LCUSD Changes Course, Will Appoint New Board Member

A temporary position on the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board is up for grabs after the four-member panel voted in favor of appointing one of 10 applicants who had previously interviewed for the position, reversing its June 17 decision to leave the seat vacant and allow voters to choose a new member in the November election.
“To me, the decision not to fill was the best outcome at that time,” board President Joe Radabaugh said during Tuesday’s virtual meeting in an effort to clarify what transpired during the previous session. “I did have regrets that we surprised applicants and others with the decision.
“But [after the meeting], I listened to feedback from the community. I know people didn’t have the full story. I realize fair points were being made. In closing, we value the trust and support of the community. Because of that, we felt it was important to agendize this item for more discussion and allow folks to weigh in.”
Most people who commented Tuesday expressed a preference for appointing a temporary board member. The position would still be permanently filled in the November election.
Radabaugh and board member Brent Kuszyk changed their stance after two weeks of reflection and deliberation with community members on the topic. Ultimately, the board voted in favor of a provisional appointee, 3-1, with Kaitzer Puglia as the lone dissenting vote.
“I would strongly advocate we maintain that and allow our public to choose who the candidate is,” said Puglia, who said she approached her decision as an educator.
The board agreed to hold a special meeting to discuss the appointment and fill the vacancy on Wednesday, July 8, at 6 p.m.
Dan Jeffries, who had been the lone member on June 17 to vote in favor of choosing a candidate, reiterated the need to fill the seat left vacant since May 31 after former board Vice President Ellen Multari stepped down because she and her family were moving out of the district.
“We have six months of very, very busy times,” Jeffries told other board members. “We know there’s a lot of issues regarding COVID-19 and school reopening, but we also — based on what we talked about tonight — have very important issues of discussions of equity, inclusion and diversity that we should be talking about. We should be talking about the role of law enforcement on our campus, and that’s a big community topic right now with our City Council. We have major capital projects that we’re working on. We have to make sure we got those right.”
Community stakeholders pushed back on the decision reached two weeks ago, and an online petition asking the governing board to appoint a fifth member was created. Some also claimed the board violated the Brown Act and had colluded to make a specific decision, accusations that Radabaugh vehemently denied. He also said the board’s decision was compliant with the state Legislature, according to the panel’s legal counsel.
The board president also was discouraged by some of the messages he received on the matter.
“To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the behavior I was seeing,” said Radabaugh, though he did commend LCUSD stakeholders for sending feedback. “We’re above that, La Cañada. Let’s do a better job on that because all of us are trying to do the right thing, and the intimidation, pressure and all the shenanigans going on, I was not happy on the last meeting.”
Radabaugh explained how the board arrived at its June 17 decision, saying that he and the three other board members initially were aware of only two possible paths at the time — to appoint another member or hold a special election that would have required spending taxpayer money.
However, a third possibility emerged that allowed the board to leave the seat vacant and have a fifth member be elected during the general election in November. This was confirmed in a letter from the Los Angeles County Office of Education sent to Superintendent Wendy Sinnette the morning of the meeting.
When asked for an opinion on the matter, Sinnette advised the board to make a decision so it could focus on the other issues at hand.
“I would just request that we move through,” she said. “ … When it’s a deterrent from the focus that’s going to impact 4,100 kids, it starts to be detrimental to the district.”
In other business Tuesday, Jeffries was appointed as the new board vice president and Puglia as clerk.

Leave a Reply