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MBUSD Board Will Appoint Member to Replace Boxer

Jan 19, 2023 11:21AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District's headquarters building.

The MBUSD school board will appoint a new member - rather than hold a special election - to replace recently departed member Jason Boxer.

At Wednesday night's school board meeting, the remaining board members agreed unanimously to proceed with making an appointment. 

The board directed staff to draft a sample application to go out to community members, which it will consider on February 1, as well as propose a timeline for moving forward. 

The board has 60 days to make an appointment, so the deadline for making a choice would be March 13, or 60 days after Boxer officially resigned.

An appointed board member would then have all of the powers of a regular board member, and would serve until the next regularly scheduled board election, which would be in November 2024.

Board Considered Nomination, Election Options

Jay Fernow, an attorney with Fagen Friedman and Fulfrost who has advised multiple school districts on filling school board vacancies, gave the board two possible pathways: making an appointment or holding a special election.

To make an appointment, Fernow said, the board must act within 60 days. It must advertise in local media for candidates, ensure that the prospective candidates meet eligibility requirements, interview the candidates in a public meeting, and make the appointment by a majority vote. 

If the community disagrees with the appointment, they may (within 30 days of the appointment) submit a petition signed by 1.5% of the voting population. If the petition is sufficient, the L.A. County superintendent would order a special election.

The board considered the option of going straight to holding a special election. But the soonest that election could occur would be November 7, 2023. That would mean that by the time the election is certified, it would likely be December 2023 before a fifth board member could be seated.

Furthermore, Fernow told the board that the Las Virgenes school district was in a similar situation and had discovered that holding a special election would cost $1.5 million. Board members thus rejected the special election option as too costly. 

Board Member Requirements

In order to serve on the board, a candidate must be 18 years or older, a citizen of California, a resident of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, a registered voter. The candidate must not be disqualified by the Constitution or laws of the state from holding a civil office, and must be eligible to be elected or appointed a member of a governing board of a school district without further qualifications.

Mike Welsh, a Manhattan Beach resident who ran unsuccessfully for school board in November 2022, appeared before the board on Wednesday night to make a public comment that the board should consider appointing someone "who doesn't think exactly like you."

Referring to the election results, he said, "I think it would be a nice olive branch to the 40 percent of the community who thinks about things a little bit differently."

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