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School Board Fills Vacant Seat
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The Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees approved the appointment of former school trustee Rick W. Jones to fill a vacant seat on the board at the March 8 regular meeting.

Board member Pam Antinetti died on Feb. 5, creating an open seat on the board that was required to be filled within a specified time period from the date of the vacancy.

Three people had come forward and informed the district of their interest in filling the open board seat. Jones had served on the school board for several years but was unsuccessful in his bid for reelection in November 2009. Oakdale Educational Foundation board member Kim Whitemyer, and Antinetti’s widower Norm Antinetti, a former teacher and coach in the district who currently serves as the Valley Oak League commissioner, were the other candidates.

OJUSD Superintendent Fred Rich notified the board of three options it had to consider in filling the vacancy. Using the appointment option, the board had to make the appointment within 60 days of the vacancy. The second option was to post notices and place an advertisement of the vacancy, whereby any interested party could apply. The board would then have had to conduct questions, interviews, and deliberations in a public forum. The third option was to order an election, which was estimated to cost the district something in the range of $42,000 to $68,000.

One community member spoke to the board during public comments, suggesting that the board use the second option to let people know of the vacancy. The man stated that recently the Turlock school district and another district in southern California went through a similar process to select their new board members.

Trustees Mike Tozzi, Mike House, and Bill Dyer each expressed their desire to use the appointment method, citing the desire to save time and money, as well as the fact that elections were fairly recent and people had an opportunity to express their interest then. Trustee Diane Gilbert, who was newly elected in November, stated that she preferred the second option to have the process be open and allow anyone who’s interested the opportunity to apply. The board voted 3-1, with Gilbert as the dissenting vote, to use the appointment option.

Kim Whitemyer addressed the board, stating her qualifications and her desire to serve on the board. She also said that she had considered running for board election in November but didn’t feel that she could win a seat.

In discussion leading up to the appointment, Tozzi, Dyer, and House each stated the difficult decision and its emotional component, noting the quality of the interested parties. Each of them stated that they preferred Jones for his prior experience of serving on the board and being able to step into the role seamlessly.

Gilbert stated that she felt that voters chose not to reelect Jones because they wanted a new or fresh perspective on the board. She also expressed concerns for Antinetti’s grief, and acknowledged his desire to serve for his late wife by relating her personal experience of losing her first husband many years ago. Gilbert stated her support and high regard of Whitemyer to serve in the position.

Dyer made the motion to appoint Jones, and it was approved by the board with a majority vote.

In other business, the board unanimously approved a resolution to reduce or discontinue the service of certificated personnel (teachers), via a layoff. Due to state budget constraints, the resolution was passed in the event that the district may have to reduce budget expenditures on certificated salaries based on a projected budget shortfall. The layoffs would represent approximately $975,000.

While the layoffs are uncertain at this time, the positions that would be affected by the resolution are 15.66 full-time K-8 elementary teachers, one full-time math teacher, and two full-time counselors. The pink slips were issued on Tuesday, March 9.

“It is our desire to bring each and every one of these teachers back if it is at all financially possible,” School District Superintendent Fred Rich said at the meeting.

During her report, Oakdale Teacher’s Association President Linda Kraus acknowledged that all district employees have taken a one-and-a-half percent decrease in pay, but that the OTA feels that administrative costs must be cut. She said that the administration in the Oakdale district isn’t shouldering enough of the burden. She said that while that type of reduction may not have a huge impact on the schools, it may be able to save one more job.