It was a meeting which had been called well before the results of the Trustee Area 2 Special Election were in, yet the timelines played out to be perfect.
On Thursday, March 23 the Oakdale Joint Unified School Board gathered in a special meeting with two items needing to be addressed. While the initial decision would be to address the issue of Superintendent Dave Kline’s resignation, the board would also address how to handle an unexpected tie in the two-way race in the special election.
Dr. Kline officially announced his resignation at the March 13 regular OJUSD board meeting.
“I submitted a letter that serves as notification that I’m resigning from Oakdale Joint Unified District as the Superintendent on June 30, 2023,” Kline stated, March 13. “Thank you very much for allowing me to serve the board and community in this capacity for the past two years. I hope for nothing but the best for the district.”
As a reminder to the audience in attendance at the Thursday meeting, board member Diane Gilbert explained that the “sudden and unexpected recognition” of Dr. Kline prompted the initial need for the meeting.
It was further indicated that the board must review the process/options available for selection of a new superintendent. Kline has served two years of his three-year contract as Superintendent of Schools.
Getting to the issue of the tie of 402 votes to 402 votes between Trustee Area 2 candidates Eric Kjeldgaard and Terri Taylor, Board President Tina Shatswell recapped the decision to hold the special election.
“The reason we asked for an election instead of appointing someone or doing something was to let the community choose and let it be the fairest way,” President Shatswell said. “So now this is what we’re faced with.”
She further read the options and what they entailed for the board to decide. In short, the decision was between a runoff election or to call for a winner to be selected by lot. A lot selection would be done by cutting cards (high card wins) or a dice role.
Prior to sharing her personal opinion, Shatswell reminded the board that the seat being filled through special election was a one-and-a-half-year seat versus that for a full four-year term.
“I don’t think it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do,” she said of a runoff election, noting that the length of time to execute as well as additional cost was unknown. “If this were a four-year seat that would be different. I think it’s the fairest option, that’s why we did it in the first place.”
Now, who wins will basically boil down to luck.
“None of it’s great,” she continued. “These people gave time, money, effort. They both are great community members; they showed a ton of interest. It just makes me sick honestly that we’re at this point.”
Shatswell then suggested if a card draw was done it was her recommendation that it be done with a sealed deck, opened at the meeting, cut by each candidate, each shuffle and choose a card.
“Just for clarity it’s not that we want to do it this way,” board member Gilbert added, noting she preferred to let SCOE (Stanislaus County Office of Education) decide, have it be outside of Oakdale. “Apparently this process needs to be done, in one of our meetings, in an open session, where it can be observed.”
A suggestion was made by Lisa Kjeldgaard (Eric’s wife) to let both serve in the seat and represent one vote as a fair compromise.
“Let them both have voice,” Kjeldgaard said. “Let them have their input and then let there be an election that does not cost all of us and the District so much money.”
A recess to consult with legal counsel by phone was called. Legal counsel indicated a decision needed to be reached. One candidate needed to be appointed.
“By Ed Code we are not allowed to have two representatives from one District,” Shatswell reported following the consult.
The decision was made by the board to assign the Trustee Area 2 representative by lot via card draw at the April 3 scheduled school board meeting. It was further reported after closed session that the board will withhold a decision on preceding with filling the Superintendent position until the fifth board member is assigned.
The Monday, April 3 meeting will begin with the public session at 6:30 p.m., at the OJUSD Tech Center.