Now that Gilroy Unified School District School Board members
have decided that they will appoint a trustee to fill the vacancy
left by the unexpected death of T.J. Owens, the time is right to
discuss the necessary qualities of the appointee.
Now that Gilroy Unified School District School Board members have decided that they will appoint a trustee to fill the vacancy left by the unexpected death of T.J. Owens, the time is right to discuss the necessary qualities of the appointee.
Whoever the school board selects should have demonstrated a passionate involvement with our schools. Perhaps the next trustee is a parent volunteer, putting in hours in children’s classrooms. Perhaps the next trustee serves on a school site council. Perhaps the next trustee is a member of a parent club.
It’s also time to consider what qualities are unimportant.
Prior school board experience is unimportant. That kind of experience is not necessary. Being a school board member is not brain surgery or rocket science. We don’t think that getting up to speed quickly on how the school board works should be a top priority. Instead, it’s much more important to pick someone who has shown their passion for GUSD by devoting unpaid hours to improving it.
The next appointee should not be a candidate who has previously been rejected by the voters of Gilroy in an election. Although choosing the next-highest vote-getter from a recent election is a tempting, easy decision, we think it’s a slap in the face of voters who decided against selecting that candidate.
A fresh perspective, without baggage or alignments with any current school board members is what’s needed.
Let’s face it, whomever the trustees appoint is getting a huge boost in the next election. They will be able to run as an incumbent and will enjoy much more name recognition among voters than they would without the appointment. It’s simply not right to ignore the will of the voters by giving that bonus to someone the voters previously passed over.
It’s also time to consider the process that trustees use to select a trustee.
By deciding to appoint a trustee instead of holding an expensive special election, trustees are serving as the voters’ proxies. It therefore behooves them to make sure every facet of this process is completely open.
That means no private email messages encouraging candidates to apply, no behind-the-scenes lobbying among board members for a favorite application. Every discussion, interview, deliberation, application and questionnaire must be completely public.
Anything else would be an arrogant abuse of power.
We encourage volunteers who have dedicated themselves to improving Gilroy’s schools to consider applying for this open position. If you’ve got a thick skin, an open mind and lots of time to dedicate to helping the district at the trustee level, throw your hat into the ring.
We look forward to an open process where all Gilroyans can evaluate a wide variety of candidates, and in which trustees make clear their reasons for their final selection.
It’s an important choice, one that makes it clear why we call those on the board school “trust”ees.