Girimonte presents plan to fill vacant Trustee Area 4 seat in upcoming election

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The adopted Trustee Area map approved in February made shifts to the boundary lines of the Trustee Areas. (Express graphic)

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By Jacob Hoffman
Express correspondent

During their first meeting of the month, the Board of Trustees for the Winters Joint Unified School District confirmed that the Area 4 Trustee position, currently held by Candi Ochoa, had not received any candidates to run for the position once her term ends in November.

As a result, in line with the Winters JUSD Board Bylaw 9223, Acting Superintendent Phoebe Girimonte laid out the path forward for filling the position via an appointment by the Board.

The appointment will be made prior election day, Nov. 8, with the latest the Board can make the appointment being Nov. 3. When the appointment process begins, the school district will publish one notice in the Winters Express, stating the board’s intention to fill the Board Trustee position and informing the public of the process for applying for the appointment, which follows the same process as for any other Winters JUSD provisional appointment.

The Board will then proceed with procedures for selecting and interviewing candidates. Following the district advertising the position in local media and receiving applications, they will then convene a committee of less than a quorum of the Board and announce the name of candidates. This committee will proceed with interviews in a public meeting and accept oral and public comment.

After this, the Board will select the appointee by a majority vote, and within 10 days of the appointment it will be announced via local media and a number of other places within the district.

The appointee will hold the position until the next regularly scheduled election. Girimonte also noted that applicants must, along with being qualified and eligible for the position, live in the Trustee Area 4 boundary.

Board Trustees provided a few clarifying questions regarding the process.

Trustee Kristen Trott asked what would happen if the position can’t be filled because no one qualified, eligible applies or is accepted, to which Girimonte answered that, in such an event, the Board will only have four members until the next election.

Board Clerk Joedy Michael inquired if the board can advertise for the position via mediums outside of just the local paper. Girimonte confirmed that board policy states that the announcement must at least be made in local media, but beyond that other avenues can be used.

Trustee Everardo Zaragoza asked about the fiscal impacts this process could entail, to which Girimonte noted that the cost of the appointment process should be minimal since it’s not a special election and will only cost the time and labor of the Trustees during the application and interview processes.

Job details
Girimonte expounded on the duties and responsibilities of a Board Trustee, which includes attending regular meetings, both with the Superintendent and other members of the Board, as well as attending Winters JUSD Board meetings on the first and third Thursdays of each month. A Board Trustee will also attend a broader array of District related events and committees, including school events like Back to School Nights and Open Houses, as well as committees like Curriculum Assessment Instruction and Technology (CAIT) Committee and the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Task Force, though Girimonte noted that the District fully understands that “most Trustees also have a career and the District collaborates with them to accommodate their work schedules.”

Girimonte also encouraged prospective applicants to read through Roles and Responsibilities of the California School Boards Association, which states, “The role of the school board is to ensure that school districts are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities,” with the most important responsibilities of Board Trustees being, “setting direction, establishing an effective and efficient structure, Providing support, Ensuring accountability, and Providing community leadership as advocates for children, the school district and public schools.”

According to the Trustee Definition and Characteristics page, an ideal Board Trustee, “keeps learning and achievement for all students as the primary focus, values, supports and advocates for public education, recognizes and respects differences of perspective and style on the board and among staff, students, parents and the community, acts with dignity, and understands the implications of demeanor and behavior, participates in professional development and commits the time and energy necessary to be an informed and effective leader,” with these just being a few of the characteristics needed for a Board Trustee to succeed.

In addition to the qualifications and characteristics a Board Trustee needs, location is also important as prospective applicants must live in Trustee Area 4, which is the blue area of the map above. As Girimonte explained, “outside of town, the western border is County Road 89. Within the community, it is bordered by Hemenway on the western side, Niemann on the northern side, and W. Grant Avenue on the southern side.”

Girimonte encouraged anyone with questions about whether their residence falls with Trustee Area 4 to contact Anietta Kelly, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent.

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