Penny Schwinn, a charter school advocate who won a hotly contested race for the Sacramento County Office of Education board, has stepped down after just one year.
She said she left the post because she took a new job as a Sacramento City Unified administrator, and state law prohibits school employees except for those at charters from sitting on the county board. Her resignation was effective Wednesday.
Schwinn won her seat last year in a fierce battle between teachers unions and charter school advocates for control of the SCOE board.
The county panel can approve independent charter schools and drew fire from labor groups after it gave the green light to a network of charter campuses that aims to serve African American students in the region.
The board will decide at its July 16 meeting whether to appoint a new board member to Schwinn's Area 5 seat or to order a special election, said SCOE spokesman Tim Herrera. Area 5 represents eastern Sacramento County from Rancho Cordova to Folsom, stretching south to Vineyard, northeast of Elk Grove.
If the board opts for a special election, it would take place in April and cost about $750,000, said Sacramento County elections spokesman Brad Buyse.
The seat would stay vacant for about 10 months until the election, which could result in tie votes among the remaining six members, said SCOE Superintendent David Gordon.
"It's not a good situation if you have an alternative," Gordon said.
If the board decides to appoint someone to the vacant seat, the trustee would only serve until June when the seat is placed on the ballot with other seats up for election. The cost would be $81,000.
Whoever wins would finish Schwinn's term until it ends in 2016.
Heather McGowan, a businesswoman who narrowly lost last year's election to Schwinn by 300 votes, said she won't seek election or an appointment to the vacant seat.
Schwinn is stepping down from her position as principal of Capitol Collegiate Academy, a charter school she founded in 2011. She will become assistant superintendent of performance management for Sacramento City Unified. The job was created recently in a reorganization of the district's administration.
Her department will use data from assessments and research to support teaching and learning in the district, she said.
"When it comes down to it, I want to do what is best for student achievement," Schwinn said. "Sacramento is my hometown. This role is the single best thing I can do."
She said she regrets having to resign. "Over the past year, I have been honored to serve in this role," Schwinn wrote in her resignation letter. "I originally ran as a way to bring greater attention to the achievement gap in our county. This is and will continue to be my professional commitment and my life's work."