It was an evening which was much anticipated as members of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board gathered for the December meeting on Monday, Dec. 13.
Two action items seemed to spark the most interest as the board was still faced with filling the board vacancy left by the resignation of long time member Barbara Shook in October. Discussion and potential action of “Resolution 21-22-09” was also on the board agenda as the board addressed the state mandate of vaccination for students.
In anticipation of a large crowd, Monday night’s meeting was relocated to the Magnolia Elementary School auditorium to accommodate a larger crowd. The rain may have hindered attendance as the auditorium seats didn’t appear to be much fuller than the normal Tech Center board meeting location has in past months.
Closed Session was held prior to the call of the public meeting. During this time Superintendent Dr. Dave Kline was given his mid-year evaluation. Nothing was reported by the board in regards to this at the start of Public Session.
Following up to the November meeting the board was presented with two options to fulfill the Board seat vacancy. Dr. Kline addressed the vacancy as well as the need to fill the seat. He shared with the board, as well as the audience, the details of options of a provisional appointment versus an election at district expense.
Much to surprise of the board, as well as all in attendance, cost for an election was more than anticipated. A Special Election with a date set of May 3 would cost the District between $116,000 to $157,000 vs. an Election in Consolidation set for June 7 that could be executed at a price of $24,000 to $41,000.
The audience was allowed to speak on process, as well as the options and candidates who had submitted applications for consideration for the seat. Community members who had expressed interest in joining the board were: James Anderson, Wendell Chun, Bill Duvall, Melissa Goodman, Greg Komsky, Timothy Spears, Terri Taylor and Jeff Titus.
Longtime community member Paul Rivera addressed the board for clarification on who would make the decision in regards to the seat appointment; the audience or the board. Board members clarified for Rivera that if Option 1 were to be chosen the board would conduct the interviews of the eight candidates during the current meeting.
“What is it that we have to say or do to influence you guys?” Rivera asked. “I think everybody here would like to see it done tonight at a savings to the district. I don’t know if this makes sense or not, but I think we’re all here to make sure that someone’s in that seat by the end of the night.”
President Diane Gilbert shared with Rivera that the board needed to take a vote to decide which of the two options they felt best served the district. A unanimous decision was made by the board to select one of the eight candidates during the meeting.
President Gilbert spoke to the audience reminding them of appropriate behavior and manners during each candidate’s time at the podium.
“Everyone who is here to present are your neighbors, your fellow Oakdaleans,” Gilbert said, “and every candidate here is qualified. This is not an easy process. We want you to show them the courtesy that you would a guest that came into your own home. Be sensitive.”
Dr. Kline shared that candidates would be scored by each member following their individual interviews. Each candidate would be asked the same set of questions by Kline, who did not have a vote or say in the candidate selection.
Each candidate was asked four of the same questions, a total of 10 minutes was allowed for each of the eight candidates.
Former OJUSD Assistant Superintendent Terri Taylor received the highest score by the board and was subsequently appointed to the seat. Taylor was sworn in by President Gilbert on Monday night and joined the board for the remainder of the meeting.
An additional item of interest for all in attendance as well as those watching at home was the board resolution – Agenda item 12.5 – regarding a vaccination mandate for California students and staff.
“The Board of Trustees, as elected official for our school district, shall have the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding any and all mandates that are handed down to the District,” Superintendent Kline read.
At the encouragement of the audience as well as the board, Kline read the resolution in its entirety. The language which may be of most importance and interest to all involved states, “…that the governing board of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District will petition the State of California that the COVID-19 Vaccine be a recommendation and not a requirement for students and staff.”
Further language of interest which the board was encouraged to modify states, “… that the governing board of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District will not deny a student access to in-person instruction regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.”
The board was asked to add “not deny employment” within the text, which was done.
The board was asked if a provision would be considered to address the issue of masking. It was noted that the mask provision was not agendized so could not be added within the provision. Audience members requested the issue of masking be added to the next agenda.
A motion was made and passed to approve the Agenda item 12.5.
The next meeting of the school board is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 10, 2022 with the location to be announced.