After a lengthy meeting that ended around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Alum Rock Union School District board of trustees appointed former SOMOS Mayfair Board member Corina Herrera-Loera to fill a vacancy left by Karen Martinez.
Martinez resigned from the board in December after being elected a trustee of the San Jose Evergreen Community College District.
The board on Wednesday hotly debated the decision to appoint Herrera-Loera.
The lone dissenting vote came from trustee Dolores Marquez who voiced opposition because of Herrera-Loera’s affiliation with the nonprofit that aims to support children and families in East San Jose. Herrera-Loera resigned from the SOMOS Mayfair Board to ensure “no perceived or actual conflicts of interest exist,” said Chair Quency L. Phillips.
Marquez stated that those affiliated with the nonprofit have historically interrupted the board during its meetings and that’s why she couldn’t support Herrera-Loera.
“There is no input from the community right now,” said Marquez who noted later in the meeting that she would be willing to bring the decision to the voters even though it would mean a hefty cost to the district. “We went the whole two years with such disrespect.”
Board President Linda Chavez originally voted against Herrera-Loera but changed her mind in order to break the tie between the board’s four members.
“She was not my first pick and the reason is that I don’t agree with a lot of things that she believes in,” said Chavez. “But I believe she would be a good trustee.”
Herrera-Loera ran against seven other candidates. Those members include Jamil Carter, Adriana Ayala, Roberto Carlos Alvarez, Brenda Zendejas, Raymond Mueller, Richard Chesney Keller, Jr. and Juan M. Quinones.
Each candidate was given four minutes during the special meeting to address eight questions posed by the members. The questions were based around a series of values the board wants to prioritize, such as a focus on students and their families.
After the board members went through a ranking system administered by a third-party facilitator, they narrowed the list down to four candidates: Carter, Zendejas, Quinones and Herrera-Loera.
Herrera-Loera’s supporters packed the district board room Wednesday and touted her qualifications during public comment. Like several of her fellow candidates, Herrera-Loera and her husband have children in the district.
She also serves as a deputy probation officer for Santa Clara County, a role she’s filled for nearly 13 years. Herrera-Loera and others indicated that her experience working with a diverse and sometimes challenging group of people would prove advantageous to working with an often contentious board.
The district, which currently serves roughly 10,000 students across 24 schools, has been the subject of numerous incidents involving recent turmoil.
A 2017-2018 grand jury report called for the resignation of three of its members — Esau Herrera, Dolores Marquez and Khanh Tran. The grand jury called out those trustees for pushing through on a deal with the construction company Del Terra and creating a conflict of interest by assigning the firm to both program manager and construction manager roles.
The report outlined further conflict when Del Terra reportedly failed to complete projects on time and billed for work that hadn’t even been started.
The jury also alleged that the board violated the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law, when it failed to provide district Superintendent Hilaria Bauer with enough notice before a meeting in which they planned disciplinary action against her.
Members of the board have reportedly butted heads with the superintendent. According to reports, Bauer filed a restraining order against Tran last year after he accused her of being responsible for the district’s financial woes that were brought on, in part, by the district’s dealings with Del Terra.
In addition to being awarded the restraining order, Tran’s comments toward the superintendent led to him being kicked off the board.
While Wednesday night’s activities revealed continued conflict, the energy in the room was high following Herrera-Loera’s win.
“I’m very excited,” said Herrera-Loera after the board notified her of its decision. “I worked hard — not to get the seat — but from day one I realized it was apparent in the work I had done and the relationships that I built through my work experience. All of it led to me being here.”
Contact Carina Woudenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @carinaew on Twitter.