Petition filed for Fresno Unified trustee election

The Fresno BeeDecember 7, 2012 

A petition to force a special election in the McLane High trustee area has been filed and could create an empty board seat for as much as five months.

Fresno County Schools Superintendent Larry Powell has up to 30 days to certify the document, and then the county registrar of voters has a 30-day deadline to verify signatures.

An election would be held 130 days from the petition's certification, Powell said. The special election would cost $95,000 to $125,000, and the bill would be paid by Fresno Unified School District.

The district said it is waiting to learn from the county Office of Education whether enough valid signatures were collected to require a special election. The petition process is spelled out in state law and board policy.

If Powell calls a special election, Christopher De La Cerda, appointed in November, would be removed from the board and the trustee post would be vacant until the election is held and certified.

He replaced Tony Vang, who resigned in September amid a growing controversy about his residency in the McLane area.

De La Cerda did not return phone calls about the petition or whether he would consider running if an election is called.

A group of teachers, parents and students collected 560 signatures on the petition, which had a Friday filing deadline. The petition needed at least 305 valid signatures, said Registrar of Voters Brandi Orth.

Among those leading the petition drive were Fresno Unified trustee Michelle Asadoorian and Mai Summer Vue, an elementary school teacher. Neither lives in the McLane area.

Asadoorian objected to De La Cerda's appointment, saying the school board should have first discussed holding a special election to give McLane area residents an opportunity to choose a trustee. The district should have moved faster after Vang's resignation to schedule a board discussion, she said.

Instead, she said, Superintendent Michael Hanson "sent out media communications saying the district intended on appointing someone."

The trustee said she walked door to door in the rain last week gathering signatures.

Petitioners had to work quickly to meet the filing deadline and to create a petition from scratch with advice from the county Office of Education, Asadoorian said: "It was as grass roots as anything I've ever seen."

Vue, who had also urged the board to hold an election, said the cost is a small price to pay so McLane residents can vote for their representative.

Asadoorian and Vue said they don't have potential candidates waiting in the wings. Asadoorian said the petition drive was not meant as a condemnation of De La Cerda, a former teacher.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6310, or @beehealthwriter on Twitter.

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