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Menlo Park school board to decide on how to fill vacant seat

Original post made on Jan 14, 2014

The Menlo Park City School District board will decide tonight (Jan. 14) on whether to hold a special election or to appoint a new board member to replace Laura Rich, who announced her resignation last week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 10:34 AM

Comments (19)

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Posted by Same Old Tune
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm

If Laura Rich's "best guess" is that the Board will appoint someone, then you pretty much have your answer to what's going to happen at tonight's meeting. They will be appointing someone. Someone who more than likely has already been determined, despite whatever lip service is paid to inviting people into the process. We've seen it all before and there are no surprises in this school district -- it is run by a group of clones with no diversity and no independent thinking.


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Posted by Yep
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I agree with Same Old Tune. They will engage in a pro forma discussion about the pros and cons of holding an election, the major con being the cost and hassle. Not to overlook the fact that we are fortunate that person x is willing to serve out Laura's term! We want to do what's best for the kids and the schools, and appointing person x is most efficient.

A school board member once confided in me that they make all their big decisions before the meeting. I guess they've figured out a workaround vis a vis the Brown Act. So in case any observers are wondering why they always seem to be in sync, that's why!


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Yep:

there is no "work around" for the Brown Act. If what you relate is true, the school board members are breaking the law.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Someone should go to the meeting and , in the public comment period which MUST precede any decision on this matter, call upon EACH of the board members to go on record regarding any private discussions that they have had on this matter with either another board member or via a third party intermediary.

The ONLY enforcement of the Brown Act in San Mateo County is that which is demanded by the citizens - the DA will NOT enforce the Brown Act.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Menlo Voter & Peter Carpenter are correct.

This issue has been raised previously with the MPCSD board. I believe the board had a pre-public meeting at a member's home and claimed no Brown Act violations occurred.


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Posted by Yep
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2014 at 7:21 pm

As I recall, the conversation was in the context of discussing the MP city council, and the fact that their meetings are often characterized by dissent. It's part of the school board culture to present a harmonious picture in public. That's one reason it's so important to them to make sure that only the right kind of people get on the board.

I think they have convinced themselves that public process is antithetical to doing the best job they can, and they truly do want to serve our kids and families. But I've been to some board meetings that were a little creepy because they had been so choreographed in this Stepford Wife-ish way. For example, you might get 20 parents expressing concern about a particular issue at a meeting. They all speak, a board members shoots them down, the rest of the board nods in agreement with their peer, and the meeting continues.


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I'm going to disagree with the other comments on this one. It is pretty typical to appoint someone to complete the term of a trustee who leaves before the end of the term, because the alternative is very expensive (a special election.) I, for one, would rather live with the appointee until the next election and have that money go to the classroom.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I'm going to disagree with the other comments on this one."

You are not paying attention - NO ONE has suggested an election. The above comments all concern the back room aspect of an appointment. The alternative is not an election but rather an open, transparent process without private communications amongst the current board members.


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Posted by MPCSD Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 15, 2014 at 6:23 pm

There is also the issue that incumbents gets reelected to these positions much more easily than challengers do. By appointing someone now, the Board in essence selects the Board Member for not only the remainder of Ms. Rich's term, but also for the next 4 years. I would love to see the term completed by someone who promised not to run for the seat in November.


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Posted by Poster
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Here is the post-meeting story: Web Link


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Posted by MPCSD Employee
a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Hurrah that Laura Rich has resigned! Now it's time for Terry Thygesen and Joan Lambert to do the same. We are so tired of having a board that wants to control every decision that is made in the district. That is not the purpose of a school board.[Portion removed.] I had no doubt that they would be filling the vacant seat by appointment rather than election. I'm sure they already know who will be filling it. The have Ghysels as a puppet who will do whatever they want. And now they need another person on the board who will agree with what they are doing.


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Peter Carpenter: I was, indeed, paying attention and I think your suggestion that I was not is very rude. The story was about whether they would choose to hold an election or appoint someone to complete the term, which is the discussion that elected bodies such as these have to have when someone steps down before their term is complete.

The rest of the discussion seems to involve a lot of speculation as to whether or not the sitting Trustees have a preconceived notion or agreement on who they will appoint. I hope not, because if so they have violated The Brown Act. Based on the information in the subsequent story, they have solicited qualifications and will review those qualifications and discuss them in an open meeting and vote to appoint someone in an open meeting, which is what they are required to do by The Brown Act. At any rate, it sounds like pure speculation to me.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sorry you were offended but, contrary to your assertion, none of the prior posters had suggested an election - so exactly what were you disagreeing with?


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2014 at 5:29 pm

I feel that the first poster was decrying the choice of appointing a successor. That is what I am disagreeing with. And the article was about the board choosing whether to hold a special election or appoint a successor and we are all commenting on the article.


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Posted by Outward Appearances
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 21, 2014 at 12:44 pm

This appointment is not temporary and it is not open. There is already a designee from within the MPAEF ranks, and that person will be as good as crowned for the following full term. That's just how it works around here.

The Board is indeed afraid of any discussion that could seem "messy" or "uncontrolled", which is of course the definition of the democratic process. They pride themselves for their harmonious reputation and mistake the lack of diverse opinions as a sign of productivity. To that end they absolutely do go around The Brown Act all the time. They meet in twos and threes and come to agreements ahead of time. What this group cares about is image and reputation. As long as no one pushes back and challenges that, it will continue to do business as usual and the school district will suffer from narrow-mindedness and lack of progressive ideas. But as long as it looks good from the outside who cares if it's rotting from the inside?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

When this appointment is made those Board members who make that appointment should be prepared to testify under oath that they did not engage in prohibited discussions regarding the appointment with other Board members.


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Posted by Yep
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Outward Appearances, you nailed it. I had a pretty good friend on the board and have had conversations with other board members. They don't talk about how they operate, but they aren't totally secretive either. I guess they have managed to convince themselves that their tactics are appropriate and they are probably careful to abide by the letter of the Brown Act. There are many ways to go around it.

At one point, when I was thinking about possibly being on the board myself, I had a discussion with a board member who described, in detail, the process by which they identified and chose the replacement for a retiring member. There was no election as this handpicked replacement was the only person who filed for the seat.

I've seen how the clique treats outsiders who decide to run for the board. It's nasty. You don't want to run unless you have the board's blessing, or are willing to be the district pariah.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Peter is correct in saying,

"the DA will NOT enforce the Brown Act."

Steve Wagstaffe is following the lead of James P. Fox on this issue, It gets him a lot of endorsements for his election.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"It gets him a lot of endorsements for his election. "

From politicians that would prefer to ignore the Brown Act.


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