On Aug. 18, the Bonita Unified School District Governing Board voted unanimously to appoint a new board member, instead of holding a costly special election. The provisional appointment will save the district almost a million dollars.
A seat opened up on the BUSD school board when Board Member Krista Chakmak resigned on Aug. 5.
The board has until Oct. 3 to appoint Chakmak’s replacement, otherwise a million-dollar special election will be triggered.
While BUSD spent $135,599.55 on the November 2020 election, a special election in April 2022 would cost the district approximately $942,000, according to an Aug. 17 letter from the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk’s office.
When more government entities hold elections at the same time, the cost is shared, Superintendent Carl Coles explained during a special school board meeting on Aug. 18. However, the April 2022 election would “pretty much be a standalone election. There’s just not a lot of elections that will take place on April 12,” Coles said.
Coles acknowledged the financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and estimated the money used to pay for a special election could fund 10-12 teachers or six to eight mental health therapists.
“It will take money away from the students,” Coles said.
At the special meeting, Greg Palatto, a school psychologist and board member, said, “Taking this money away from our kids, to me, a million bucks, is just wrong … if we could just put someone in place for 13 months in the interim.”
The board decided to make a provisional appointment to fill the vacant seat until November 2022. However, if voters gather enough signatures to formally challenge the board’s appointment, the district will be forced to hold a special election.
There is no prescribed process for making an appointment, and the board may choose any eligible candidate.
Coles laid out the timeline:
- Sept. 2-9: applications for the open seat will be accepted.
- Sept. 10: a subcommittee of Board President Chuck Coyne and Board Member Derek Bahmanou will prepare interview questions and confirm applicant eligibility.
- Sept. 15: qualified applicants will be interviewed publicly during a special board meeting.
While Bahmanou said he generally prefers letting voters decide through elections, he voted for the appointment process. “I look at a million dollars, and that is a lot of money that can really impact our kids,” Bahmanou said at the meeting.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 1.