With the AISD School Board election coming up for five trustees in May, disagreement has erupted as to who will be left picking the short straw, in this case serving a two year term, when the dust settles.
Currently, board members serve staggered three-year terms, but recent legislation called for Texas School boards to move into longer four year terms, and combine elections with other entities, such as municipalities or counties. The move is meant to promote more active voting for trustee elections, which tend to have lower voter turnout, and to save school boards money by holding joint elections.
In order to make the transition, trustees Rogers Saenz, Ciro Zamora, Guadalupe Martinez, Yolanda Bueno and Antonio Bill will be up for re-election at the same time. Both Bueno and Bill had there terms extended for one year, in order to hold elections the same year trustees in Places 1-3.
For there to be 4-3 staggered elections, one of the trustees will have to serve a shortened two-year term, in order to join in the election period of Place 4 Trustee R. David Guerrero and Place 5 Trustee Lee Ramon, which will take place in May of 2011.
This week, board members were reminded of the resolution in place, and of the documentation sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, which states that Saenz, Zamora and Martinez’s places on the board would have to draw lots to see who would take the two year term.
School board officials disagree though on the details of discussions that took placed when the decision was made to hold a joint election.
“Writing the resolution, someone took some liberties to include which positions would and which positions wouldn’t have to choose,” Saenz said Monday. “What we discussed had nothing to do with that. At this point, counsel is listening to the tape of that meeting, and will report back to us on his opinion regarding what the intent of the motions were.”
At this point, board members are not sure if there is time enough before the election in May to make changes to the resolution. Saenz said it was apparent that none of the discussions concerning the selection process were included in the motion that was approved that day.
“I think that all seven of us should participate in the decision of who has the two year or four year terms,” Saenz said. “All I know is that the resolution does not reflect the motion that was passed.”
School board member Antonio Bill disagrees.
“If I remember correctly, it was discussed, and as far as I can recall, those three were designated as the ones that would be impacted,” Bill said. “I can’t recall if it had anything to do with the fact that Ms. Bueno and I didn’t come up for election, and weren’t supposed to come up for election, since our terms were extended for one year. Whether that came into play at all, I can’t recall. All I know is that the first three slots were sent in.”
Bill said he believes the document is a legal document, and that any changes to the document would depend on a consensus of the board.
“I’m not sure what a revision to that original decision would impact the letter sent to justice. Whether we would have to stick to that because it was already submitted, or whether the Department of Justice would accept a revision at this late date,” Bill said. “Personally, I would just stick with the letter that was sent to Justice, and what the original intention of the board was at the time.”
Bueno, who at this time is not one of the three up for the two-year term, said she believes the letter was a mistake that she’s willing to see rectified.
“That was a mistake from the resolution to the actual letter that was sent to the Department of Justice. I believe it was a mistake that they accidentally omitted place 6 and 7,” Bueno said.
During the next meeting on Jan. 27, school officials said the matter will come up before the board again, and Bueno said she would want to be counted as one of the places to be considered for the two-year term.
“Yes, I would recommend that. It should be that way. There was a mistake,” Bueno said. “I don’t think it was done purposely. At the last meeting, no one could recall that conversation happening or that motion being read that way. I think it was just a clerical mistake.”