crystal Sawyer-White and Gary Hack, until this Wednesday night, December 14.

The portion of Education Code Section 5017 which has caused people to call into question the Rocketship vote, reads “Each person elected at a regular biennial governing board member election shall hold office for a term of four years commencing on the first Friday in December next succeeding his or her election.”

Therefore, they conclude there were only two voting, current members of the Board – Vice President Walter Ruehlig and Trustee Debra Vinson – at the meeting and voting on the charter school petition.

However, the rest of that section reads, “Any member of the governing board of a school district or community college district whose term has expired shall continue to discharge the duties of the office until his or her successor has qualified. The term of the successor shall begin upon the expiration of the term of his or her predecessor.”

That begged the question of what is the definition of “qualified.”

Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Stephanie Anello answered that question, today, Monday, December 12, 2016. In an email, she providing the following explain and define the various terms and how they apply to the school board election:

“‘Qualifying’ for Office

Though the law does not explicitly state what is meant by the term ‘qualify,’ many counties interpret it to mean (1) the individual won the election, and (2) the individual has taken the oath of office. Technically, an individual has not ‘won’ the election until the election results are ‘certified.’

‘Certifying’ Election Results

The elections office must provide a certified statement of the results of the election to the District within 30 days of the election. (Elec. Code, § 15372.) The law is unclear whether the election results must be ‘certified’ prior to newly elected board members assuming office pursuant to Education Code section 5017. (According to County Clerk Joe Canciamilla, the election was certified last Tuesday, December 6, 2016).

‘Declaring’ Election Results

Separate and apart from the certification requirement, Elections Code section 15400 requires the ‘governing body’ to officially ‘declare’ the winner of the election. While section 15400 does not specify who the ‘governing body’ official is, generally the county board of supervisors will ‘declare’ the winner shortly after the election. Such is the case for the District. Unlike certification, there is no express deadline or timeline for the declaration of election.

Our legal counsel advised that they recommended that the new Board be sworn in after the certification of the results. However, they also advised that a district or other entity may choose to wait until the winners are declared to avoid a situation in which the winner appeared to be one individual when, in fact, it was another.”

So, the vote on the Rocketship charter petition by the current Board of Trustees was valid, they had a quorum of members in order to take the vote that night. However, the situation could have been avoided had the Board held the required to vote on the Rocketship petition on November 28th, meeting – within the 60-day limit after receiving the petition on September 30th – as it was originally scheduled.

An attempt was made last Monday, December 5th, by current Board President Gibson-Gray to have the new trustees sworn in last Wednesday night, before the vote on the Rocketship charter petition, when she called Ruehlig and asked him to discuss it with Vinson and to decide if they wanted to do that and let her know. (That created a violation of the state’s Brown Act open meeting law, by holding a serial meeting in private of a majority of board members. Both Ruehlig and Vinson say they rejected the idea. That matter will be the subject of a separate article.) But, her term had also expired on Friday, December 2nd, so any action by her could have also been challenged, if the new board was sworn in and the Rocketship charter petition vote had failed. But, that won’t occur until this Wednesday, December 14 at 7:00 p.m. during the regular school board meeting, at the School Services Building, 510 G Street in downtown Antioch when Sawyer-White, Gibson-Gray and Hack all are given their oaths of office.


2 Comments to “Rocketship vote question answered, current Board members serve until new ones sworn in”

  1. Karl dietzel says:

    This vote was one of the very few good ones , considering
    And having the academic needs of our children
    And the option of choice for the parents in mind.


  2. Julio says:

    Should we be concerned about Diane Gibson Grays decision making in the past few months? Now she has violated the Brown Act by trying to get two other members to do so also.

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