Group calls for special election to fill seat on FUSD school board

December 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A group of parents, teachers, and students is calling on Fresno Unified to hold a special election to fill the seat left vacant by Tony Vang on the school board.

Vang resigned in September following months of public scrutiny over allegations he lived outside of the area he served.

Last month the board appointed his replacement, but on the final day to submit a petition for a special election, a group of about fifteen people insisted the community have a voice. On Friday, they hand-delivered the signatures of more than 1.5% of registered voters in the McLane area, over to the Fresno County Office of Education.

"You know we have a system here called democracy. It's so important that we give the people the opportunity to practice their democracy and elect someone they want to represent them," said John Muir Elementary School teacher Mai Summer Vue.

Several weeks ago, the board swore-in former special education teacher and stay-at-home dad, Christopher de la Cerda to the post, despite objections from Vue, who pushed for a community vote. On Friday, she and her colleague, Justice Education Committee member Jose Luis Barraza, said they spent the weekend going door--to-door in an effort to collect enough signatures for a special election. 304 signatures were needed, they said, and more than 500 were gathered.

"We were pulling from everywhere just to get people to walk those cold days and evenings that most people aren't willing to do," said Barraza. "Residents were startled when when we knocked on their doors. They said, you're walking in the dark? We said we have to, we've got to get these signatures."

Those signatures could ultimately cost the district big bucks. Fresno County Superintendent Larry Powell estimated the price tag to be over $100,000 and said the election could end in the same result.

"I don't believe the petition is against Mr. De la Cerda, but it's against the process," he said. "The unique thing about democracy is we have a system in place for the board to decide to appoint a provisional person or the people can decide we want to take it ourselves and have an election. There's a cost to that, $120,000 or more, but that's what democracy is all about."

Powell didn't know whether De La Cerda planned to run if a special election is called, but said they did have a conversation where De La Cerda inquired about the process.

Powell said he has 30 days to verify all of the signatures on the petition, and once that's done, he has 130 days to call for a special election. That means the earliest an election would be held is about five months from now.

In the meantime, the group that collected the signatures on the petition said the $125,000 price tag attached to a special election is a small price to pay for democracy.

"I think the price shouldn't prevent people from practicing their rights." said Vue.


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