A challenger for a seat on the Woodside Elementary School District board is accusing an incumbent of poor board meeting attendance.
During an Oct. 1 League of Women Voters election forum, challenger Joel Hornstein brought up incumbent Kevin Johnson's attendance record in response to a question from the audience about how the candidates saw their board roles.
"Frankly, Kevin hasn't been a part of a lot of board meetings," Mr. Hornstein said. "He has missed just about one in three board meetings over the entire term and is running at just over 50 percent this year." Those figures, however, appear to be exaggerated.
Mr. Johnson denied that he had missed that many meetings, and sought his attendance record from the district office the following day. Board attendance records supplied by Mr. Hornstein, and separately by the district, show Mr. Johnson has been absent on nine meeting dates in his four years on the board, or a little more than 16 percent of the 54 meetings over that period.
In the 2014-15 school year, Mr. Johnson missed two meetings out of 13, or 15 percent. Since January 2015, Mr. Johnson has missed two board meetings out of 10, or 20 percent.
The discrepancies in the two sets of records appear to be in how Mr. Hornstein counted "missed." Both sets of records say Mr. Johnson attended three meetings via conference call, which Mr. Hornstein counted as missed meetings. Mr. Hornstein says Mr. Johnson also left three meetings and two phone meetings early and "missed multiple votes," and he included those meetings as "missed" as well.
Mr. Hornstein's figures also did not include four meetings that the district said Mr. Johnson attended, and he counted him absent twice on one day with two meetings.
A few questions later in the forum, after the candidates were asked if Woodside's middle school is comparable to other area middle schools, Mr. Hornstein said: "As many of you know, Kevin sent his elder two children to private school for sixth grade," adding that Mr. Johnson's middle child is "now back with us."
At that point Mr. Johnson interrupted Mr. Hornstein, saying that his oldest child, in fact, attended Woodside Elementary from the third grade, when the family moved to Woodside, through eighth grade. He also emotionally denied Mr. Hornstein's comments about his middle child, a son.
Mr. Johnson said his son had stayed at Nueva School when the family moved from San Mateo. But this year, his son chose to attend Woodside for eighth grade, Mr. Johnson said, so he could go to school with his fourth-grade brother and friends at the school, and to prepare for high school in a more traditional middle school environment.
Mr. Hornstein later called the Almanac and said: "I made an error in judgment," in singling out Mr. Johnson's son and repeating incorrect information. He said, and Mr. Johnson confirmed, that he called him and apologized.
Following the exchange about the middle school, League of Women Voters moderator Ellen Kitamura made her own interruption. "I want to stress that we are trying to inform the audience about your positions on the issues, and the personalization of some of these issues is not appropriate in this forum," she said. "These are the league's rules."
There are three candidates running for two seats on the board of the one-school district.
All the candidates have children at the school, and all said they have unique skills to bring to the board.
Silvia Edwards, who was appointed to the board in May, said her background in construction is valuable as the district completes several major construction projects. She serves on the Woodside board's facilities committee and its collective bargaining committee.
Like the other two candidates, she has a law degree. She worked as a special assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2003; she is not currently practicing law.
Mr. Johnson is a practicing attorney with Quinn Emanuel in Redwood Shores and is completing his first four-year term on the board. He said his experience as a litigator has come in handy during his term because the district has had legal issues on almost every board agenda.
Mr. Johnson also has a degree in electrical engineering. "I'm a critical thinker and a strategic thinker," he said. "What I think I bring to the board is pragmatic, practical risk assessment."
Mr. Hornstein said his background in finance could fill a board gap. He also has experience on other boards, both nonprofit and for-profit. He serves on the school's site council and technology committee and is often on the campus and available, he said.
He has "a great deal of flexibility in how I manage my hours, which is really important to me," he said.
Read more about the candidates and the Almanac's endorsements in the Oct. 14 Voters' Guide.