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School Board to Fill La Mesa-Spring Valley Vacancy by Appointment

Vote was unanimous after Superintendent Brian Marshall said special election could cost $430,000.

Updated at 9:35 p.m. Feb. 5, 2013

Penny Halgren’s vacated term on the La Mesa-Spring Valley school board will be filled by appointment, the school board decided in a 4-0 vote Tuesday night. They opted not to call for a special election.

Original story:

Holding a special election to fill a vacancy on the La Mesa-Spring Valley school board would cost as much as $430,000, district Superintendent Brian Marshall says. 

So he’s recommending that the board appoint someone instead.

That’s the option the board may pick at its meeting Tuesday when members consider how to fill two years of Penny Halgren’s term in the wake of her sudden resignation last month.

“The fee for a special election, assessed by the Registrar of Voters, would be approximately $400,000-430,000,” Marshall says in a report to the board [see attached PDF].

The appointee would serve through Dec. 10, 2014, in the K-8 district.

If the now four-member board decides to pick someone, the choice would follow a series of actions, culminating with a decision March 15, Marshall says.

Between Feb. 6 and Feb. 20, the vacancy would be posted at district schools, La Mesa and Spring Valley libraries and in a U-T San Diego advertisement.

Applications would be sent to the board Feb. 20 for review before its meeting March 5. Each of the four board members would then pick two candidates for a final interview at a special meeting March 14.

“The board shall discuss candidate qualifications in open session and, following Robert’s Rules of Order, nominates, seconds and votes on the candidate of choice. Three votes are necessary for the appointment,” Marshall said in his report.

On March 15, the appointment would be “posted in each school and provided to the news media for publication.”

Candidates would be expected to provide information and answer questions: 

  • Describe your educational, work and public service background.
  • What skills, abilities, and experiences would you bring to the Board to assist in carrying out its responsibilities?
  • List your involvement in the schools of La Mesa-Spring Valley (membership on committees/ organizations, offices held, volunteer work, etc.).
  • State briefly your philosophy of public education.
  • List, in order of importance, the major issues confronting public education and specifically the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District.
  • As a board member how would you determine the priorities of the District?
  • Why do you wish to serve on the board and what do you hope to accomplish?

So far, the only announced candidate for possible appointment is Jay Steiger.

A parent active in Murdock Elementary’s PTA and a veteran of district committees, Steiger ran for the school board twice in recent years—the only challenger to the present incumbents.

His appointment would not be a certainty, however, since the board is solidly Republican and Steiger is a Democrat.

The office is officially nonpartisan, but political ties and past party endorsements have played a role. Board member Bill Baber, for example, is general counsel of the San Diego County Republican Party.

Marshall also wants the school board to establish the procedure for the provisional appointment or election of a person to fill a board vacancy.*

Tuesday’s school board meeting is at 7 p.m. at district headquarters, 4750 Date Ave. in La Mesa. 

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Marshall wanted the board to adopt a bylaw on how to deal with future board vacancies. Such a bylaw was adopted in May 2012.

Jeanette C. Rigopoulos February 03, 2013 at 09:38 PM
I am disappointed in the attitude of the La Mesa Spring Valley School Board members regarding the appointment of a member to replace one who has resigned. In view of the body being nonpartisan, why is there a question as to a Democrat joining the Board?
Batman February 05, 2013 at 12:13 AM
$430,000 is a drop in the bucket for a government agency these days. This is just an excuse. Representative government is BASIC, not something to nickel and dime over. You folks need to march down to that board and DEMAND an election! If you don't stand up to this you are watching your democracy vaporize right before your eyes.
LMNLL Dad February 05, 2013 at 08:15 PM
The board members didn't say there was a party issue, that's something the reporter added. Steiger is certainly qualified. At end of the day, they all want to give the kids the best education they can with the resources we have. $430,000 is a lot of money at this level, I would rather they use those funds in the schools than on a special election.
Batman February 06, 2013 at 07:05 AM
Sir, if you let our democracy vaporize by allowing elected offices to be filled by appointees your child's education will be totally, completely worthless anyway. I don't know who you are, but you are a complete fool!
Batman February 06, 2013 at 07:09 AM
And by the way, I am a Republican, but, I would take an ELECTED Democrat over an appointed Republican any day of the week.
Jay Steiger February 10, 2013 at 06:34 PM
This is a non partisan office, and beyond that, education itself should be equally non partisan. The focus is always on maintaining the best interests of the children. The appointment process is not an election; it is a thoughtful review of a candidate’s experiences, skills, and temperament. For my part, and I think my fellow applicants and the sitting board members would agree, let us please leave politics out of this course of action.
Things I Learned February 10, 2013 at 06:53 PM
You can't hug a child with nuclear arms.
Batman February 14, 2013 at 08:22 PM
"Democracy be damned, the teachers need their pay raises." Do you really think the $430,000 they "save" by stealing your democracy will benefit the students? No, it will go into the already stuffed pockets of the teachers and administrators, just like the lottery money. Why are you letting them get away with this? Why are you entrusting your most valuable posessions to these thieves? You really should school your children at home. The schools don't get their revenue unless the seats are filled. You know, there's a terrible flu epidemic going around. Wouldn't it be just awful if 90% of LMSV students came down with it all at once? And it lasted for one or two weeks?

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